Newly-Digitized Documents (218,000 of them!) from the Archives

By Stacey Flores Chandler, Reference Archivist

Archivists at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library have spent a lot of time working remotely since our building closed in March 2020 – and if you’re wondering what archivists do without full-time access to archives, you’re not alone! Luckily, we’ve been able to move a lot of our work online, from answering questions and transcribing oral history interviews, to teaching virtual classes and sending scans to researchers around the world. But we’ve also been busy tackling our textual “digitization backlog,” made up of thousands of documents we’ve scanned, but hadn’t put through the more time-consuming cataloging process that lets us post them online for public access.

To catalog our backlog, archivists run through a checklist that includes reading every scanned page, applying search terms, and writing descriptions and technical metadata for every folder. We’ve been able to prioritize this work in the past year, and we’ve cataloged and posted 1,964 folders holding 218,239 pages in that time. Spanning 15 collections, the newly-online pages give an inside look at a teenage JFK’s thoughts as he recovered from illnesses; the interactions between the White House and legendary designer Ann Lowe; a doctor’s accounts of his attempts to treat the President’s chronic back pain; recollections from civil rights icons; the research of Justice Department lawyers as they built cases against Jimmy Hoffa; and more. We’re excited to share some of this newly-available material with you!


Kirk Lemoyne “Lem” Billings Personal Papers: Fully Digitized

Lem Billings and John F. Kennedy met as teenagers at their Connecticut prep school and remained lifelong friends. Billings kept the letters JFK wrote to him between 1934 and 1939, and he donated the entire collection to the Library in the 1970s.

Click to browse the Lem Billings Personal Papers

Dear Lem:

Have you my pen - also time date cards from Harry's.
Am playing on the Junior Varsity - we have a game Friday. Will try to make the connection and will let you know. 
Am coming down this weekend. I have [illegible] - try to make it - 
Best
Ken
KLBPP-001-003-p0015. Postcard from John F. Kennedy to Lem Billings, October 1937. Lem Billings Personal Papers, Box 1, “1937: January-December.”

Bernard L. Boutin Personal Papers: Partially Digitized

Bernard Boutin was a New Hampshire politician, 1960 Presidential campaign worker, leader at the federal General Services Administration (GSA) from 1961 to 1964, and Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1965 to 1968. Boutin’s collection documents his work in all of these roles, with a focus on his GSA leadership – including the agency’s planning for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and efforts to send much of the President’s Oval Office book collection to our archives.

Click to browse the Bernard Boutin Personal Papers

Page with a list of books; contact the reference staff at Kennedy.Library@nara.gov to learn more about these titles.
BLBPP-MF13-013-p0041. First page of an inventory of books stored in the Oval Office during John F. Kennedy’s Presidency, later transferred to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Bernard Boutin Personal Papers, Box MF13, “Federal government (as a whole): Presidential libraries: Kennedy (FE 12-1), 1961-1964 (1 of 2 folders).”

Clark Clifford Personal Papers: partially Digitized

As a lawyer and advisor to the Kennedy family, Clark Clifford worked on a surprising range of issues, from the Presidential transition of 1960-1961 and steel price negotiations in 1962, to handling questions about the authorship of Profiles in Courage. In 1961, Clifford was also involved in communications with Ann Lowe, the iconic fashion designer who created Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. Lowe wrote to Mrs. Kennedy after a reporter referred to Lowe only as “a colored woman dressmaker, not the haute couture” in an article about the First Lady, and her correspondence with Boutin on the issue is captured in the collection.

Click to browse the Clark Clifford Personal Papers (all microfilm boxes digitized)

5 April 1961
Dear Mrs. Kennedy,
My reason for writing this note is to tell you how hurt I feel as a result of an article, the last of a series, about you in the Ladies Home Journal in which the reporter stated your wedding gown was by a "colored woman dressmaker, not the haute couture." I realise it was not intentional on your part but as you once asked me not to release any publicity without your approval, I assume that the article in question, and others, was passed by you.
You know I have never sought publicity buy I would prefer to be referred to as a "noted Negro designer," which in every sense I am. My name does not need to be mentioned as many of my socially prominent customers know I did your wedding as I have your wedding portrait prominently displayed on my office wall.
Please try to have any reference to me correctly stated as I have worked hard to achieve a certain position in life which has been considerably more difficult due to my race. At this late point in my career, any reference to the contrary hurts me more deeply than I can perhaps make you realise.
Thanking you for any consideration you might show me and wishing you and your family well, I remain, 
As ever,
Ann Lowe
CCPP-MF02-002-p0025. Letter from designer Ann Lowe to Jacqueline Kennedy, 5 April 1961. Clark Clifford Personal Papers, Box MF02, “Correspondence with Jacqueline Kennedy, 1961-1965.”

Patrick J. Kennedy Personal Papers: Partially Digitized

This collection consists of one bound volume that holds the personal correspondence of Patrick J. Kennedy, Massachusetts politician and John F. Kennedy’s paternal grandfather. The volume and the papers inside it are so fragile that they have to be digitized before archivists can finish processing and describing the collection – but the letters we’ve been able to work on so far are now posted online!

Click to browse the Patrick J. Kennedy Personal Papers

June 5 1903
Hon. John F. Fitzgerald,
School Street, Boston, Mass.
Friend John -
I called today and talked with Mrs. Carrnotta, 80 Cottage Street and find that they are having the same trouble with many other places in East Boston which carry on the same kind of business.
The Captain has taken the position, as I understand it, not to recognize as victualers any but those legitimately engaged in such a calling, On inquiry at the Station House Sergeant Hinds in charge informed me that stores of that kind might keep open to sell milk, bread, newspapers and cigars and tobacco and, this being true, it would not seem necessary for them to have a victualer's license. I don't think the office is to blame in the matter, as it appears to be one entirely within the hands of the Captain, but as you say you have addressed a letter to him he will probably explain the matter to you.
However, as a reference, you might look up Chapter 98, Section 3, page 830 of the Revised Laws.
Hoping this explains and covers the ground, I am
Yours truly,
Patrick J. Kennedy
PJKPP-001-002-p0001. Carbon copy of a letter from Patrick J. Kennedy (John F. Kennedy’s paternal grandfather) to John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald (John F. Kennedy’s maternal grandfather), 5 June 1903. Patrick J. Kennedy Personal Papers, Box 1, “Bound volume, Patrick J. Kennedy Personal Letters: Pages 1-78.”

Hans Kraus Personal Papers: Fully Digitized

Dr. Hans Kraus, an orthopedic surgeon known for researching the connection between exercise and physical health, first visited the White House in 1961 to evaluate and help treat JFK’s chronic back pain. Kraus prescribed a series of exercises for the President, and his collection documents JFK’s treatment regimen and progress in reports through 1963.

Click to browse the Hans Kraus Personal Papers

12-5-1961
Patient seemed to be under great pressure. Worked very fast. It was attempted to have Mr. Martinell give the exercises. He proved to work very well with patient. However, halfways through the program patient was called off and session was interrupted.
It is my impression - as mentioned in prior note - that patient who fortunately had had no discomfort for almost two weeks, now feels that he does not have to worry about any recurrence. While it is very satisfactory that he is not apprehensive, one has to worry about recurrence exactly at this point. Patient is more sure of himself as his muscle status warrants. I think he is still much too close to the possibility of a relapse than can be comfortably accepted.
If he does not continue to work consistently for at least 20-30 minutes daily, patient will not gain ground and may even lose some of what he has gained.
HKPP-001-001-p0037. Report on President John F. Kennedy’s treatment for back pain, 5 December 1961. Hans Kraus Personal Papers, Box 1, “1961: 4 July-13 December.”

Max Millikan Personal Papers: Fully Digitized

Max Millikan was an economist and Director of the Center for International Relations at MIT, and an advisor to John F. Kennedy during the Presidential transition of 1960-1961. Millikan’s papers include his December 1960 report “Memorandum on an International Youth Service,” an exploration of what would eventually become the United States Peace Corps.

Click to browse the Max Millikan Personal Papers


Larry O’Brien Personal Papers, JFK Campaign Series: Fully Digitized

As the Director of Organization for JFK’s 1960 Presidential campaign, Lawrence F. “Larry” O’Brien handled the intricacies of running a campaign from primaries through the general election. This series includes correspondence with the public, campaign workers, and politicians; campaign schedules and event details; campaign memorabilia; planning and strategy documents; and post-election materials related to positions in the new administration.

Click to browse the Lawrence F. O’Brien Personal Papers, JFK Campaign Series (Boxes 1-19)

Publication cover:
Student Young Democratic Guide to Victory
Kennedy-Johnson Victory Manual
[with image of John F. Kennedy looking to the left of the frame and smiling]
LOBPP-018-004-p0001. Cover of a campaign manual, 1960. Lawrence F. O’Brien Personal Papers, Box 18, “1960 Campaign: Youth for Kennedy.”

National Security Files, McGeorge Bundy Correspondence Series: Fully Digitized

One of our most popular collections, the National Security Files, is the primary record of the Kennedy administration’s approach to foreign policy and national security. The McGeorge Bundy Correspondence Series within this collection captures the outgoing correspondence and other working papers of Bundy, JFK’s National Security Advisor, including his memos offering information and advice to the President through his entire tenure. This series joins other digitized series in the collection, including Series 5: Subjects and Series 6: Meetings and Memoranda.

Click to browse the National Security Files, McGeorge Bundy Correspondence Series (Boxes 398-405)

Draft Oct. 15, 1962
Letter to Chairman Khrushchev
In my last letter I commented on the problem of nuclear testing, and in this one I would like to deal with the problem of Berlin. The most important thing about Berlin is that there should not be any misunderstanding between us on fundamental issues. That is why I have regularly emphasized to you that the repeated demand of your Government for the departure of our troops from West Berlin does not lead toward any possibility of agreement. I have no desire to phrase this point in terms which could be misunderstood as a threat, but it is just as important that there should be no misunderstanding. That is why I was concerned by the suggestion in your discussion with Secretary Udall that you may not believe that the United States would fight for its rights in Berlin. I do not know that this is in fact what you believe, but I should tell you very plainly that to accept this view would be to make a complete error of judgment. 
Our presence in Berlin is not merely a legal right, plainly accepted for 17 years; it is overwhelmingly supported by the desires of the people of West Berlin, the opinion of the world as a whole, and the determination of our people without regard to party.
JFKNSF-401-012-p0036. Draft letter to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, 15 October 1962 – the day before Bundy informed President Kennedy about the existence of Soviet missile sites in Cuba. National Security Files, Box 401, “Chronological File: General, 10/62 (2 of 2 folders).”

Pedro Sanjuan Personal Papers: Fully Digitized

Pedro Sanjuan took charge of the State Department’s Special Protocol Services office during the Kennedy administration, and led investigations into the racist discrimination that Black and Asian diplomats faced when they came to Washington D.C. You can read more about Sanjuan’s life and work in our blog post and through his collection, which documents his advocacy at the State Department.

Click to browse the Pedro Sanjuan Personal Papers

Briefing for the Undersecretary on African Diplomats in Washington
June 2 1961
1. General Attitude of Africans toward Discrimination
Numerous African diplomats stationed in Washington have spoken to us about the impression racial discrimination made on them when they first arrived in the United States. 
Educated Africans know racial discrimination exists in the southern part of the United States. However, they seldom suspect, until after they arrive in the United States, that racial discrimination is practiced openly in such cities as New York and Washington. Since Washington is our Capital, most African diplomats feel that our Government tacitly condones the vestiges of segregation that still exist in the District of Columbia. It is hard to convince African diplomats that the Administration is not at all complacent about this problem. They know that Washington is run by the Federal Government, that the Commissioners of the District are appointed by the President, that the President is the leader of the majority party in Congress, and that Congress can pass laws to govern the District of Columbia.
African diplomats do not feel that they must comply with any of the local customs that deprive Americans of their constitutional and human rights. As diplomats and honored guests Africans feel that they have the same rights and privileges as all other... [end of page]
PASPP-001-019-p0001. First page of a report on the State Department’s plan for combatting racist discrimination against diplomats visiting the United States, 2 June 1961. Pedro Sanjuan Personal Papers, Box 1, “Reports and statements: Briefing on African Diplomats in Washington, 2 June 1961.”

Jean Stein Personal Papers: Partially Digitized

For her 1970 book American Journey: The Times of Robert Kennedy, Jean Stein interviewed over 300 people – including celebrities, politicians, and activists – about their lives, work, and impressions of Robert F. Kennedy. Because her interviewees didn’t necessarily know that Stein would donate their interviews to an archives for everyone to read, archivists have only opened the interviews of people who have since either granted permission or passed away. Over the past year, we’ve been digitizing interviews as we open them – including Stein’s interviews of famed activists César Chávez, Marian Wright Edelman, and Bayard Rustin.

Click to browse the Jean Stein Personal Papers

At that point Kennedy was not attuned to what was going on in the black community. He really did not have the sense of outrage that eventually he did learn to experience in going to Mississippi, in going to California, in going out to Indian reservations. 
Originally, the big thing that formed my first impression of the Kennedys was their choice of judgeships, the fantastically segregationist Judges who were appointed to District benches in the South! How Burke Marshall could say, "I saw Judge Cox sitting there in the Justice Department and he promised me he would uphold the law." I mean those of us who had been working in the South long enough, we know that kind.
But the point is that Robert Kennedy could say, "You're right," which I think was perhaps the most disarming thing. "Yeah, that was a bad decision, wasn't it?" you know. Or "Yeah, we were lousy there, weren't we?" that ability to admit limitations and to admit, "I would do things differently." To admit, you know, "Maybe I wasn't as strong as I might have been," and to admit that maybe Harold Cox was a lousy appointment.
JSTPP-003-004-p0011. Marian Wright Edelman describes her impression of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy after the Kennedy administration appointed segregationist William Harold Cox to a federal judgeship. Jean Stein Personal Papers, Box 3, “Edelman, Marian Wright.”


U.S. Department of Justice Records, Criminal Division Series: Partially Digitized

Most of the microfilm records in this series document federal lawsuits prosecuted by the DOJ’s Criminal Division on charges like organized crime and racketeering. The documents provide an inside look as the government built its case in these trials, including U.S. v. James R. “Jimmy” Hoffa and Sun Valley, Inc.

Click to browse the DOJ Records, Criminal Division Series (Boxes MF151-MF716A)

Q. What is the nature of that particular organization, the Pension Fund?
A. It is a fund to which employees contribute and set aside under a trust for the purpose of pensioning off drivers at age 60, 20 years of service, at $135.00 a month.
Q. You are one of the Trustees of that fund?
A. That's right.
Q. Do you have employers and trustees?
A. Yes.
Q. How many are employers?
A. I think eight and eight.
Q. Eight for the employers and eight for the union?
A. Yes.
Q. How long have you been a trustee for that Pension Fund?
A. I think it started about '55 if I am not mistaken; somewhere around there.
Q. Do you have a Chairman of the Trustees?
A. Alternates each meeting.
Q. Are you authorized to take any action on behalf of the Pension Fund that is not concurred in by all of the trustees?
A. Occasionally, yes.
Q. Of what type?
A. Signing of checks. After a tentative approval has been made by the trustees, we have a formula and the formula then once being met both on the appraisal and accounting, legal papers are drafted. We can then sign them...[end of page].
USDJ-MF324-001-p0019. A page from the transcript of Jimmy Hoffa’s deposition in United States v. James R. Hoffa and Robert E. McCarthy, Jr. (Sun Valley Case). US Department of Justice Records, Box MF324, “United States v. James R. Hoffa and Robert E. McCarthy, Jr. (Sun Valley Case): Depositions taken in various proceedings: Items 1483-1485.”

AND MORE!

In addition to digitizing entire collections and series, we’ve published a lot of individual items and folders across many different collections, including:

To find digitized materials in these collections, just look for folder titles that appear as links in the finding aid, and click on them to access all the documents in each folder.

We’re also working on bringing you even more digitized materials from the White House Central Subject Files, the National Security Files, and other collections. Stay tuned for more updates – and happy browsing!

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