JFK Memorabilia Hits the Auction Block
The family of a former special assistant to President John F. Kennedy is auctioning hundreds of photographs, documents, gifts and other memorabilia that once belonged to the late president.
David Powers, who died in 1998, was a close personal friend to Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. He was also the first curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston until he retired in 1994.
Powers’ family found "an extraordinary collection" of memorabilia locked away last year as they prepared to sell the family home, according to John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury.
Powers, who joined Kennedy for his first political campaign for Congress in 1946 and was with him when he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, collected keepsakes and documents spanning years of friendship with the Kennedy family. His collection of about 2,000 items will be auctioned in 723 lots on Feb. 17.
The collection includes the president’s Air Force One leather bomber jacket; photos of the baptism of his only surviving child, Caroline Kennedy; pictures of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s birthday party taken in December 1963; a birthday card that a young John F. Kennedy Jr. sent to his father a few months before he was assassinated; and a collage of photos that show JFK and Jackie before he was elected president. Other items include a statement announcing Kennedy’s candidacy for president, ephemera, letters, documents and gifts to and from the family.
The JFK Library, which is charged with promoting the life and legacy of Kennedy, says it is trying to figure out whether some of the items belong to the institution.
"The Kennedy Library is working with the family of Dave Powers to explore whether any of the items currently up for auction by the Powers family properly belong to the Kennedy Library and should be donated to library similar to other items that they have donated in the past," the institution said in a statement released Friday.
At the request of Robert F. Kennedy, Powers in 1964 began assembling and collecting Kennedy memorabilia that was to become part of the library’s permanent exhibit, the library says on its website. He also traveled around the world with an exhibit to raise money for the library’s construction, according to the website.
Powers’ daughter, Mary, was not at home and could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dan Meader, of John McInnis Auctioneers, played down ownership concerns.
"You have to remember they’ve donated so much stuff through the years," Meader said. "These are their own private things and the Powers family ... loves the JFK Library and they want to do anything they can do to preserve that legacy that their father started."
Meader said he did not know how much the auction is likely to generate or the estimated total value of the items being sold.
The auctioneer’s highest estimate was for the bomber jacket, at $20,000 to $40,000, while some lots were estimated in the $50 to $100 range.
The memorabilia, Meader said, has generated interest from all over the world. People from Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and elsewhere have already registered to bid, he said.