The archive was put together by David Powers – Kennedy’s close friend and advisor who has been described as his personal “fixer”. He was riding in the car behind the President when Kennedy was shot dead in November 1963.
The collection includes drafts for some of the former US President’s important speeches, many of which contain revisions and corrections in Kennedy’s hand.
The cache of documents was purchased from David Powers in the 1990s by the rare book dealer Maury A. Bromsen (1919–2005), who later sold it to a private collector in around 2003.
The archive has now been acquired by London dealership Peter Harrington who is offering it as a single collection with a £375,000 price-tag.
The collection spans Kennedy’s political career up to the presidency, beginning with speeches from his first primary race in 1946 to the eve of his nomination as president, in the summer of 1960. It encompasses three Congressional campaigns, two runs for the Senate, and a bid for the vice presidency.
The archive also contains arguably one of the best copies of JFK’s inauguration speech. This example was one of fewer than 100 copies which were privately printed by the White House and is inscribed “For Dave from John Kennedy Christmas, 1961”.
Pom Harrington of Peter Harrington said: “We feel very privileged to be able to offer for sale such a large collection of speeches spanning Kennedy’s political career up until the time he became the president. This collection also contains arguably one of the best copies of JFK’s inauguration speech which is historically one of the most important speeches ever given – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.”
Other highlights include:
- A manuscript with holograph corrections personally typed by JFK for his address at the Mass. Federation of Labor, Boston, August 4, 1949
- A large-type reading copy for JFK’s foreign policy speech The Challenge Abroad, with extensive deletions in both ink and pencil including revisions in JFK’s hand,
- A large-type reading copy for JFK’s speech Africa – The Coming Challenge delivered at Wesleyan University with corrections and emendations in JFK’s hand, a speech delivered in 1959 anticipating his formation of the Peace Corps.
- Seven similar typed manuscripts of JFK’s political speeches in the late 1940s that Powers believed to be the only copies still in existence.
- Printed pamphlets, autograph notes, to-do lists, drafts of thank you letters, informal notes that probably helped David Powers draft speeches, notes to Powers asking him to send letters or messages on JFK’s behalf, Christmas cards from the Kennedys, photographs and mementos.
While Powers remained in the White House after JFK’s the assassination until January 1965 – he resigned to assume the post of curator for the planned John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a position he maintained until 1994 – none of the documents in the include anything of significance dating after Kennedy’s inauguration.
This is partly due to The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 which encouraged future presidents to donate their historical materials to the government. Powers honoured that commitment by keeping in his own collection only material dating prior to the presidency.