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    The Briefcase Purchased by Jacqueline Bouvier as a Wedding Present for her Husband-to-Be John F. Kennedy. Without a doubt, one of the most important and exciting pieces of JFK memorabilia to ever be offered to the public.

    It was early 1952. A well-educated and traveled young New York Society woman, a former "Debutante of the Year", was working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald. She would ask people on the street their opinions on various subjects, take their photograph, and write it up for her "Inquiring Photographer" column in the paper. In the course of this occupation, she met, one fateful day, a young liberal Democratic congressman (soon to be senator) from Massachusetts, one of the "rising stars" of the party, not to mention one of the most eligible young bachelors in Washington, D.C. Their romance blossomed slowly- after all she was engaged to a stockbroker and planning a June 1952 wedding at the time of their meeting. On September 12, 1953, the couple was married at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island with a reception afterwards at Hammersmith Farm, a place full of happy childhood memories for her. She probably fretted as to what to give this wealthy war hero and politician as a wedding present, finally deciding upon a handsome tan leather attaché made by Crouch & Fitzgerald of New York. It had been featured in their 1952 catalogue and she likely purchased it in the Madison Avenue store where her family had long shopped. His now-legendary initials "JFK" were monogrammed in gold under the handle. It was a gift that the groom would appreciate and use for the rest of his foreshortened life. This couple, of course, was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John Fitzgerald Kennedy; their marriage ceremony signaled the beginning of "Camelot." In Arthurian legend, Camelot was the capital of King Arthur's kingdom; truth and goodness and beautyreigned there. This briefcase has been called "The essence of Camelot!" We all know of the triumphs and tragedies this husband and wife shared because we shared them too. They were, and still are to many of us, American Royalty.

    Just two weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Jackie (as we loved to call her) moved out of the White House and into a temporary residence a few blocks away in Georgetown. As the neighbors and curiosity seekers watched her personal effects being moved, this very briefcase proved to be one of the most poignant symbols of her recent loss, as mentioned in a newspaper article at the time (a copy is included with the lot). She, without a doubt, kept it as an important family relic in their home.

    In the late 1970s, John and Jackie's handsome son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. (John-John to the older among us) took his father's briefcase to Brown University where he carried it to class. Before graduating, he generously gave it to a fraternity brother named Richard Wiese in 1981; Mr. Wiese's signed statement to that effect, dated 1998, is also included in this lot. The chain of provenance continues to Martin F. Zweig, a trustee of the famous Museum of American Financial History on Wall Street, to which he donated it in 1999. From there it traveled to the Florida International Museum where it joined their extensive exhibit of Kennedy artifacts. The museum determined that it should be sold to raise funds and offered it at public auction in 2001. Every time it has been exhibited, throngs of curious people have come to see it. A file of material related to this famous item and its history is included, tracing the chain of ownership from 1981.

    There is a photo on page 95 in the book Remembering Jack: Intimate and Unseen Photographs of the Kennedys by Jacques Lowe. (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 2003) of Kennedy on his plane, the Caroline, while campaigning in 1960. The briefcase is clearly visible near the hand of press secretary Pierre Salinger. A copy of this book will also be included.

    The attaché is 17.5" x 12" x 5" in size, with brass key locks, snap-lock accordion files inside, the above-mentioned initials beneath the handle, and a U.S. Custom Service "Inspected Baggage" sticker on the left side. It has wear to all surfaces with separation at the hinges and loose stitching at the corners. Physically, it looks like a well-used 50+ year-old quality briefcase. Historically, it boggles the mind to speculate what Kennedy may have carried in it during his ten years of ownership. Did it hold briefing papers regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or did it possibly carry one or more of his famous speeches containing words that still reverberate through history- "...ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country", "America has tossed its cap over the wall of space", "...as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'", or the eerily prophetic "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." ? Emotionally, it is representative of an era in our history for which many wax nostalgic, an era when American had a vibrant young president, a beautiful and sophisticated first lady, where the "sky was the limit," an era just before an assassin's bullet not only killed our president but killed our dream.

    This is an artifact that one would expect to see in a venue such as the Smithsonian Institution or the JFK Library & Museum. Who knows, it may end up in one of those prestigious collections some day. In the meantime, Heritage Auction Galleries is proud to offer you the opportunity to own what is probably the single most important Kennedy relic in private hands.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2006
    7th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 30
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,183

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