Published: August 19, 2003
– In Rabelais’s words, “The Great Perhaps.” Perhaps this white shirt was worn by JFK when he proclaimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner!”). Or perhaps this gold-plated lighter was in Jacqueline Kennedy’s purse when her husband delivered his famous words, “…my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Or perhaps John Kennedy wore this suit when a Soviet battle fleet crossed the Atlantic toward Cuba — and toward a potential nuclear holocaust.
Of course, chances are they were not, but there is absolutely no doubt that these rdf_Descriptions that comprised the 334 lots at the July 19 Hantman’s Auction did trigger similar speculations with many of the prospective bidders. There were no unsold rdf_Descriptions. In addition to the United States, Kennedy memorabilia from this sale has now found new homes in Ireland, France, Australia, Israel, Germany, Mexico and Malaysia.
Though it has been 40 years since JFK’s tragic trip to Dallas, interest in the Kennedy family remains strong, a fact that is substantiated by the 700 registered bidders that were “on the books” at the start of the sale, coupled with 1,100 registered eBay bidders. With an average of 100 Internet bids on each lot, what would normally be a three-hour sale expanded to eight hours.
Most of the lots were consigned by two former employees from the Kennedy inner circle: Mary Barelli Gallagher was Mrs Kennedy’s private secretary, and Provindencia (known as both Provy and Provi) Paredes, was her personal attendant, whose prime responsibility was to care for the First Lady’s wardrobe and accessories.
The top lot of the sale was a tan leather attaché case (18 by 12 by 41/2 inches) with a tooled gilt monogram (J.F.K.) that was given by Jacqueline Bouvier to John F. Kennedy as an engagement gift in 1953. Owned by the former President, it was also carried by Jacqueline and JFK, Jr. Manufactured by the Grace Company of Brooklyn, N.Y., a supplier to Crouch and Fitzgerald, it was featured in the company’s 1953 catalog. As it was about to cross the block Paula mentioned the poignant moment when Jacqueline left the White House as she carried this attaché case with her. The only lot consigned by the Museum of American Financial History, for acquisition funds, it sold for $36,000.
Giving new meaning to “the little black book,” was a small six-hole ring leatherette notebook measuring only 41/2 by 73/8 inches in size, but packed with 22 powerful pages of handwritten lists, speech ideas and campaign matters. On one page there is a portion of a speech that begins, “We live in an age where the probabilities of protracted conflict…if we are defeated a New Dark Age will descend…” Used by John F. Kennedy in his Georgetown home during the 1960 Presidential campaign, this black leatherette book sold for $27,000. The successful bidder was Suzanne Vlach, owner of the Seaview Antiques Mall in Long Beach, Wash., who plans to display this rdf_Description in her mall for the public to enjoy.
An oil on canvas by Hedy Bossi of a portrait of Senator Kennedy, that once hung in their Georgetown home, and was autograph signed and inscribed by JFK, “For Provy Best Wishes John Kennedy” will respectfully grace a new wall for $6,000. Also autographed inscribed and signed by the President to Provy was a copy of his book, To Turn the Tide (which was a collection of JFK’s speeches) that brought $6,000.
A group of Presidential buttons and earrings from both JFK’s 1960 campaign and his brother Edward’s 1980 campaign generated a great deal of interest. Included in this offering was a 31/2-inch diameter button that had a photo of JFK with the Capitol in the background along with the slogan, “Democracy for Jack Kennedy.” After this lot sold for $6,600, Michael Hantman informed the gallery that the winning bidder was a collector that has been searching for this rare button for 25 years!
A color photograph of President Kennedy and his Secret Service agents (complete with signatures) along with a Secret Service manual fetched $5,100, while the same photograph, unframed, with slight damage and no manual brought $4,500. A black and white photograph, taken by Richard Avedon, of Jacqueline Kennedy in a full-length gown worn at one of the Inaugural balls sold for $2,700.
For $3,900 you could have acquired a group of rdf_Descriptions that were privately printed and bound for Mrs Kennedy that pertained to the dedication of the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, together with a signed note from Mrs Kennedy which read, “For Provy — Thank you for coming for the last thing that we all do together for President Kennedy. With love Jacqueline Kennedy.” A group of rdf_Descriptions collected by Mary Gallagher, who accompanied the Kennedys on the fateful November 22, 1963, trip to Dallas, which included match-books, cards, brochures and a bar of soap sold for $1,920.
It is often said that clothing can make the man. From the eagerness on the part of the bidders to own the former President’s clothing it was apparent they believed that owning his clothing would make them better men. JFK’s custom designed Glen plaid suit opened at $1,000 and quickly rose to a selling price of $9,600. For $3,600 you could have owned JFK’s handmade, size 10, water buffalo beach sandals. His beige cashmere sweater opened at $500 and left the gallery at $2,700 and a pair of 33-inch waist khaki gabardine slacks brought $2,400. One of six black tuxedos made for his inauguration (this one never worn by him) was finalized at $3,300.
A pair of white cotton World War II Navy issue boxer shorts, with a “Jack Kennedy” sewn label at the waist, sold for $6,000 to a phone bidder from Ireland, who said that he was calling from the “old Kennedy family home.” This same bidder, who also acquired several other lots, said that he was interested in the historical aspect of owning rdf_Descriptions from the sale since Kennedy was the first Irish-American to hold such a high office in this country.
Two pairs of the former President’s pajama bottoms sold for $2,400 to a party from England whose family’s line of work is the manufacturing of pajamas. Referred to as the “Royal pajama makers,” one of their claims to fame is making the pajamas for the film Pajama Game.
A pair of 27-inch-long pink satin gloves and clutch, pictured in a Time magazine photo of the First Lady, sold for $3,900. A pink chiffon, Empire-style strapless dress worn for a Time magazine photo during the 1960 Presidential campaign fetched $2,700. A fuchsia evening purse given to Mrs Kennedy on her 1962 trip to India sold for $3,300. For $3,600 you could have owned her black patent leather high heel shoes. A “classic Jackie” custom designed beige silk dress that she wore at the White House went to a phone bidder for $3,300.
An original Barbie doll once owned by the President’s daughter Caroline was in mint condition, along with its original packaging. This redhead, bubble cut, Barbie that was outfitted in a kimono and sandals (with additional apparel and accessories in an unopened plastic package) left with a floor bidder for $3,300.
Since the sale, other parties who own Kennedy memorabilia have contacted Paula about rdf_Descriptions that they wish to consign. The Hantmans anticipate that there will be another Kennedy auction in the near future.
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