History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


John F. Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy

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A newly discovered piece of Kennedy history:

the last color photograph of President Kennedy before he left on his fatal trip to Texas on November 21, 1963

[John Fitzgerald Kennedy (19171961), 35th President of the United States, 1961–1963, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1929–1994), First Lady of the United States, 1961–1963.]  Unsigned 5” x 7” candid color photograph of President and Mrs. Kennedy at Andrews Air Force Base.

This newly discovered vintage photograph is, we believe, the last color photo of President John F. Kennedy before he boarded Air Force One for his fatal trip to Texas on November 21, 1963.  It shows the President and Mrs. Kennedy walking across the wet tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base.  The presidential helicopter flies away in the background after bringing the Kennedys to Andrews.  An unidentified military aide walks alongside the President, and the President’s secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, wearing a dark coat and blue scarf, walks several paces behind him.

The image is haunting:  The President flashes a big smile and waves at the photographer—not knowing that he would die just 27 short hours later, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

The Kennedy Library has no image like this in its collection.  This is not an official White House photo.  The Library’s audiovisual reference archivist whom we consulted thinks that it is one of a kind. 

The back stamp shows that the print is a Kodachrome enlargement made by Kodak.  Kodachrome was Kodak’s high-resolution color slide film.  It had a very slow film speed, which produced vibrant color.  Combined with the gray, overcast Washington, D.C., sky that drizzly morning, Kodachrome’s ASA 25 film speed accounts for the bit of blurriness in this photo that shows the movement of the President, Mrs. Kennedy, those accompanying them, and the helicopter.

We found a grainy black-and-white video of this scene showing President and Mrs. Kennedy walking across the tarmac from the helicopter to Air Force One.  The minute-long video begins with the arrival of the Army helicopter and ends with the departure of Air Force One.  At 0:27 into the video, the President, who is carrying his hat, switches the hat from his right hand to his left, and he begins to raise his right hand.  At 0:28, he smiles and waves—the gestures in this photograph.  He speaks to the photographer, and at 0:30 he points with the index finger on his right hand toward Air Force One, which is off screen.  He continues to smile with a big smile at 0:31 before turning straight ahead and walking about 10 steps to the foot of the stairs leading into Air Force One.  Click here to see that video. 

Our research has found only one other still photograph of the Kennedys on the tarmac.  It is a black-and-white Associated Press photo of President and Mrs. Kennedy walking away from the front of the helicopter, which sits in the background.  This photo thus was taken after that one.  That photo shows Evelyn Lincoln and the same military aide, and it also shows Mrs. Kennedy’s Secret Service agent Clint Hill.  Click here to see that photograph.  Hill’s book Five Days in November shows two black-and-white photos of JFK on the stairs leading up into Air Force One.  It was Hill who, the next day, November 22, would climb onto the back of the presidential limousine in an effort to protect the President and Mrs. Kennedy after the President was shot as his motorcade was leaving downtown Dallas.

November 21 was chilly, breezy, and damp when the Kennedys left the White House by helicopter at 10:50 a.m.  After a six-minute flight to Andrews Air Force Base, they left in Air Force One at 11:05 a.m. for San Antonio, where President Kennedy would dedicate the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base.  There had been light rain showers in Washington, D.C., at 7:00 a.m., and weather records show that it was drizzling and hazy at 11:00 a.m., right about the time this photograph was taken.  The drizzle kept the tarmac at Andrews wet but was not heavy enough for the Kennedys to need umbrellas.  The sky was overcast and partly cloudy, with a temperature of 53.4° Fahrenheit and a south wind of about 7 miles per hour.

Video and still photos of the Kennedys in San Antonio show them wearing the clothes that they are wearing in this photograph except that in Texas, where it was warmer, Mrs. Kennedy did not wear the coat that she was wearing over her dress in this photo.

The photograph is in fine condition. It is printed on Kodak photographic paper, although the Kodak watermark is too faint for our scan of the back of the photo below to show it.  The photo has a few scattered handling marks that are not apparent until it is turned just right in the light.  There is also some crazing at the lower right, most noticeably in the lower right corner, well away from the image of President and Mrs. Kennedy.

We have found no publication of this photograph.  It had never come to the collectibles market until we acquired it.  It is a new piece of Kennedy history—an extraordinary find—a poignant item essential to any collection focusing on President Kennedy, particularly on the events leading up to his assassination.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

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