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University Archives

Lot 191

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Description:

John F. Kennedy Related Fabric Incl. Rocking Chair Swatch & Mourning Fabric, with Exceptional Provenance!

A remarkable archive of fabric swatches and paperwork relating to 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), including a remnant of Kennedy's famous antique honey white upholstered rocking chair from 1961, and a large square of black cambric used to festoon the public rooms of the White House following Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. Accompanied by original eBay seller's paperwork from Raleigh De Geer Amyx. Provenance: From the collection of Ron Hoskins, assassinologist; From the Raleigh De Geer Amyx Collection of Presidential Memorabilia; From the collection of Larry and Norma Arata, ex-White House and Kennedy administration employees.

The pieces in this lot originated with Lawrence "Larry" Arata (1907-1979), who served as the official upholster of the White House between 1961-1977, and his wife Norma Arata (1923-2000), who served as a White House secretary before becoming Larry's work assistant.

The lot is comprised of:

1. A swatch of cream textured fabric inscribed "1961 / Kennedy Rocker / Fabric / The White House. / Larry + Norma Arata" verso. Irregularly cut, measuring 4.125" x 2.75."

2. A facsimile of a "White House / Washington" card dated November 22, 1983 (the 20th anniversary of JFK's assassination) and inscribed: "For Raleigh [Raleigh De Geer Amyx], This is the antique honey white upholstery used on President Kennedy's Rocker in 1961. Larry and Norma Arata." Numbered in pencil in the upper right hand corner.

3. A 3.5" x 4.875" color photograph captioned verso: "Norma Arata with black cambric from JFK assassination." Note that Norma is also standing next to a reproduction Kennedy rocking chair like the type Larry produced on a custom basis.

4. A swatch of black cambric fabric, measuring 12" x 11.25," which was used as White House mourning decoration. Folded into quadrants, and with a few loose threads. Else near fine.

5. A 3.5" x 4.875" color photograph showing Norma Arata holding a large folded piece of black cambric while standing in front of a vintage car. An identical handwritten label as found above is also found verso.

6. A 1p typed letter on facsimile "White House / Washington" stationery dated November 22, 1983 and signed by Norma Arata on behalf of the couple. Numbered in pencil verso. 6.75" x 10."

In this letter, Norma recollected how she and Larry prepared the White House for the arrival of JFK's body during the night and early morning hours of November 22nd and November 23rd. In part:

"When the Assassination occurred Mrs. Kennedy had made almost immediate contact with the White House…and requested that the exterior and interior…be decorated as closely as possible to the way it was when President Lincoln lay in state in the East Room in 1865…Larry and I then began our work…We draped the black cambric over the fireplaces, drapes, chandeliers, mantel pieces, windows, the White House exterior, and the area in which our beloved President would lay in state. We worked all night and up until 4:30 am on November 23, 1963…"

Larry Arata's oral history interview from 1964 can be found in the digital collection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He confirms Norma's statements and talks in detail about how he converted basic upholstery tacking into an emergency supply of mourning crepe. (See attached photos of the White House decorated in mourning.)

JFK had been assassinated by deranged gunman Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas around lunchtime on November 22, 1963. His remains were transported to the East Room of the White House around 4:30 am the following day. President Kennedy's body lie in repose in the East Room for the next 24 hours, the casket draped by an American flag and resting on a catafalque festooned with black bunting.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Westport, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

January 6, 2021, 10:30 AM EST

Westport, CT, US

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From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000