On To Alaska with Buchanan!

George Buchanan was a successful businessman, a coal merchant in Detroit. During the Depression he decided to help boys to get out of town and see Alaska. Every summer from 1923 through the Depression, Mr. Buchanan and 50 or 60 boys journeyed across Canada to Vancouver, sailed up the coast to Skagway, spent several weeks touring Alaska, climbing glaciers, panning for gold.

Part of the deal was that their parents would donate 1/3 of the money ($81), George would donate 1/3 of the money and the boy would work selling items such as kitchen implements door to door to raise the remaining 1/3.

In the White Pass depot building there is a glass display which has one such kitchen gadget that was sold as part of the fund-raising.

On the rocks below the U.S. Customs Station at Clifton are the words “On to Alaska with Buchanan” which was their motto. In 1935, he agreed to take girls, the sisters of the boys who had gone, but he made them earn money by baking pies and darning socks also.

George was born in Thamesville, Ontario on January 29, 1869 and died on this day, March 23, 1939 in Stuart, Florida at the age of 70. He is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

Kiwanis Newspaper Online; Time.com article of May 13, 1935 online



19 Replies to “On To Alaska with Buchanan!”

  1. My name is John Buchanan and I’m a Great Nephew of George Buchanan. I have some memorabilia of Uncle Georges excursions if anyone is interested. He has an image on his tombstone of my hand in his.

    1. Hi JOhn, I am from Detroit and when I visited Alaska I saw the sign “On to Alaska with Buchanan.” I have almost finished writing a children’s novel about Mr. Buchanan. I would love to talk to you.


      1. My father traveled from Michigan to Alaska in 1923 on one of these trips. I would love to hear more about it. I have researched the Northville newspaper and have a little bit of what the boys wrote back home. Thanks for any information you can give me. Mildred Peterson

        1. Hey Mildred, would love to post any pictures or stories that you have on your father’s trip. I am retired now and do not have access to Skagway records as I live in California. Thank you for your interest and I hope that others will post information too.

    2. My father went on the first trip in 1921. I would love to hear more about the journeys these boys made.

    1. Hi Mildred my name is Mike Sullivan and my father Ignatius Sullivan was on the same trip as your father I believe. I would love to have any info or pictures that anyone had sent or you have.

      Thank you

  2. I have two “packs” of matches that read “on to Alaska with Buchanan. They are in the shape of a barbers shaving cream brush whereas the matches are sticking out of a painted wooden base and the bottom of the base has the striker on it. I take it these where sold as part of the fundraiser obligations. If this was the case, would you know the possible years these would have been sold? Both the red and blue one are in remarkable shape with the red one missing 8 matches and the blue missing none. They were in a box lot that I bought at an auction. Quite a story I found with a little research. I live about 3hrs from Detroit in Canada.
    Best regards,

  3. 11-2-17—Just picked up some junk boxes at a local auction. In the mess was a box of used pencils. One rather fat one, orange in color had the following wording printed on it–“On to ALASKA with BUCHANAN”, below the above was printed “in July Nineteen twenty three”. A Google search found your site and Buchanan’s history. Mystery solved! And I’ll keep the pencil along with your documentation.

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  5. I went to Alaska in 2012. Saw the sign from the train. Was excited as I am a Buchanan also. From what I know of my history … ancestors came to US in 1841… settled in Pennsylvania… Germantown area ..

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