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Yesterday, we dished up some info about Jefferson in order to give a little more meaning to the second most useless of US holidays (second to Columbus Day, remember). Next up in our week-long celebration of POTUSes is James Buchanan, the only unmarried president of the United States. Because everyone wants to imagine life in the White House when it was one giant bachelor pad…Scotch Hour in the trampoline room, anyone?

James “The Bachelor” Buchanan

Presidency: 1857-1861

Notable Accomplishments: Famously attempted to straddle issues between the North and the South, further fueling alienation of both sides. Has the unfortunate legacy of poorly enacting policies and failed to deal with impending secession, leaving historians to regularly regard Buchanan as the WORST president of all time. Super notable.

Favorite Foods: As an ultra-gourmand, Buchanan revered anything European, particularly that of the French cui
sine. Terrapin a la Gautier (turtle soup) was high on the list of faves. But he was also fond of classic Pennsylvanian Dutch foods of his native home state, including Pennsylvanian Dutch succotash, Pennsylvanian red cabbage, sauerbraten, and pear Charlotte.

James Buchanan was the only bachelor president in American history–single before, during, and after office. Never married, there are now speculations that he may have been homosexual–and the fact that people are still talking about the sexual leanings of the 15th president is a testament to how much Americans love to gossip about famous people. And though it would be fun to imagine that our only bachelor president subsisted on Natty Bo and frozen pizzas, and that the Oval Office would be littered with smut and cigarette butts, Buchanan was actually a man with quite a bit of taste.

Buchanan was rather particular about his foods, choosing for instance to have fresh butter sent from Philadelphia in a locked brass bound kettle. He also developed an interest in French cuisine and even had a French caterer visit the White House on special occasions. Buchanan held a single inaugural ball for his initiation into office, holding his massive dinner party in the newly built Judiciary Square. Well, if not known for a man who could make great decisions facing a splitting nation, he certainly was commemorated as one who could throw one helluva dinner party…

Menu for the James Buchanan Inaugural Ball—March 4, 1857

  • 400 gallons of oysters
  • 60 saddles of mutton
  • 4 saddles of venison
  • 125 beef tongues
  • 75 hams
  • 500 quarts of chicken salad
  • 500 quarts of jellies
  • A four-foot cake
  • $3,000 worth of wine