Appraiser Dan Meader is in the midst of explaining the historical significance of an upcoming McInnis Auction House event when he excuses himself, to field another phone call from the family of David Powers – close friend and longtime personal assistant to President John F. Kennedy.
"I'm getting bombarded with calls, but I need to take this one," says Meader.
It's been non-stop ever since the "Presidential Auction" was announced, an auction Meader characterizes as "unprecedented" and "remarkable," not only because it includes thousands of items chronicling Kennedy's rise to the presidency, but because the Feb. 17 auction will double as a unique "walk through history," says Meader.
Take Lot 151, for example, a collection of items dated Jan. 1960, featuring three photographs of Kennedy campaigning in Nashua, including a speaking engagement at the Nashua Rotary Club, just one of 723 lots meticulously prepared and catalogued in chronological order, papers and letters and photographs that tell the Kennedy family story, beginning with keepsakes from the 1930s.
"This one is truly unique. This is a true estate auction, items taken right from David Powers' home – incredible items the family found as they were going through the process of cleaning house and preparing it for sale," Meader says.
Powers, who died in 1998, was first introduced to Kennedy in 1946, says Meader.
"The war was just over, and Jack decided to run for the House of
Representatives. He needed to win Charlestown, where Dave Powers lived, and people in the know said to Jack that if you want to win this district, you need to know Dave Powers," Meader says.
But when the two met, Powers was not only unimpressed with the skinny, unremarkable candidate, but he'd already endorsed another Democrat, and told him so.
"So Jack said to Dave, just come along with me, I'm giving a speech to the Gold Star Mothers, and they went, and at that moment, Dave Powers became a loyal supporter of Jack Kennedy. He saw how loyal and genuine he was, and that's where their relationship started," says Meader.
Powers went on to work for Kennedy in every campaign that followed, accompanied him on every campaign trip, and once elected President, Powers was made a special assistant to Kennedy.
"Powers was by his side every step of the way, including the trip to Dallas. He rode in the motorcade, and was in the car right behind the President," Meader says.
Powers served as the first curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, at Bobby Kennedy's urging, says Meader, and over the 30 years he remained there until his retirement in 1994, Powers donated thousands of personal items, for posterity.
Discovering the wealth of personal effects Powers held on to just emphasizes the strong connection he had with JFK.
"The family found these things in closets, files, drawers, briefcases – things they never knew existed," Meader says.
The way this auction has been organized allows the public to follow along by way of certain historical events, he says.
"Not only does whole auction tell story, but there's a lot of emotion here – each lot tells an individual story of a moment in time – so you can look at it, like what was happening in 1960? A stop in Nashua, New Hampshire, and in assembling the items, I tried to include things the American public would see, while incorporating that into what was happening in his personal life," Meader says.
"It's like a history lesson, in a way, because Dave Powers was not a member of the Kennedy family, but he was as close to it as he could be – he was like a brother to JFK. People said Kennedy had two best friends: His brother, Bobby, and Dave Powers. So this auction is like seeing JFK through Dave's eyes. It's a remarkable thing. Amazing is a word that's overused, but I would say this is unprecedented."
Auction items will be on display for the public as a preview between Feb. 9 -16.
"There is something here for everybody and every pocketbook, starting at about $50, all the way up to $40,000," Meader said. "And the beauty of whole thing, you can register online and bid from the comfort of home. "You don't have to be there on the day – there's limited seating, and it will be a full hall"
Items of particular note: JFK's Air Force One leather bomber jacket; a birthday card from 2 year-old John to his father; the typewritten itinerary from JFK's trip to Dallas, TX, on November 21 and 22, 1963; and a correspondence between Joe Kennedy and film star Gloria Swanson.
About the Auction
PRESIDENTIAL AUCTION - To be held Sunday Feb. 17, 2013, 11 a.m., at The Gallery of John McInnis Auctioneers, 76 Main Street, Amesbury, Mass.
Featuring items from the Estate of David F. Powers, Special Assistant to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, includes documents, photography, letters and gifts.
ADMISSION TO THE AUCTION
Auction seating is limited. Purchase of the printed catalog with color illustrations will provide seating for two on a first come, first served basis. Catalog is $50, postage paid. A portion of the catalog proceeds will benefit the JFK Library. A printable pdf of the catalogue order form is uploaded with this story.
To view the entire JFK/David Powers collection, follow this link to John McInnis Auctioneers.