November 22 marks the 59th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Elm Street in Dallas. Fascination with the 35th President and his death has never fully faded, nor has interest in artifacts related to the President and what happened in Dallas.
As a result, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions is expecting a generally huge response to more than 20 JFK-related items going up for auction Dec. 1.
They include one of Kennedy’s prized rocking chairs, which Dr. Janet P. Travell recommended she use to treat her chronic back pain. Heritage also sells two other items directly related to the assassination.
One is a television camera formerly owned by KRLD-TV (Channel 4), which in 1963 was the CBS Dallas affiliate. (It’s now FOX affiliate KDFW-TV.)
The camera televised footage of suspected killer Lee Harvey Oswald during his arraignment on Nov. 23. She also captured his death the next day as strip club operator Jack Ruby fired a single fatal shot into Oswald’s abdomen in the basement of the Dallas police station.
Heritage will also sell Ruby’s used leather wallet and all of its contents from the time it was discontinued. It’s a myriad of strange items, ranging from his driver’s license to business cards, traffic tickets, blank checks and the Carousel Club occupancy certificate he had on Commerce Street.
The opening bid for JFK’s rocking chair is $50,000. It’s $15,000 for the TV camera and $10,000 for Ruby’s wallet and contents.
“That’s a lot of amazing artifacts,” said Joe Maddalena, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions.
Maddalena said Kennedy discovered the rocking chair in 1955 when he first visited Dr. Travell, who “believed that a rocking chair relieved tension in the lower back by keeping the muscles moving, contracting and relaxing,” according to Heritage. “Kennedy’s oak rocking chair, with hand-woven rattan seat and back, sparked a national revival of the old-fashioned rocking chair,” the company said.
In Maddalena’s words: “The whole rocking chair legacy started with that visit.”
As for the camera, “There were two instances where you saw Oswald – the day he was arraigned and the next day when Ruby killed Oswald. The camera is a source of evidence. It’s an artifact that was there in one of the most pivotal moments of one of the greatest tragedies in our nation’s history.
The camera, rocking chair and wallet belonged to famous JFK memorabilia collector Melvin “Pete” Mark Jr., a “real estate developer from the late Portland, Oregon,” according to Heritage. Legacy his collection “a vaunted assemblage” and “a kind of holy grail among collectors” of JFK history.
“We had a standalone Melvin Mark auction in May of this year,” Maddalena said, citing $5 million in gross sales for those items.
“Ruby’s wallet was full. It happened to be on him when he shot Oswald, so, Maddalena says, it became evidence — part of the Warren Commission evidence. It was returned to Earl Ruby, Jack Ruby’s brother, and Mark bought it from him. It’s part of the assassination story. These are landmark pieces.
The live auction begins at 1 p.m. on December 1. Bidders can participate in the live auction online, by phone or in person at the Heritage location on West Airport Freeway.
The object Maddalena finds most intriguing is “by far Janet Travell’s thing, the rocking chair. It’s probably Kennedy’s most recognizable image – him in the rocking chair. It’s Camelot.