Auction Brings Rare Kennedy Collection to New York

Aaron Shikler's study for the White House portrait of President John F. Kennedy (top, left) and an America's Cup program signed by Jacqueline Kennedy with drawings by President Kennedy.

By Julie Grates, Contributor
December / January 2006

Forty-two years after his public assassination, Americans continue their love affair with one of the most famous Irish Americans of all time, John F. Kennedy. Since his death and the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, there have been countless auctions of Kennedy memorabilia.

An auction starting on December 15 in the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City promises to be one of the biggest. Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey Auction house will preside over the sale.

The collection for this auction was acquired from the late Robert L. White, a former cleaning supplies salesman who managed to collect over 350,000 items of Kennedy memorabilia. He died in 2003 at the age of 54.

White lived most of his life in Maryland, where he became interested in the Kennedy memorabilia. He struck up a friendship with Kennedy’s former secretary, Evelyn Lincoln.

Throughout the years that he knew her, he bought items from her for his personal collection. When she died in 1995, she left him the rest of her collection.

“Robert White’s whole psyche was to be a collector. Other than his wife and children, his life was Kennedy and this collection and going to antiques shows where he could enlarge this collection,” Ettinger recently told The New York Times.

In July, it was announced that thousands of the items in White’s collection would go to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, while other items would go to the National Archives.

The collection for the auction includes some unusual items amongst the typical Kennedy memorabilia. As with most Kennedy auctions, there will be a rocking chair which was on the second floor of the White House in the Kennedys’ private quarters. The collection also includes flags which flew on the presidential vehicle when Kennedy was assassinated.

Amongst the rare items is a coffee cup from Kennedy’s campaign which reads “coffee with Kennedy.” When the cup is auctioned, it will be depicted as “used” since someone had drunk out of it and kept it. The collection also features a piece of paper from the presidential debates which said “Let’s get this country moving again,” and some White House stationery which he doodled on during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Many of the items will be expected to sell into the six figures. However, when White put some items on auction in 1996, he was “appalled” by prices that went into the million dollar range. ♦

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