AMESBURY, MASS. — During one of the most important and historically significantly estate auctions in the history of the United States, perhaps the world, President John F. Kennedy’s iconic leather bomber emblazoned with the Presidential seal sold for $655,550 during the sale of the David F. Powers estate this past Sunday, February 17, at John McInnis Auctioneers.
Powers, befriended by JFK in 1946, became the personal aide and advisor to the war hero and upstart politician who won a seat in congress in Massachusetts’s eleventh congressional district that same year, became a senator from Massachusetts in 1952 and then the 35th president of the United States in 1960. Through it all, Powers, remained at JFK’s side, eventually serving as a Special Assistant to the White House and ultimately the curator of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library until he retired in 1994.
Powers, who was said to always have a camera around his neck, saved virtually every piece of paper of any significance, every photo — everything that had anything to do with his life as confidant to JFK. With the vast majority of Powers’ collection already donated to the JFK Memorial Library, Powers’ heirs decided that the remainder of the collection should be made available to the public. The sale consisted of documents and photographs from every aspect of JFK’s personal and political life, from the wedding invitation sent to Powers for JFK and Jackie’s marriage to birthday parties to a recounting of JFK’s final moments that Powers witnessed from just a few feet behind the president’s vehicle in the Dallas motorcade.
Preview for the auction lasted for more than a week at the gallery and it was not uncommon for those who lived through those troubled years, as well as younger generations, to be brought to tears while viewing this material. With untold thousands of participants attempting to claim a lot from this auction, it progressed at a very methodical rate and possibly set a record for the longest live auction to ever take place, beginning Sunday at 11 am and concluding 723 lots later on Monday at 5:31 am.
Other top lots included the typewritten Dallas itinerary prepared by Powers that had handwritten notations for changes and the timeline of the events that took place and the things that went awry that day. Notations included: “11:10 a.m. Arrive Carswell AFB… 11:37 a.m. Jackie and JFK shake hands with crowd at airport… 11:50 45 minute motorcade (crowds terrific — love Jackie)… 12:30 3 shots… 12:30 Carried my President on stretcher — raced to operating room… 1:00 My President is dead.” The Dallas schedule sold for $76,050. Also sold was a JFK Presidential Seal flag that was routinely flown from the car the President traveled in. One of two known, the rare piece realized $58,500.
The auction also related a life filled with pleasures, such as the birthday card that 2½-year-old John-John signed for his father. It brought $19,890.
Auctioneer John McInnis was all smiles as he related a humorous story about JFK’s bomber jacket and how it almost did not make it to the auction. It went something like this: “We had removed all of the paper material and photographs from the house and unbeknownst to us, the jacket was hanging in a closet with some other coats and clothing. David Powers’ son, who was overseeing the dispersal of the estate, was getting ready to pack his son off to the airport for a trip overseas when he noticed that, not having a jacket of his own to take along on the trip, his son had nonchalantly crammed the bomber jacket into his backpack. ‘Whoa,’ was the response to that situation from the elder Powers, ‘you are not taking that jacket’ — which resulted in a bewildered look from the younger Powers.”
More on this historic auction will appear in a future issue. —DSS