GALLERY | 50 years after: The Kennedy inauguration

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address.

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address.

Fifty years ago today, John F. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who won the White House by the smallest popular-vote margin in history, was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States.

The event, which included a reading from memory of “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost and a delivery of the Star-Spangled Banner by Marian Anderson, is perhaps the best-remembered inauguration in American history. Kennedy’s 14-minute speech, in which he charged Americans to answer their nation’s call to service, sits near the top of a list of spectacular American orations. Kennedy said:

… Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. …

As Todd S. Purdum writes in Vanity Fair this month, the day sent a “tidal wave of glamour, promise, and high spirits” across Washington and the nation. No inauguration, before or since, could be argued to be as glamorous or filled with optimism as Kennedy’s.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has assembled a terrific website that gathers together materials related to the dawn of the Thousand Days. And, to boot, they’ve digitized the bulk of their Kennedy Administration archive.

Here’s a collection of LIFE photos from the inauguration:

LIVES | Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., 1915-2011

ShriverRober Sargent Shriver Jr. in the mid-1960s.

Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., a giant of the New Frontier and the driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, has died. He was 95.

Born in Westminster, Md. on Nov. 9, 1915, Shriver was a scion of one of that state’s oldest families. His ancestor, David Schriver, signed Maryland’s constitution in 1776. Educated at Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn., Shriver was graduated from Yale in 1938. While in New Haven, he was chairman of the Yale Daily News, a member of Delta Epsilon Kappa and of Scroll and Key. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1941.

During World War II, Shriver served in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Returning to civilian life, he became an editor at Newsweek. He met his future wife, Eunice Kennedy, in 1946 and was subsequently hired by her father, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, to help manage Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

Shriver and Kennedy married in 1953 in a service performed by Cardinal Francis Spelman at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Shrivers called Chicago home and Mr. Shriver dove into Democratic politics, so much so that he was considered as a candidate for Illinois governor in 1960. Those plans were dashed by the presidential candidacy of his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy. Shriver joined the campaign and, after the election, set about designing and then administering the Peace Corps, created by an executive order in March 1961.

Shriver led the Peace Corps into the Johnson administration and went on to design President Johnson’s War on Poverty. He later served as Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970 and was the running mate for the doomed presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. His own presidential run in 1976 lasted only months.

In retirement from political life, Shriver was active as an attorney and as chairman of the Special Olympics. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. His wife, Eunice, predeceased him in 2009.

Here’s the Times obituary.

And here’s a gallery of images taken between 1961 and about 1966 from the LIFE archive:

CLIP | Sargent Shriver, 1961

LIVES | Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy adviser and speechwriter, 1928-2010

SorensenPresident-elect John F. Kennedy reviews documents with his aide and speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, in Decmber 1960. This photo was taken by Paul Schutzer is presented courtesy of the LIFE magazine photo archive.

Theodore C. Sorensen, speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy and author of the most memorable words in 20th-century American politics, died Sunday in Manhattan. He was 82 and had been suffering complications from a stroke he endured a week ago.

Born in 1928 in Lincoln, Neb., Sorensen first went to work for then Sen. Kennedy in 1953 after having earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Nebraska. He went on to play a critical role in drafting sections of Kennedy’s much-praised “Profiles in Courage,” published in 1956. That book proved a stepping-stone toward a four-year march toward the White House.

Sorensen was a key player on the Kennedy team in 1960 and was the architect of the 1961 inaugural address, one of the finest ever written, that declared “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

After the assasination, Sorensen practiced law and remained active in Democratic politics. He authored a 783-page memoir of the administration that was titled, simply, “Kennedy.” In 1976, he declined an offer from President Carter to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. He was an earlier supporter of President Obama’s and had recently expressed worries over the current administration’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Here’s a small gallery of Sorensen images from the LIFE magazine archive:

ART | Paintings in the Kennedy Oval Office

KennedyOvalOfficePresident John F. Kennedy, left, confers with McGeorge Bundy while Ken O’Donnell talks with an aide during the 1962 Steel Crisis.

Guierre‘Naval Battle Between the United States & The Macedonian on Oct. 25, 1812′ by Thomas Birch, 1813, which hung in the Oval Office during the Kennedy presidency.

Images of the Oval Office, as it was decorated during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, are etched indelibly on the American mind. The president’s rocking chair, the photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. peering through the opened front panel of the Resolute Desk, the scrimshaw, the Harvard captain’s chair and the plaque that read, “O God, Thy Sea is So Great and My Boat so Small,” are all iconic relics of the abbreviated Kennedy presidency.

Few of those images, however, pay much tribute to the art Kennedy selected to hang in his office. Largely comprised of images that depict important naval battles of early American history, the collection also included two paintings by George Catlin.

CatlinGeorge Catlin’s “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie.”

In college, I spent part of a summer as a fellow at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., studying American art of the West, in particular the work of Frederic Remington. Among the BBHC’s collection is a good amount of George Catlin’s work, which fascinated then as now.

Catlin, born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. in 1796, left the law to take up travel writing and painting in the American west after observing an Indian Delegation in Philadelphia. His first trip was with Capt. William Clark in 1830. At least five more followed and when he returned east in 1838, he assembled his paintings in a collection he called his Indian Gallery. The works are iconic and are considered the foundation of a long tradition of Western art that carried forward through Thomas Moran, Alfred Bierstadt, Remington and Charles Spielvogel.

Two of Catlin’s Indian Gallery works were hung in Kennedy’s Oval: “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie” painted in 1832-33 and “Buffalo Hunt under the Wolf-skin Mask,” also painted in 1832-33. Both are now in the collection of the Smithsonian.

Other paintings also hanging or on display in the Oval were, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

• “The White House Long Ago” – Watercolor of the White House by Jacqueline B. Kennedy (on table and desk) now in Jacqueline Kennedy exhibit in the Museum.
• “Constitution – Guerriere” (Left over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “Bonhomme Richard” (Center over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “United States versus the Macedonia” – Loaned to John F. Kennedy by J. Welles Henderson (Philadelphia Lawyer; Chairman of the Philadelphia Maritime Museum) (Right over mantel)
• “Buffalo Bull” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)
• “Buffalo Hunt under Wolf Skin Masks” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)

Here’s a gallery:

SAILING | Where the Figawi?

Cynthia, with reefed genoa, blasts to Nantucket shortly after the start of the 2010 Figawi Race. Photo courtesy of Marblehead Studios.

Family Team Competes in 2010 Figawi Race Weekend

Will Briganti Contributing Writer

Hyannis and Nantucket, Mass. — Cynthia, a Grand Soleil 46.3 owned by Steve Landis, took to the waters of Nantucket Sound for the 39th Annual Figawi Race Weekend, a classic New England distance race from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Nantucket Island held each Memorial Day Weekend since 1972. Guest contributor and Cynthia crew member Will Briganti reports:

This year’s Figawi race featured over 250 sailboats in 13 divisions. While Figawi has a developed a reputation for its pre and post-event revelry, it was great to participate in an event with so many other teams of families and close friends. Cynthia’s crew was comprised of the Landis family: Steve, Cindy, Carrie and Libby; and the Briganti brothers, Eddie and yours truly, Will.

The breeze was stronger than usual, with most of four-hour race sailed in 20 to 30 knots of wind. In order to keep control of the steering, we had to shorten Cynthia’s sails for the first and last legs of the race. Kudos go to Eddie and Carrie for getting drenched on the bow as they affixed a temporary forestay to the deck, which allowed us to use a smaller jib.

With the heaviest gusts of wind coming across our bow during the morning hours, the start of the race proved tougher than we’d expected. We did, however, get a great view of Mya, the schooner owned by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, just before we crossed the start line. The Kennedy family has been strong supporters of the Figawi race since its inception, and hasn’t missed out on a chance to compete. This year, Mya was skippered by the late senator’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr., and was joined by a few cadets from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The course for Cynthia’s division began off the Hyannis jetty and featured a five-mile beat to just off the northwest coast of Martha’s Vineyard, followed by a 17-mile reaching leg to a mark just off Nantucket’s famous Great Point Lighthouse, with the remaining five-mile beat to the finish off the Nantucket breakwater.

Upon crossing the finish line, beer cans were cracked open and the boat was tidied up as we followed the long procession of Figawi racers up the channel, around the Brant Point Lighthouse and into the harbor. Once we found our place amongst the other 250 boats in the Nantucket Boat Basin, the Cynthia crew boogied to the tunes of a live band in the famous party tent and sipped on rum drinks courtesy of Mount Gay Rum, the race’s official sponsor.

The next morning, we groggily awoke to the news that Cynthia, in Division B, had placed ninth of 20 boats. Not a bad finish for a crew of Figawi first-timers.

Commenting on the experience, Skipper Steve Landis said, “Although the race was a logistical challenge, we had a lot of fun and we learned a lot. It was great to get to Nantucket so early in the season.”

Till next year!

Figawi2Will Briganti, left, fastens a line aboard Cynthia following the start of the 2010 Figawi Race. Photo courtesy of Marblehead Studios.

FRONT PAGES| Brown takes Massachusetts Senate seat

Today’s Boston Herald.

Scott Brown, the former model who has served five years in the Massachusetts State Senate, won a resounding victory in yesterday’s special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Brown seized on the growing discomfort of independent voters with the Obama administration and the Democratically-controlled Congress to defeat the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, the commonwealth’s attorney general.

Brown took 52 percent of the vote to Coakley’s 47 percent. While Coakley performed well in cities, Brown dominated in Boston’s suburbs, where independents are in the majority.

The Republican victory imperils the congressional healthcare reform package, as the Democrats have lost the ability to prevent GOP filibusters in the senate. Brown, who posed nude in Cosmopolitan in 1982, has vowed to vote against the package as it currently stands. Kennedy, who died last summer, championed healthcare reform for much of his career.

Here are today’s front pages:

FIND| PT-109 tie clip is the ultimate political souvenir

TiebarThe Kennedy campaign and later the Kennedy administration regularly distributed tiebars in the shape of PT-109 to supporters and visitors to the White House. I’ve treasured the one above for years.

The penultimate American political souvenir — of the 20th century anyway — is the PT-109 tie clip distributed first by John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign to supporters and later by the Kennedy Administration to White House guests. Pin versions were made and given to female Kennedy friends and associates. Robert F. Kennedy continued the practice during his 1964 run for the Senate and in his 1968 run for the presidency.

In a 1987 New York Times article on the cost of presidential gifts — George H.W. Bush apparently spent $59,000 on Air Force 2 matches and cigarettes during his eight-year term as vice president — Dave Powers, JFK’s appointments secretary and later curator of the Kennedy Presidential Library, said that not every Kennedy staffer received the clips. Powers also noted that the souvenirs were funded by the president himself.

RFKAt left, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, wearing a PT-109 tie clip, speaks on the telephone in his Washington office, 1966.

I turned my tie clip sometime around 1999 or 2000 at a large antique center near my parents’ home in New Jersey. I believe I paid about $20 for it, and that seems a fair price given prices I’ve seen from various political antique dealers in the last year or so. They do pop up on eBay from time to time in various permutations. My clip was definitely made for the 1960 campaign, but I’ve seen them customized for RFK and even some of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s campaigns.

They do pop up on eBay with relative frequency and at relatively little cost. There’s a particularly nice “Kennedy 60″ version on offer now.

Does anybody know more about their provenance?

LIVES| Anthony J.D. Biddle Jr., debonaire diplomat, soldier, 1897-1961

BiddleDiplomat Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle Jr., as seen in 1961 in a photograph by Life’s Alfred Eisenstaedt.

I came across a mention of Anthony Joseph Drexel “Tony” Biddle Jr. yesterday and thought he’d make a worthy candidate for our lives series.

Born Dec. 17, 1896, he was the scion of a storied Philadelphia family. His father, A.J.D. Biddle Sr., might be considered the model Victorian eccentric as his life included stints in the Marine Corps, a membership in the American Geographic Society and the authorship of several books about exotic locales abroad. Biddle Jr., educated at St. Paul’s and later at Temple University, led just a varied life, it seems.

In 1915, Biddle married his first wife, tobacco heiress Mary Duke and, at the outset of World War I, Biddle enlisted in the army, rising from the rank of private to major. After the war, according to various sources, Biddle was something of a professional athlete — an ace in tennis and boxing — who moved from resort to resort, all the while engaging in mining and shipping. A Democrat in politics, Biddle began his unparalleled career as a diplomat when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Norway in 1934.

In the meantime, Biddle divorced Duke to marry his second wife, Margaret Thompson Schulze, in 1931.

In 1937, he became ambassador to Poland. He evaded the advancing German forces in 1939 and landed in Paris where he served on the staff of the American embassy. In 1941, he was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, the governments of which had retreated to London. Biddle remained in the diplomatic corps until 1944, when he rejoined the Army as a member of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff, retiring after the war with the rank of Major General.

Biddle returned to Pennsylvania after the war, where he served in various civic and philanthropic capacities. In 1946, he married his third wife, Margaret Loughborough. His final diplomatic assignment came in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy named him ambassador to Spain. He died months into the assignment, succumbing to lung cancer at Walter Reed on Nov. 13, 1961 at the age of 64.

In 1960, shortly before his death, George Frazier, writing in Esquire, described Biddle as the best-dressed fellow in America.

Here are a few more photos of Biddle from the Life Archive. The photos of the calisthenics were taken in 1961, shortly before his death from lung cancer. Wow.

CLIP| New Yorkers react to JFK assassination, 1963

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