tv American Artifacts John F. Kennedys Life in Photos CSPAN October 13, 2020 7:23pm-8:02pm EDT
,. to mark the centennial of his birth the smithsonian american art museum collected dozens of images that chronicle the life of the 35th president. >> the smithsonian american art museum allows me to be a guest curator of this exhibit on jfk. i photographed a lot of politicians. i started with richard nixon, governor brown in california
and john f. kennedy and many of the events he was present at. ,. why this exhibit here in the american art museum at this time? it is the centennial of his birth 100 years ago on may 29, he was born. how do you put an exhibit like this together? first you start with a few researchers. we collected 34,000 photographs of jfk and his family. it took about six months and became the basis of a very important book that we published. from those 34,000 odd pictures in the book we were able to select 77 photographs that we felt told the story of jf k and
his life and times. john f. kennedy was a modern president who saw america's place in the world. he was a man who understood history, who served in world war ii. he understood the issues of civil rights. he understood many of the conflicts around the world. . this exhibit addresses the issue of jfk's vision for america. ,. it's the story of the life and his times. pictures from the family scrap book are very interesting. just like any other kid, little did he know he might be the
president of the united states. . that's what the cars look like in those days. as jfk got out in the world himself, very few people know when he went off to college he got in trouble once or twice. the family traveled a lot and kennedy got a lot of experience. ,. ,. i how hell. when he went away the college to harvard, with graduation pictures they're out at one of the dances, he served in the armed forces. and of course, a lot of us know
that he was very much involved in saving lives. he was part of the crew on of a vehicle that capsized in the war. he heard his back a little bit, which plagued him for years and years, but he was considered by many to be one of the many war heroes who served in the armed forces. but out of this armed forces, when his father was ambassador to great britain, he was looking around for a job and his father wrote a letter and said, my son knows a lot about history and this and that, maybe you could find a job for him for what we would call today as a club reporter. he went off to san francisco and reported on the formation of the united nations. he wrote a column every couple of days, a serviceman's view of
the world, that was one of the titles. that started the show not only his writing ability but his understanding of where america was and what vision the country should be. it wasn't long before in the early fifties that he met this young lady, jacqueline. this is one of those photo booth shots, it is blown up but you see it is very small. and used to pay about two cents or a nickel. that is one of the early portraits of them. of course, they strolling down the streets with ethel kennedy in washington d.c.. she was married to his brother, robert kennedy. i photographed them quite a bit, i did a lot of campaign photography with them. there are these iconic images that we will remember and that will take us through history.
here is jfk in 1953, getting married to jackie. this pictures from the getty images collection. here's one of the most famous magazine pictures, when caroline was born in 1958. this is taken by a fine, fine photographer. it is one of those iconic images. life magazine in many of the publications covered the kennedy is quite a bit. over here, in this latrine we can see in the early years the photographs from the golden age of photojournalism. that was before television really became the communicator of the world. these are the magazines that were published in, these are actual copies of the magazines. and newspapers, the new york times, the springfield republican, and books that jfk
wrote himself. his most famous book, that one the pulitzer prize, profiles in courage. you are not only seeing the history of jfk but you are seeing how his image was communicated to the world at large. and the photographs in this exhibit are printed the exact same way they would have been printed in the 60's, 11 by 14 in size. we use the same technology of the 60's. when you see this exhibit and you are seeing the photographs as you would have had you lived in the 60's and picked up a magazine, it would have been just like you are going to see here at the american art museum. all these magazines and newspapers you are seeing, you are probably saying to yourself how do they keep them for 50 or
60 years? believe it or not they were all obtained on ebay. ebay is probably the biggest archive in the world. we built an entire archive of jfk as he was seen around the world just by spending about a week on ebay purchasing these historic works. they are not expensive, three dollars, to dollars but of course you have to pay the postage. you see this young man starting to run for congress, kind of sitting there. and sitting with a portrait of his mother and father, this was taken in 1946 when he gets elected for congress. the family had some money, a little more than some. his father hired not only the best photographers in the world,
but also they hired advertising agencies to properly promote the image of the kennedy family and jfk as he started to run for political office. the composition of this picture is not only the product of the photographer but also the product of a good smart advertising guy. that poster is part of the madman era. jfk was the first president in the great flannel suit. a natural public speaker he was. his photograph shows what the technology of the day was, not these fine video cameras that give you such clarity. here we are shooting in natural light virtually.
here, jfk is under the spotlight. his father said to him, you appeal to women you will get yourself elected. you see about 200 women lined up to meet jfk in massachusetts. and there is a joke about that picture. did someone say you better be on crutches. he would go out in the field for the first year of campaigning and being a congressman he went into his district. he went to the docks here. of course jfk and bobby kennedy are together working side by side. they had a very special bond. bobby was his campaign manager and advisor. there was a lot of controversy when jfk becomes president because he appoints his brother
as attorney general with not a lot of experience. bobby stood up to the task. in 59 he starts to really understand the weight of the issues around the world. jfk knew he was going to run for president in 60 and hoped to get the nomination from the democratic party. he traveled widely in the united states and this photographer who photographed him for a number of years is very interesting. you see jfk at a moment in which he has to make some strong decisions. over on this wall is one of the many pictures while being on the cover of life magazine, he was actually a sports photographer, a famous boxing photographer. nobody could figure out why he
got this assignment. it ended up on the cover of life magazine. taken in 1953, it is a really beautiful picture and shows the spirit of jfk. of course in 57, prior to him running for president, the great photographer, who had more life magazine covers than any other photographer during life magazine's many years as a leading publication of the world and a beautiful portrait. this is the early years of jfk and in a moment we will get into the years where he becomes a politician, a world leader and somebody who sets the stage and the foundation for america foreign policy and a modern america.
in 1960 when jfk decided he was going to run for president, his father gave him an airplane and he called at the caroline, which was the name of his daughter. this picture of jfk leaving on his first campaign in the united states. he hit almost every state. here was this young member of congress going out there, out everywhere with his wife and family. not only was she lovable and huggable, but she related to people in a very human way. eventually when jfk goes to france he crack's this remark, i'm just a guy going along with jackie, she's really the star. but he went out on the campaign trail seeking the nomination of
the democratic party. he went everywhere and there was nothing holier than thou about his campaign. he would go out to the appellation mountains. he would stand on trucks, way from cars here in massachusetts in july in 1960. and the eventual campaign led in july to the democratic national convention, which took place in los angeles, california. i was working for life magazine but they assigned me to who they thought would be the winner. i was assigned to photograph richard nixon. of course the strategy of getting that nomination was no easy task.
hank walker, one of the life photographers made this iconic image of robert and jfk in a hotel room, kind of deciding who they would offer the vice presidency to. lyndon johnson eventually becomes the running mate to jfk. a surprise to a lot of people. i have seen this picture published in parts of the world where they are discussing the cuban missile crisis. or they are discussing armament. this is a hotel where they are meeting with khrushchev. but it was 1950 the democratic national convention. it wasn't long before he secured that nomination and really had to go out on the road to prove himself.
in california he is up there with governor pat brown. here he is preparing some notes for a democratic rally. of course, the wonderful thing about the kennedys as they never pushed photographers or writers away. they knew that if they made themselves accessible to the media they would be published and it was a groundswell. there is no question about it that the media coverage of jfk was the first time we had ever seen anything like it. campaigning in amarillo, texas. jfk gets upset that lyndon johnson is hollering, turn the engine off, he carried around a lot of the copies of this book called profiles in courage.
he used to autograph them and throw them out to the audience. the publisher sold a lot of copies of that version. it wasn't long until he came head-to-head with richard nixon. everyone thought richard nixon would win the election. what really turns the tide in a unique way were these first televised debates. america had never seen anything like that before. the first debate here -- jackie is very nervous and she is off by the corner, kind of looking out in making sure that her husband is going to do the right thing. it was interesting when these debates started. if you would've listened to the debates on radio, nixon was the clear winner. his voice was convincing, he
spoke very very well if you watched it aon television as millions of americans did, you saw very nervous richard nixon. yet you saw president john f. kennedy poised, relaxed, articulate, and many writers, including norman mailer, who wrote this incredible piece. he was for esquire called superman comes to the super mark. the television debates placed jfk on the road to victory. the election was in november 8. this is bobby and ethel casting their votes and of course, i was in los angeles have ambassador hotel with nixon. this is a picture i made of the
election votes coming in state-by-state. in the old days it was done by chalk. it wasn't electronic as we have today on television. five minutes later he puts in another one. the kennedy family that night was in -- here's jfk with his brother. here is this interesting picture we saw before up on the wall by hank walker. election night, the electoral vote was very close and nobody knew. at 3:00 jfk needed 11 more electoral votes and a lot of people felt he wasn't going to get it. all of a sudden richard nixon decides to go on television, even though he had not lost the election yet.
this is the media watching it. i, who was assigned to photograph nixon, was with him at 3:00 in the morning. as he went to the podium at the ambassador hotel and conceded the election to jfk before he had actually won it. that was an extraordinary move. four hours later, the boston globe announces his presidency and this is a wonderful picture taken, a very fine photographer. as the early morning newspapers arrived at headquarters, by mid-day the election had been decided. kennedy became the first catholic president of the united states.
he rallied his entire family here. peter lawford, who is an entertainer, actor. robert kennedy, one of his sisters, his mother and father and at the end kennedy's husband over there. this is an interesting little moment. here is jackie looking up at her husband. a wonderful picture. in january there is the inauguration. an interesting snowy day. the family decided to walk from the white house to the inauguration.
rather than just showing you a picture of jfk making his speech, this is a very unique view to show. this is what the crowd was like. this was that great moment that jfk said, to paraphrase, asked not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. it was an incredible call for action. that night the festivities continued. here we are that evening at one of the many balls with jfk and his tuxedo and with jackie. it was location to be remembered. he was young, handsome on, he understood the responsibilities. . little did he know what is first tough 100 days he would have an american politics. now we are going to come into the presidential years.
these are the years from 1961 through the tragic day. in dallas texas. jfk is a family man. here in october of 63 before his tragic death, he is walking john john and yet over here he is dressed with jackie. they brought culture into the white house. she was a person who understood the arts and understood the role that is played in american culture. when they went to france on a diplomatic trip, they convinced the french government to allow the mona lisa to come to the united states. it was extraordinary. it was one of the art exchanges of the century. jackie kennedy made this fine
picture. here jackie views the plans for the redevelopment of the lafayette square park in the museum. she will help raise funds and supported on the way back to 1958 this museum. tragically this is a unique photograph. what is different about it? she is wearing the same suit she wore the day her husband lost his life in dallas. any time the kids had nothing to do, they were in the white house. they had the full run of the place. they show up unannounced.
in 1962, john john is playing around on the carpet. this is teddy's kids. and jfk's kids. they would run around the compound and have a lot of fun. one of these pictures ended up being on the cover of the magazine. here is a famous picture taken in july of 1963. this is a young 16-year-old kid by the name of bill clinton. here he is meeting the president of the united states in the rose garden. he was there with the -- he had this opportunity.
a very famous photograph that clinton uses for governor and president. above it is a picture taken in 1962. he was a photographer in that time, working for the los angeles times. kennedy would spend a lot of time with his brother-in-law and his sister in malibu california just outside of l.a.. jfk would run out to get a bit of that warm california water. little by little the public would realise the president is out there. kicked off his shoes and went out in the surf and made this memorable picture in august of
1962 of the president surrounded by a crowd out there on malibu beach. it was nominated for a pulitzer prize. it was nominated for every publication in the world, gerald ford years later will explore the same thing. a picture of jfk leaning over his reading desk behind his regular desk. a lot of people feel like he was reading the newspapers. as some of you know he had back problems and had a back brace. this posture position of his was very helpful in straightening out his back and at the same time reading the newspaper. before jfk, probably the most beloved president the united states had was franklin delano roosevelt, who was always in a wheelchair. he never wanted to be photographed in the wheelchair.
whereas jfk, who had back problems, didn't mind being photographed, no matter whether he was able to run down the street or couldn't even move. this picture of him being hoisted into the airplane because he can't climb steps very well, even though he could walk down them. jfk was never afraid to be photographed. he wanted to be known as being human. that was something quite extraordinary about the kennedys. now we are getting into jfk's 100 days in his political years. one of the things that came about was the bay of pigs, which was the invasion of cuba supported by the united states and the cia. it led to the cuban missile crisis in which castro led missiles that could almost hit
any target in the united states to be housed and made operational in cuba. of course this is a picture of castro and khrushchev. here is castro visiting moscow, just prior to the cuban missile crisis. when america discovered that russia had placed intercontinental missiles on the island of cuba, jfk went in front of the united nations in september of 61 and said we have to meet the challenges of our age and put into effect policies that deal with berlin, germany, laos, south vietnam and so forth. it was introduced for the first
time very seriously to the atomic bomb area and this is a picture i made in los angeles of school kids being taught about the effects of the bomb and how they had run into the halls and protect themselves. it shows this duck and recovery situation that we are all being educated to the effect of nuclear weapons, not in japan or some other place in the world, but right here at home. in 62 kennedy made this speech concerning the soviet missiles and cuba to the nation. it wasn't long after that, about six months later that kennedy and the world is faced with the effects of the berlin wall. kennedy went to germany in june
of 1963 and made his very famous speech there that he supported germany and supported a unified germany and that america was not going to stand around and allow this to happen. he did start to negotiate with the soviet union. he met with khrushchev in vienna. this picture was taken prior to the summit, i think the evening before. it also shows how jackie, the great asset to jfk, was truly an ambassador to the world. early in 61 when president kennedy gave his speech that we are going to have to beat the russians. and put the first man on the moon. this is a photograph of jfk touring and being educated
about the different types of missiles that would carry a man into space. by 1963 jfk had to start to prepare for reelection campaign in 64. and the south was becoming an area, even though lyndon johnson was his vice president, that politicians felt he had to renew his support. a trip was planned to fort worth and dallas. this picture of jackie arriving in dallas on november 22, shows the warm reception. as they rolled through this motorcade in dallas and as they entered into an area, three shots rang out. before we knew it the president had slumped forward and the
secret service had ordered the car to be rushed to the hospital. this picture taken by an unknown photographer, translated by the associated press gives you the feeling of the urgency and the moment. it wasn't long before walter cronkite, perhaps the best-known newscaster on television worldwide, had to announce not only to america but the world at large that jfk had not only been shot but his life had been lost and he had succumbed to the bullet that had entered his head. the memorial sprung up here in new york city, a photograph of jfk placed in a store window is really a reminder that you couldn't move without seeing some memory of jfk.
a few days later there was this incredible funeral procession after jfk's body was brought back to washington. jackie kennedy had shaped the funeral arrangements, very much patterned after abraham lincoln's burial and her two children by her side walked to arlington national cemetery where jfk was buried and an eternal flame was lit over the place where he was buried. a lot of people know i was in dallas when jfk was killed. i didn't put any of my own autographs here in the exhibition. here's a picture of lee harvey oswald that tragic day, a
famous iconic image of mine and the gun oswald used to shoot jfk. as a working journalist i was at a lot of these events. i felt this exhibit would serve a better purpose showing the work of my colleagues rather than some lesser pictures i had made. as i look around the walls here and remember the 4 months that went into putting this exhibit together, all of these photographs by photographers i knew that i traveled with, had breakfast or dinner with, it was quite an experience, looking back on history and remembering those moments. some of them hard struggles to get. a picture, it looks like it's very easy to take. finding that you are a fly on
the wall in many instances. looking for the decisive moment. these are pictures of the leading photographers of the golden age of photography. i'm very proud that they all allowed me to kind of get into their archives and find the images that tell a story of john f. kennedy and his vision for america. you can watch this, and other american artifacts programs, anytime by visiting our website c-span.org slash history. >> weeknights this month on american history tv ads the contenders, our series to look at 14 presidential candidates who lost the election, but who
had a lasting effect on u.s. politics. tonight we feature the 1940 republican presidential nominee, went to wilkie, after losing to president franklin roosevelt, he became his formal representative to britain, the middle east, the soviet union, and china. watch tonight, beginning at eight eastern and enjoy american history tv this week, and every weekend until c-span 3. kie. kie.