Five Bits of JFK Assassination Paraphernalia You Won't See
Right now the world is full of Kennedy nostalgia and tons of stuff you can see linked to the day President John F. Kennedy and company drove past the Texas Book Depository in downtown Dallas. The 50th anniversary is upon us, and while it might feel a wee bit on the morbid side to be so focused on the day a man was violently killed, what can you do but think about it, watch the documentaries, the movies, read the articles and generally soak it all up, sponge-like? But while you can lay eyes on such items as Gov. John Connolly's wool suit, complete with bullet holes and a blood-spattered shirt, and the contents of Lee Harvey Oswald's wallet, there are a few things you won't be seeing.
5. Lee Harvey Oswald's wedding ring. Oswald went out to Fort Worth before the assassination and spent the night with his estranged Russian wife, Marina, who later said he'd asked her to take him back and she refused. The next morning, she woke to find Oswald had left money and his wedding ring on the nightstand (but had retrieved the gun hidden in the garage.) After the assassination, she gave the ring -- a gold band with a hammer and sickle engraved inside it -- to a lawyer who put it in his files where it stayed until some colleagues found it a few years ago. Last month, Oswald's wife sold the ring at auction, where it was purchased by an anonymous bidder for $118,000.
Photo by Craig Hlavaty
4. The gun. Oswald purchased the gun he used, an Italian rifle, in March 1963 by mail. It was found in the Texas Book Depository by police, who also found photos of Oswald, taken by his wife, posing with the weapon. The firearm was then sent to the FBI (they didn't actually have jurisdiction over the case, but they wanted it, asked for it and got it), who tested it and held onto both the pistol and the rifle Oswald had purchased, aside from a brief loan-out to the Warren Commission. Marina Oswald sold her rights to John King, a Denver oilman, who proceeded to wage a legal battle against the government to actually take possession of the firearms. It was all for naught, though. The federal government was declared the winner and the rifle was deposited with the National Archives and Records Administration Building in College Park, Maryland. And it hasn't been in public view since.
3. The red roses Jackie Kennedy was holding when her husband was shot. The First Lady was given yellow roses everywhere else they stopped in Texas, but she was given a bouquet of red roses by the Dallas mayor's wife. When the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, the roses got scattered as she scrambled over the back of the car trying to get a piece of her husband's head. The car was covered in blood and red roses. The roses were still in the car, forgotten, when it was shipped back to D.C. to be examined and then cleaned, according to an account from the Henry Ford Museum. But not all the roses made it back. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry grabbed a few of the flowers for his daughter, according to The Dallas Morning News. Curry's daughter pressed the flowers in a book and still has them, but they're still tucked away in a book that's in storage. 2. The trauma room. Kennedy was rushed after the shooting to the nearest hospital, Parkland, where doctors worked furiously over the mortally wounded man. Afterwards, it seems, no one much thought about the room JFK was pronounced dead in for a while, but in the 1970s the room was secretly dismantled -- everything from tiles to the equipment they'd used to work on him -- and, after both the JFK Library and the LBJ Library said they weren't interested, all the boxes ended up in the National Archives and subsequently somehow in a government storage facility in Kansas, and are decidedly not available to the public.
1. Jackie's pink suit. She wore the suit that day because Kennedy asked her to (it was one of his favorites). Because of the admonition from Kennedy paterfamilias Joe Kennedy to buy American, the suit wasn't technically a Chanel, though the company provided the material and the pattern for a New York company to actually make it. Anyways, Jackie loved the suit and wore it a lot, or at least one comes to "a lot" when you're the First Lady and known for all things stylish of your era. After the assassination, Jackie refused suggestions that she take off the suit, saying, according to William Manchester's book The Death of a President, "No, let them see what they've done." The pillbox hat is still unaccounted for, but Jackie's mother ended up with the suit and eventually sent it to -- you guessed it -- the National Archives, according to the L.A. Times. The Kennedys have never been too wild about people seeing and being weird about any part of the assassination, and Caroline Kennedy got a deed of gift from the National Archives in 2003 ensuring the suit won't be displayed for the next century. When the deed is up in 2103, the Kennedy family will have the option to renegotiate.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.