Upcoming Legends Auction Retells the Story of JFK and Camelot One item at a Time

The bust bronze “John F. Kennedy” by Felix de Weldon (1907-2003), signed by the artist. This is one of only four made. Two reside in the Kennedy Library in Boston and the last is at Kennedy Space Center.

This rocking chair was used by the President at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port and also traveled with him on his presidential trips. It is one of some 14 rockers prescribed by his doctor.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy later this month, several high-level auctions of personal, campaign and presidential items associated with his time at the White House have recently been conducted. Even personal effects of Lee Harvey Oswald have been auctioned.

Now comes the Kennedy-Hollywood connection.

John McInnis Auctioneers is featuring additional memorabilia from the John F. Kennedy estate in a forthcoming three-day auction called “The Legends Auction,” slated to begin on Nov. 22. This auction differs from McInnis’ more recent Dave Powers’ JFK collection auction earlier this year, though, in that items from the estate of Peter Lawford, Hollywood actor and one-time Kennedy brother-in-law, will highlight scores of personal gifts, photos, records and other items that connects the world of Hollywood with the world stage. Even Ernest Hemingway has a starring role.

What’s more than interesting in this auction is the combination of personal and presidential. I didn’t know JFK painted, for example. His watercolor paintings of sailboats—all titled “Sheepshead Bay”—very much captures his love of the water. We know about his famous “doodles,” and many have been auctioned before, but the one of sailboats on Air Force One stationery tell us that he felt more comfortable on the water than in the air.

But many of the personal photographs capture John and Jackie in a less formal, more relaxed time. These photos tell you they are everyday people, not the historical figures they would soon become. The black and white photo of Jackie holding young Caroline in the air with a laugh, for example, belies the fact that the youngster in the photo is now a distinguished ambassador of the United States to Japan.

“A Golden Era in Legislative Achievement 1961-1967″ is a collection of 50 pens that “were used to sign into law landmark bills enacted during the administrations of President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

One of JFK’s famous doodles, this one done on Air Force One stationary.

Cuba is represented with documents from the Cuban Missile Crisis and letters from Ernest Hemingway written while he was living in Cuba. A curious dichotomy, but both have connections to JFK, as presidential statecraft and through a personal friendship with Roberto Herrera, secretary to Hemingway.

Peter Lawford, JFK’s brother-in-law through a marriage to his sister Patricia, highlights the Hollywood connection through personal items, such as Lawford’s written introduction of Marilyn Monroe at the famous birthday party for JFK in 1962. This era would be the first time that the connection of Hollywood and the White House would be most realized, with memorabilia from the famous “Rat Pack” of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford, original movie scripts, phone records of conversations with the Kennedys, studio records and, amazingly, so much more that by itself makes for an interesting auction.

An original Kennedy rocking chair (one of 14 his doctor prescribed for him), his personal fedora, the family grand piano and other personal items are all a part of the three-day McInnis auction. It is retelling the story of Camelot one item at a time. The connections between family, state, friendship and imagination are all on display in a way other auctions haven’t been able to quite capture.

President Kennedy the painter: “Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.” is a 7 ¾-inches by 10 ¾-inche watercolor and gouache painting, signed “J.F.K. ’60.”

“Jackie holding Caroline overhead in the nursery and looking up at her”, A photo taken and signed by Jacques Lowe in 1959.

To give you an idea of auction values for JFK memorabilia, RR Auctions recently featured a pair of limousines—both Lincoln Continentals—associated with JFK in an auction in October. During his short trip to Ft. Worth, Texas, before flying to his destiny in Dallas, the Kennedys rode in a white 1963 Lincoln provided by a local Lincoln dealer specifically for his personal use. It sold for $318,000, while a statelier black, armor-plated 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V used officially by the president, sold for $210,000. Both are now part of a travelling display by the American Presidential Experience.

Other more personal items at the RR Auction featured one of JFK’s neckties that sold for $7,800, Jackie’s bathing suit (which realized $14,400), a hairbrush used by John-John ($6,000) and a shell-covered box that sold for $2,040, along with official items used by JFK during presidency. Many of these items set some auction records for JFK memorabilia. This upcoming Legend Auction will no doubt do the same.

Collectors will find much history here, as previous auctions have and future auctions will continue to do.

The speech given actor Peter Lawford to introduce Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden.

The complete Warren Commission Report belonging to CIA director and commission member Allan Dulles, autographed by each of the commission members, including Gerald Ford.

If you plan on participating in the auction, be cognizant of that history when bidding to be sure that you can adequately care for each item separately when considering how to display, frame or store them. Acid free boxes and UV glass help to preserve paper and smaller items. Insurance costs for your collection may be covered by your homeowners or insurance, but it should be checked beforehand. If it isn’t adequate, consider collectible insurance to cover the gap.

This is your history—for now. Take care so that it can be shared with the world within its original historical context for the next generations to enjoy and learn from.

For more information about this auction,


Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.

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