BY A R I P O ST Attention Presidential Partisans, Party Loyalists and Political Junkies: Preserve your campaign memorabilia. It too could become rare and valuable, someday making your descendants a fortune...
Presidential Treasures at Decatur House Exhibition Date: March 25
Jackie and Jack Kennedy leave their N Street home for the pre-inaugural celebration in 1961 with Mary Gallagher in the background. Courtesy Mary Gallagher.
When Tom Kitten died, Gallagher’s husband Ray dug a grave for the cat in their backyard next to a memorial for Tippy, a golden retriever also given to them by Mrs. Kennedy. As her husband filled in the grave, Gallagher said to him, “I don’t think you’ve quite finished!” Tom Kitten’s tail was still sticking out. Gallagher also has memories and items more indicative of the lifestyle she observed while working for Jacqueline Kennedy, including a leopard-fur pillbox hat and purse. The fur came from a well-recognized Somali leopard coat that the first lady wore on her trip to India. Gallagher had arranged for Ted Kahn of Ben Kahn Furs to bring the piece to Mrs. Kennedy, and her wearing it led to high demand. In appreciation, Kahn later had the gifts made for Gallagher. While the first lady’s leopard coat was popular, her most recognized outfit is the pink Chanel suit she wore in Dallas, famously blood spattered when her husband was shot. (The pillbox hat was lost.) Gallagher has another outfit worn that day — her own, a pink jumper with a white and pink striped blouse and a long tan coat. She vividly recalls that fateful 1963 day, riding a few cars behind the president and seeing policemen running with guns drawn but not knowing what had happened. When her bus arrived at the Dallas Trade Mart, rumors were flying that the president had been shot. At the hospital, as the doctor emerged from the operating room, he quietly instructed Gallagher to support the first lady. “Dr. Burkley told me to go stand next to Jackie but not to change the expression on my face,” she said. That Christmas, she received a chilling gift. It was an etching of the White House, inscribed, “For Mary, with greatest appreciation and affection,” signed by both the president and the first lady and dated Christmas 1963. The president had been assassinated in November. Gallagher said she considers the first lady’s finest singular achievement to be “the brilliant renovation” of the White House, shown to the world during a national television interview and tour in February 1962. Jacqueline Kennedy left Washington in 1964 and married Aristotle Onassis in 1968. As the American public questioned Kennedy’s motives, Gallagher felt an obligation to add her own story of everyday life with Jackie to the record and published the memoir, which she had originally written just for her sons. Just as her mementos serve as relics of her time with the Kennedys, her 1969 book, “My Life with Jacqueline Kennedy,” offers a uniquely personal perspective on the first lady. At the time, the book was criticized for being too revealing and personal. “She was a human being like we all are,” Gallagher said. “And she had a right to live her life as she felt like it.”
Bonhams will host a Presidential Treasures exhibition at Decatur House, 1610 H St. NW, featuring important works from the Caren Archive, including the first appearance of George Washington in print and the first printing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In addition, highlights from the collections of Kennedy Administration staff members will be on display; Mary Gallagher, Sue Vogelsinger and Preston Bruce will be among those in attendance who will share their recollections with guests. In this presidential election year, the exhibition is timed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Profiles in Courage,” John F. Kennedy’s admired and inspiring analysis of episodes of political bravery in the Senate. Admission is free of charge.
Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter to Henry Dearborn Auction Date: March 18 Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000 Henry Dearborn was an American soldier and statesman who served in George Washington’s Continental Army and was present at the British surrender at Yorktown. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Dearborn Secretary of War (which is how he addresses Dearborn in the letter), a position he held until 1809. During his tenure, Dearborn helped plan the removal of Indians beyond the Mississippi River.
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself” First edition, 1848 Auction Date: March 31 Estimate: $18,000 – $22,000 When Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative” first appeared in 1845, he had already been lecturing for more than four years as the shining star of the New England abolition movement. The success of the book, an instant bestseller, alerted Douglass’s owner as to his whereabouts, forcing the author to leave the country for two years. In the fall of 1845, Douglass set sail for Cork, Ireland, to begin a two-year lecture tour of Great Britain. Few original copies still exist of this text. This first edition is part of Swann’s auction of Printed and Manuscript African Americana.
Doyle New York Abraham Lincoln 1862 Indian Peace Medal Auction Date: April 25 Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000 Silver Indian Peace medals are some of the rarest and most sought-after items among American coin collectors. Issued from the presidency of George Washington through that of Benjamin Harrison, the medals were presented to Native Americans with the intent of creating peaceful relationships, usually to mark an important occasion, such as the signing of a treaty. Fewer than 4,000 were ever produced; today it is estimated that a mere 500 can be accounted for. This auction offers two of these rarities: an 1862 Abraham Lincoln medal and an 1871 Ulysses Grant medal. The sale also offers a wide selection of American and world coins, bank notes, medals and postage stamps.
Silkwork Mourning Picture of Columbia Embroidered by Eliza Gould, early 19th century Auction Date: April 9 This stunning piece of Americana folk heritage, commemorating George and Martha Washington, is part of Potomack Company’s upcoming live auction. The female figure in the picture is Columbia, an iconic woman, akin to France’s Marianne, who was a symbol of the United States, referencing Christopher Columbus (hence, the District of Columbia). She stands weeping beside a memorial plinth with painted likenesses of the president and first lady, surmounted by two urns. Embroidered above is a weeping willow tree, with a building and a church in the background, all on a silk ground in an oval frame.
GMG, INC. March 9, 2016