Today in history... John F Kennedy becomes US President

On this day, in 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States.

This historic event followed the most hotly-contested US presidential elections in US history, in which Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon.

But, only two years later, came Kennedy's assassination - cementing him as a historical icon, forever entwined with the 20th century's most eventful decade of social change.

Events which occured during Kennedy's presidency included the Cuban Missile crises, the space race, the building of the Berlin Wall, and the early events of the Vietnam War.

Today, like former US presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, JFK's place in the memorabilia market is assured.

JFK John F Kennedy last signature autograph
John F Kennedy's last signature has been insured for $250k
(Click to enlarge)

In December 2009, JFK's final autograph - a signature on a newspaper from the morning of his death - nearly doubled its $20,000 expected price at Heritage Auction Galleries, selling for $39,000.

The buyer later insured it for $250,000.

Elsewhere, a United States Senate letterheaded document written by Kennedy about a soldier's lost cheque sold for $1,022 at RR Auction. The letter was dated May, 14, 1953: almost a decade before he became President.

In contrast to that item's bureaucratic typicality, a far more unusual, and outrageous, item sold for $2,040: a postcard of an African-American on his knees, being menaced by three alligators.

The cartoon, also sold by RR Auction, is captioned with "A Darky's Prayer", a verse in ridiculous, stereotypical "black" dialect.

"Dese gaters looks so feary/And yet dey 'peered so tame/But now that I done met 'em/I'll neber be de same," it reads.

Exceptionally rare double signing - JFK & Jackie
An exceptionally rare double signing, featuring both John and Jackie Kennedy

Signed "Jack" - as JFK's friends knew him - on March 7, 1955, the postcard would undoubtedly be preferred forgotten by Kennedy himself, particularly considering his later support of Martin Luther King Jr.

That embarrassment aside, John and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy's status in history is such that even a signed photograph of the First Lady can also command thousands at auction.

One example, a signed and inscribed black and white IMAGE_of Jackie, sold for $1,242, last year.

And signed documents featuring both Kennedy and his wife are scarce and sought-after. One example, a signed campaign dinner program from 1960, is available on the market priced £3,950 ($6,520).

As with any important historical figure, collectors are interested in every aspect of JFK's life - and death.

A fedora hat worn by Jack Ruby - the killer of Kennedy's believed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald - sold for $54,000 (over an estimate of $35,000), at the same auction as JFK's final autograph.

 

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