Curios from Kennedy ‘Camelot’ era highlight charity antiques fair

PALM BEACH — Among the men and women who collect historic manuscripts and autographs, there are said to be three levels of excitement.

The "Oh!"

The "Oh, my!"

And the "Oh, my God!"

Speaking to a gathering at the Society of the Four Arts' King Library on Wednesday morning, Philadelphia manuscript dealer Steven Raab shared some examples of the "Jackie Oh My God!" — letters, memos, reports and photos dating from 1961-62, when first lady Jacqueline Kennedy was busy redecorating the White House.

The examples are from a collection of about 200 pieces from the estate of Sally Powers, then the secretary to White House curator Lorraine Pearce.

Raab is among 40 dealers who will be at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion today through Sunday for Palm Beach Connoisseur, an arts and antiques show benefiting the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

"Mrs. Kennedy would dictate a letter, perhaps requesting a piece of historic furniture, then make additions or editings on the draft before it was retyped and sent," Raab explained. "Then Sally Powers would file the drafts, and these are examples from those files."

On Oct. 17, 1961, for example, Mrs. Kennedy wrote to the president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution, asking to borrow a chair in the DAR museum that had been ordered for the Blue Room by President James Monroe.

"If the DAR will lend this chair to the White House," she added, "I would like to have you present it — & have the presentation covered by the press."

Obviously, JFK was not the only Kennedy who knew how to use a little charm to get what he wanted.

And Jackie Kennedy knew how to work with the press, too, writing on May 11, 1962, to Betty Beale, a society gossip columnist for the Washington Star. ApparentlyMrs. Kennedy was soliciting the columnist's help in finding suitable paintings that will "augment the feeling everyone has when they come here — a feeling of pride in the nation's most beloved house."

She signed: "Affectionately, Jackie."

The manuscripts are interesting, Raab noted, because they are both historically important and fascinating in their content.

"They show a woman with considerable charm and political skills," he said.

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