The likeness of James Buchanan (1791-1868), the fifteenth president of the United States, appears on the 15-cent issue of the 1938 Presidential Series. The image was inspired by a bust displayed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, District of Columbia.
Buchanan served in a number of high-ranking positions before being elected to his one term as president, 1856-1861. Among the positions were congressman (1821-1831), senator (1834-1845), minister to Russia (1832-1834), secretary of state (1845-1849), and minister to Great Britain (1853-1856). After serving as president, he retired to his Wheatland, his country estate in Pennsylvania. Wheatland appeared on a 1956 stamp. Buchanan was the only bachelor to serve as president.
The 15-cent blue gray stamp was printed only as a sheet stamp and was issued on October 13, 1938. This was James Buchanan's first appearance on a postage stamp.
The 15-cent Buchanan was used extensively both in combinations with other stamps and as a solo paying various rates. For example, a 15-cent stamp would pay the one-ounce airmail rate to/from the territory of Hawaii (in effect January 15,1945, through September 30, 1946), the half-ounce airmail rate to the Canal Zone (in effect December 1, 1937, through March 31, 1945), the half-ounce airmail rate to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela (in effect April 1, 1945, through October 31, 1946), and the half-ounce airmail rate to Europe and North Africa (in effect November 1, 1946, through April 30, 1967).