Archives Staff Picks: Fall and Winter Edition

By the JFK Library Archives Staff

Archivists at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library come across thousands of pages, photographs, recordings, and oral history interviews in the course of our work each year. Whether our work involves processing or declassifying records to get them ready for researchers, digitizing and describing them for online posting, or helping the public find the items or information they need, archivists get to see many materials that might never be exhibited in our museum or posted on our social media pages.

In our museum lobby here at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, we’ve recently started sharing some of the documents and images that catch our attention as we do our archival work. If you can’t make it to the Library to check them out in person, you can find our picks, along with the reason each archivist selected their item, here on our blog. We’ve got a lot of stuff to show you, so we’re rotating the display a few times per year. Here are our selections for the fall and winter season (and if you missed our first round, you can catch it here)!

Staff Pick Selections

KFC-004-021-p0001. Kennedy family Christmas card, 1927.

Introducing… the Merry Band of Kennedys! I like the whimsical nature of this Kennedy family holiday card from 1927, with the combination of photographs and drawings. Lining up in order of height is a common motif in family portraits, but it works especially well here. They even included the family dog.

Christina, Processing Archivist

JFKWHP-KN-C30596. President John F. Kennedy receives Thanksgiving turkey at White House, 19 November 1963.

President Kennedy is gifted a Thanksgiving turkey by a group of people representing the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board. The turkey, which the President immediately spared, wears a sign stating “Good eating, Mr. President.”

Ashley, Textual Reference Intern

KFC-00526N. Robert F. Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy wear Halloween costumes in Bronxville, New York, 31 October 1934.

Edward M. Kennedy, Jean Kennedy (both holding pumpkin jack-o-lantern candy pails), and Robert F. Kennedy (right) pose in the yard outside the Kennedy family home in Bronxville, New York, wearing their Halloween costumes. 

This photograph gets a lot of traction on social media during “National Talk like a Pirate Day,” given that the children are all dressed in pirate costumes. More importantly, it’s very cool to see the precursor to today’s plastic jack-o-lantern candy pail!

Nicola, Photographic Metadata Cataloger

ROFKPP-060-003. Halloween drawing by Victoria Lawford for her grandmother, Rose Kennedy, 8 October [no year].

Victoria Lawford drew this Halloween picture for her grandmother, Rose Kennedy. I really enjoy the creativity and sense of humor that is on display. Who knew Halloween could be scary for the pumpkins, too?!

Abbey, Processing and Reference Archivist

JFKWHP-AR7636-E. Christmas tree in the White House, 12 December 1962.

This image shows the Christmas tree in the North Entrance Hall of the White House, as viewed from Cross Hall. I’m struck by the composition of this photograph and the way in which the natural light streams into the hall, throwing reflections of the tree lights onto the marble floor.

Nicola, Photographic Metadata Cataloger

Letter dated October 28, 1961. 
Dear Michelle, I was glad to get your letter about trying to stop the Russian from bombing the North Pole and risking the life of Santa Claus. I share your concern about the atmospheric testing of the Soviet Union, not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world. 
However, you must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas. 
Sincerely, 
John Kennedy
JFKWHCNF-2360-012-p0001. Carbon copy of letter to Michelle Rochon from President John F. Kennedy, 28 October 1961.

Eight-year-old Michelle Rochon wrote to President Kennedy with her concern that the Soviet Union’s atmospheric missile testing might harm Santa Claus. The President responded with this reassuring letter, which is one of my favorites for its kind approach to a worried child—and for the comforting idea that the President can talk with Santa whenever necessary!

Stacey, Textual Reference Archivist

JFKWHP-AR7621-1T. President John F. Kennedy speaks at lighting of National Christmas Tree, 17 December 1962.

President John F. Kennedy (at lectern) delivers remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree during the National Capital Christmas Pageant of Peace at the Ellipse, President’s Park, Washington, D.C.

I like this composition, the point of view of the group sitting mostly in darkness observing the brightly lit President and the National Christmas Tree.

Bill, Audiovisual Metadata Cataloger

JFKWHP-KN-C24776. President John F. Kennedy with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith, Steve Smith, Jr., and Caroline Kennedy, 31 October 1962.

What I love about this image is that the First Lady, as well as the President’s sister, nephew, and daughter, are all dressed in fun Halloween costumes, but John F. Kennedy is still in his typical work attire when he welcomes them as trick-or-treaters to the Oval Office. I find that to be a pretty amusing contrast, and the image is just plain adorable!

Jennifer, Textual Reference Intern

JFKWHP-KN-C19822. Preston Bruce and family at Christmas reception for White House staff, 27 December 1961.

I love this striking photo of White House doorman Preston Bruce with his family standing in front of the Christmas tree in the Blue Room of the White House. Bruce, the son of a sharecropper, served as White House doorman from 1952 to 1977, an experience he later recounted in his book, From the Door of the White House. He was known for his adept facilitation of seating at state dinners and innovated the “Bruce Table,” used for arranging and distributing guest place cards.

Karen, Director of Archives

Bifold card with hand-drawn holly and berries. 
To John Jr.,
Merry Christmas from the Children of Colorado.
JFKWHCSF-0262-001-p0080. Christmas card for John F. Kennedy, Jr. from the children of Colorado, December 1962.

I love finding constituent mail in our collections, especially from children. This card is especially meaningful to me because it was sent by school children from Salida, Colorado, a small town in the mountains near where I grew up. In 1962 the National Christmas Tree was selected from a forest just outside of Salida. The local people were honored and the children wanted to make sure to wish John, Jr. and Caroline a happy holiday. 

Aimee, Textual Reference Intern

JFKWHP-ST-C72-34-62. Kennedy and Radziwill families celebrate Christmas, 25 December 1962.

I love the relatability of this photo, taken on Christmas Day in 1962. The Kennedys were one of the most famous families in the world, but even they faced challenges when trying to assemble for a group photo: Mrs. Kennedy is wrangling the dogs, John, Jr. is trying on his mother’s flip-flop, and only two of the five children are looking at the camera. 

This photo shows the fun and chaos of a typical Christmas morning; it is also very poignant, since it was the families’ last Christmas together before the President’s untimely death. 

Laura, Photographic Metadata Cataloger

Undated document titled "Drafts" on White House letterhead.
CHRISTIAN RECIPIENTS:
We send you our heartiest greetings for this holy Christmas season. Never before has the true spirit of Christmas been more important to all our lives. May you and your family share in manifold blessings and may the New Year bring you health and happiness, as well as peace to our world. President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.
NON-CHRISTIAN RECIPIENTS:
We join in wishing you and your family and very joyful holiday season. May you and your family share in manifold blessings and may the New Year bring you health and happiness, as well as peace to our world. President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.
JFKWHCSF-0350-015-p0159. Draft text for John F. Kennedy’s 1961 holiday messages, undated. 

 This draft proposes text for two different White House greetings: one to mark the “holy Christmas season” for Christian recipients, and one with wishes for “a joyful holiday season” for those of other faiths. The inclusive options ensured that the White House had a thoughtful message ready to send to anyone who celebrated a winter holiday, and showcase the meticulous planning that went into even the routine aspects of Kennedy’s White House communications.

Stacey, Textual Reference Archivist

JFKWHP-KN-C19680. Christmas tree in the Blue Room of the White House, 12 December 1961.

I love the blueness surrounding the tree. It reminds me of the poem “Blue Winter” by Robert Francis, a contemporary of Robert Frost and fellow New Englander:

Winter uses all the blues there are.
One shade of blue for water, one for ice,
Another blue for shadows over snow.
The clear or cloudy sky uses blue twice-
Both different blues. And hills row after row
Are colored blue according to how far.
You know the bluejay’s double-blur device
Shows best when there are no green leaves to show.
And Sirius is a winterbluegreen star.

Maryrose, Audiovisual Reference Archivist

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