Rocking Chairs and other Rare JFK Memorabilia Up for Auction on August 3

  • EAST DENNIS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • July 23, 2018

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One of John F. Kennedy's iconic rocking chairs, used by the president at the White House.

East Dennis, Mass. – President Kennedy’s last doodles before he was assassinated, a rocking chair he used at the White House and a study for the official presidential portrait are among the 23 lots of John F. Kennedy memorabilia Eldred’s will be auctioning August 3 as part of its Americana and Paintings Auction. The sale will take place at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod, just 11 miles from the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port.  

“How appropriate that some of Kennedy’s personal items would be auctioned here on Cape Cod, a place he loved so much,” said Joshua Eldred, president of Eldred’s. “In fact, we’ll be auctioning one of the pens he used to establish the National Seashore, which protects our shoreline in perpetuity.”

The pen Eldred mentioned is part of a collection of 15 fountain pens Kennedy used to sign some of the most important pieces of legislation during his time as president, including the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in October 1963 and the Racial Discrimination Act of 1962. The pens were specially designed to Kennedy’s specifications and are all marked “The President – The White House”. The collection, accompanied by a letter of authentication from Dave Powers, one of Kennedy’s closest friends and the first curator of the John F. Kennedy Library, has a pre-sale estimate of $60,000/90,000.

The sale includes items that were used by Kennedy in his role as president, like the collection of pens, as well as more personal mementos, like his portable stereo and records, an ottoman used in the private living quarters of the White House, and an annotated invitation list to his wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. One of the most iconic pieces of Kennedy memorabilia are rocking chairs, and two are included in this sale, one that was used at the White House and one that was used at the Carlyle hotel, sometimes referred to as “The New York White House” given how frequently the president stayed there.

Kennedy famously used rocking chairs to alleviate his chronic back pain. The White House rocker in Eldred’s auction was upholstered by Larry Arata, based on Dr. Janet Travell’s design; it was one of about a dozen chairs Arata made for the president for use at his various residences. The Kennedy’s met Arata on Cape Cod and asked him to become the official White House upholsterer in 1961, when Jacqueline Kennedy was restoring the executive mansion. Arata lived on the third floor of the White House for two years, and he continued to serve in his role through the Johnson administration. The rocker has Arata’s label on it, as well as plaques indicating it was used in the White House. Both the White House and the Carlyle hotel rockers have pre-sale estimates of $50,000/70,000.

Perhaps the most poignant lot from the sale is two pages of notes and doodles the president made the night before his assassination, when he stayed at the Rice Hotel in Houston. The sheets from the hotel’s notepad, on which Kennedy wrote things like “plan trip”, “Hotel” and “Jackie”, were collected by the president’s secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, who marked them “Nov 21, 1963”. The pages have a pre-sale estimate of $25,000/35,000.

Following the assassination, New York artist Aaron Abraham Shikler was selected to paint the posthumous portrait of Kennedy for the White House’s permanent collection. The sale includes one of the five studies Shikler made for the portrait and presented to Mrs. Kennedy for her approval. Like the official portrait, the study in the sale depicts Kennedy with his head bowed. It is estimated at $80,000/120,000.

Other items include Kennedy’s PT-109 tie clip worn the night before the assassination, an ashtray and a letter opener used in the Oval Office, a piece of the altar railing from St. Mary’s Church in Newport, where Kennedy was married, assorted letters and photographs, and two autographed copies of Profiles in Courage, written by Kennedy when he was a Massachusetts senator. Also included are nine pages of Kennedy’s handwritten notes about Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Written on United States Senate paper in 1953, they are believed to reflect some of Kennedy’s earliest thoughts about the political situation in southeast Asia. The lot is estimated at $30,000/50,000.

All lots can be viewed on Eldred’s website, The Kennedy material will be sold Friday, August 3 as part of the firm’s Americana and Paintings Auction, which runs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, August 1, 2 and 3, 2018. The auction begins at 10 a.m. Eastern on all three sale dates. It is a live auction, with phone, absentee and online bidding available. The sale preview will be held Tuesday, July 31, from 10 to 5 p.m. at the firm’s headquarters in East Dennis. Catalogs may be purchased by calling 508-385-3116.

About Eldred’s

The Robert C. Eldred Co. is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house, now in its third generation of ownership under the Eldred and Schofield families. In addition to its headquarters on Cape Cod’s historic Old King’s Highway in East Dennis, Mass., the firm also has an office at 5 Roosevelt Avenue in Mystic, Ct. Eldred’s conducts approximately 25 auctions per year encompassing Americana, paintings, Asian art, European decorative art, maritime antiques, sporting art and collectibles. It was recently named one of the top worldwide auction houses by Art + Auction and holds auction records across a wide range of collecting areas.  

For more information please call (508) 385-3116 or email 



1483 Route 6a
East Dennis, Massachusetts
About Eldred's

Eldred's is New England's oldest established antiques and fine arts auction house. Approximately 25 auctions are held year-round encompassing Americana, Asian Art, Americana and European paintings, European decorative art, Maritime antiques, and collectibles.

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