President Kennedy’s Air Force One leather bomber jacket with the presidential seal is expected to be the top seller when a collection of his personal and political items amassed over the years by the late David F. Powers, his longtime confidant and special assistant, is auctioned on Feb. 17 by John McInnis at his Amesbury gallery. The estimate is $20,000-$40,000.
Another jacket with the presidential seal, a London Fog polyester and cotton jacket initialed “J.F.K” and “D.F.P.,” has a lesser estimate of $1,000-$2,000, but it speaks of the close relationship between the men, who even shared clothes on occasion.
The bonding began in 1946, when Kennedy, a 29-year-old Navy veteran, knocked on Powers’s Charlestown door and asked the 34-year-old unemployed Army Air Forces veteran, who was savvy about the rough-and-tumble politics of Boston’s ethnic Irish, to help run his first political campaign.
Kennedy was elected a US representative from Massachusetts, and Powers worked on all his subsequent campaigns. He went to the White House as a special assistant to Kennedy in 1961, and was in Dallas in 1963, when he helped carry the mortally wounded president into Parkland Hospital.
The following year Powers became the first curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, serving in that post for 30 years until his retirement in 1994. He died in 1998 at 85, but it was not until last year, when his family was readying their home in Arlington for sale, that Powers’s trove of Kennedy family photographs, letters, presidential memorabilia, and other treasures was discovered.
More than 2,000 items are included in the 723-lot auction, with the hundreds of photos dating from a 1917 photograph of 6-month-old Jack ($200-
$400) to the 1963 photo taken by Powers of the president and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the Dallas motorcade just before the fatal shots were fired ($400-$800).
Some items are as personal as the signed birthday card ($2,500-$5,000) that 18-month-old John Jr. gave his father on May 29, 1963, his 46th and last birthday, and as personal as the lot of seven neckties ($400-$800) that the president and Powers shared on occasions during the White House years.
Other items have political significance such as the pen ($5,000-$10,000) used by President Kennedy on Oct. 23, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to sign the “Interdiction of Delivery of Offensive Weapons to Cuba,” while of presidential significance is the flag with the great seal of the president ($5,000-
$10,000), which was flown on all presidential trips whether it was on a boat or in a motorcade.
Photographs of the Kennedy family in the White House, at Hyannis Port, and in Palm Beach, Fla., include an amusing one taken by Powers of Jackie sunning with just a towel for cover ($300-$600), while the hundreds of letters and notes include a one-page typewritten note from Rose Kennedy to her son just before his June 1962 presidential trip to Mexico, expressing her concern about the food there ($1,500-
There are sad items like “President Kennedy’s Final Hours,” a one-page itinerary ($2,500-$5,000) typed for his Nov. 21-22, 1963, trip to Texas, with a handwritten timeline by Powers of the shooting and events that took place directly afterward. There also are humorous items such as “The President’s Special Award” ($5,000-$10,000) given to Powers at a 50th birthday celebration, acknowledging that Powers was drinking the president’s beer. The award signed by Kennedy read: “In recognition of your athletic ability in hiking to my icebox to drink my Heinkens [sic].”
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A Plains Indian shirt and a pair of trousers collected in the 1850s by a teenager while traveling with his family along the Oregon Trail to Utah, where his father, David Burr, was to serve as Utah’s first surveyor general, are among the highlights of Skinner’s American Indian & Ethnographic Auction Saturday at 10 a.m. at its Boston gallery.
Two years after the Burrs arrived in Utah, Eugene, then 17, died, and since then the quilted hide shirt ($80,000-
$120,000) and the hide trousers ($6,000-$8,000), each initialed “E.B.,” have descended in the family.
Also being auctioned are a rare 17-inch-long Cree beaded cloth panel bag ($12,000-$16,000) and a pair of Cree beaded hide moccasins ($1,000-$1,500) that descended in the Burr family having belonged to Eugene, his older brother, David, or their father.
Another important collection is that of the late Joseph Rivera, an expert in Native American art and artifacts, who died unexpectedly last March at 64 while attending a powwow in Denver.
Rivera, who in his earlier years owned two Sioux trading posts in Rapid City, S.D., later moved to Sante Fe, where he managed Morning Star Gallery, one of the nation’s leading galleries of Native North American art.
Over the years Rivera amassed a broad collection of artifacts, most of which are being offered in this sale. Among the highlights are a late-19th-century Kiowa beaded hide model cradle ($30,000-$40,000); a circa 1870s Northern Arapaho beaded hide woman’s dress ($25,000-$35,000); and a Pawnee-style necklace of grizzly bear claws, Italian beads, otter skin, and hide ($15,000-$20,000), assembled by Milford G. Chandler (1889-1981), a collector and author, and later acquired by Rivera.
The auction also features the largest group of Southwest pottery that Skinner has ever offered, nearly half of which are jars and pots from the Zia and Zuni pueblos in New Mexico, topped by a large early 1930s four-color polychrome storage jar decorated with birds in flight ($15,000-$25,000).
Pre-Columbian offerings include the 27-lot collection of the late Italian tenor Sergio Franchi (1926-90), highlighted by two circa 100 BC-250 AD terra cotta West Mexico figures, each 21 inches, one of a Colima warrior ($4,000-
$5,000), the other of a Nayarit female figure ($3,000-$5,000).
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at globe