Newly Discovered Kennedy artifacts revealed

A Treasure Trove of JFK Memorabilia Unearthed
The map of Cuba used by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, on which Kennedy had made notations marking where the Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons.

Special to capecodtoday by Jack Coleman

BOSTON - It was an analyst at the National Security Archive who first noticed it in the spring of 2002. A seller in an online auction was offering a map of Cuba for $750,000.

Why such a steep price tag?

The map was recovered last fall and given to the John F. Kennedy Library after the Justice Department filed suit against an Internet collectibles site that tried to sell the map in 2002.

It took a lawsuit by the National Archives against an online collectibles site to gain possession of the map.
Many of the items, along with artifacts and documents recovered from an earlier legal settlement with the estate of a collector of Kennedy memorabilia, were displayed today at a press conference at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.


A rare first-edition copy of John F. Kennedy's first book, "Why England Slept," is shown at today's press conference at the John F. Kennedy Library. Kennedy wrote the book in 1940, based on his senior thesis at Harvard about England's failure to prepare for the threat posed by fascism in the 1930s.  (photo by Jack Coleman)

"What we're seeing today is the result of two legal settlements," said Kennedy Library Director Deborah Leff. "The first is a settlement with the estate of Robe! rt L. White. Mr. White obtained the items from Evelyn Lincoln, President Kennedy's secretary, who improperly removed them from the custody of the United States. These items belong to the American people."

Among the other items obtained was a hardbound, first-edition copy of Kennedy's first book, "Why England Slept," an elaboration of his senior thesis at Harvard on Great Britain's failure to prepare for war against Hitler in the 1930s.

Also recovered was the left-hand suede glove that Kennedy wore on the frigid day of his inauguration in January 1961. The right-hand glove has long been a part of the Kennedy library's collection of artifacts, which also includes 48 million pages of documents, 200,000 photos, 7.5 million feet of film, 7,000 hours of audio cartoons and 500 original editorial cartoons.

Artifacts from his secretary's collection

Evelyn Lincoln, who entered into political legend for having warned Kennedy against visiting Dallas where he was assassinated in November! er 1963, was also a determined collector of Kennedy memorabilia.

Lincoln's acquisition and sale of Kennedy artifacts and documents led to a falling-out between her and Kennedy's grown children, Caroline Kennedy and the late John F. Kennedy Jr. Lincoln worked as Kennedy's secretary for 12 years, until his death.

Many of the items wrongfully acquired by Lincoln were sold or given to White, who in turn put them up for sale.
In 1998, the federal government sued White to prevent him from selling any more of the artifacts and prevailed against him.

The items, which included a rocking chair used by Kennedy in the Oval Office, were given the Caroline and John Kennedy Jr., who donated them to the Kennedy Library.

A Feb. 17, 1961 memo to Kennedy from Godfrey T. McHugh, his Air Force aide, on which JFK has written on the bottom, "this is it?" (photo by Jack Coleman)

At the time JFK was president, the artifacts and documents were considered his property, based on precedent dating back to George Washington.

Cuban Missile Crisis letter and maps

It was during the many legal battles of the Watergate scandal involving Richard Nixon, Kennedy's rival in the 1960 campaign, that a precedent was established of the federal government taking ownership of presidential artifacts to keep them in the public domain.

Other recovered artifacts displayed today include 29 Esterbrook pens used by JFK to sign bills into law and a two-ounce bottle of Sheaffer blue-black ink, two gilden eagle wooden bookends, a photo of Kennedy and General Douglas MacArthur inscribed by MacArthur and a piece of wood originally from the floor of the US Senate, on which Kennedy stood when he delivered his inaugural address.

The map of Cuba was spotted on the Internet by Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst with the National Security Archive. Kornbluh contacted the general counsel of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Justice Department filed suit last fall on behalf of the National Archives against the online auction house "Moments in Time" and secured the document.

Many of the documents must be declassified before they can be displayed and shown to the public, said Kennedy Library Curator Frank Rigg.

Few of the recovered documents pertain to Kennedy's assassination, except for details of Kennedy's travel arrangements in Dallas written by a Secret Service agent, according to Allan Goodrich, the Kennedy Library's chief archivist.

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