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Portrait of a president’s childhood: New Kennedy photos online offer a look into JFK’s early years

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (pictured) poses on the lawn outside the Kennedy family home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, circa 1932, at around aged 15

The young boy stands smiling, his grin undeniable: he is often with his siblings, sometimes with his arm slung around them, playing with them at the beach or at their home, and at other times, posing alone in a Halloween costume, suit, with the family dog Bobby or upright on skis.  

Newly released photos offer a look into John F. Kennedy’s privileged childhood and teen years, growing up with his eight siblings in Massachusetts and New York, and vacationing at the family homes in Hyannis Port and Palm Beach, Florida as well as abroad. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum recently made the Kennedy family photos available for viewing online after completing an 18-month project to catalog and digitize them.

Born on May 29, 2017 in Brookline, an area outside of Boston in Massachusetts, Jack, as he was called by his family and friends, was named after his maternal grandfather, John Francis Fitzgerald, a former Congressman and mayor of Boston, who was known as ‘Honey Fitz’ for his charm and charisma. From a young age, the future 35th president would follow in his namesake’s footsteps: Jack was considered a ‘natural wit’ to the point his mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy wrote down things that he would say, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.’

Jack would parlay that charisma and wit all the way to the highest office in the land, and along the way attend elite preparatory schools where he would win friends and titles such as ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ but not always academic accolades despite an individualist mind that enjoyed to read. Jack battled being seriously ill off and on throughout his childhood and teens years, but remained amiable and was considered the family’s joker. All of the Kennedy kids contended with their parents – Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. – contentious marriage as Kennedy Sr. had several affairs, including with actress Gloria Swanson, according to the book.

Rose Kennedy would have nine children – four boys and five girls – and began a ‘card-index filing system to keep track of the children’s medical histories and vital statistics’, and had a ‘daily inspection’ where she ‘looked for signs of fraying garments,’ according to the book. Jack, the second eldest after his older brother Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., ‘seemed unconcerned about dress,’ Hamilton wrote, and was at times disheveled with his shirt not tucked into his pants.

Born on May 29, 1917, John F. Kennedy was the second eldest child of the Kennedy clan. Here is seen here pictured as an infant sometime in 1917, being held by an unidentified woman on the on the porch steps of the house the Kennedy family rented on Beach Avenue at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum recently made the Kennedy family photos available for viewing online after completing an 18-month project to catalog and digitize them

Born on May 29, 1917, John F. Kennedy was the second eldest child of the Kennedy clan. Here is seen here pictured as an infant sometime in 1917, being held by an unidentified woman on the on the porch steps of the house the Kennedy family rented on Beach Avenue at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum recently made the Kennedy family photos available for viewing online after completing an 18-month project to catalog and digitize them

John F. Kennedy (left) is seen here with his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (right) sitting in the sand near the shore of Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts in 1918. Jack, as he was known to his family and friends, and Joe, who was named after their father, were often rivals

John F. Kennedy (left) is seen here with his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (right) sitting in the sand near the shore of Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts in 1918. Jack, as he was known to his family and friends, and Joe, who was named after their father, were often rivals

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (center) holds his sons, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), and John F. Kennedy (right), near the home the family rented on Beach Avenue at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts in 1918. Joe, who was born on July 25, 1915, and Jack were about two years apart and were often at the same schools together

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (center) holds his sons, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), and John F. Kennedy (right), near the home the family rented on Beach Avenue at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts in 1918. Joe, who was born on July 25, 1915, and Jack were about two years apart and were often at the same schools together

Rosemary Kennedy (right), John F. Kennedy (center), and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), sit in a wooden coaster wagon at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts circa 1918, and the boys wear matching sailor outfits

Rosemary Kennedy (right), John F. Kennedy (center), and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), sit in a wooden coaster wagon at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts circa 1918, and the boys wear matching sailor outfits

The Kennedy clan in the 1930s in Hyannis, Massachussetts. Seated from left, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. (center in glasses), Eunice Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, and Kathleen Kennedy. Standing from left, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., John F. Kennedy (left next to his father), Rose Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, and Patricia Kennedy

The Kennedy clan in the 1930s in Hyannis, Massachussetts. Seated from left, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. (center in glasses), Eunice Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, and Kathleen Kennedy. Standing from left, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., John F. Kennedy (left next to his father), Rose Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, and Patricia Kennedy

Rose would spend much time sewing and mending and darning, and Hamilton called Rose’s mothering style more like management ‘rather than maternal approach to child rearing,’ and she ‘never kissed or touched’ her children that she ‘rarely saw.’ The children had several governesses.

When Jack was two-years-old, he was struck by scarlet fever, and Rose, who had just given birth to Jack’s younger sister Kathleen, was in a ‘frantic terror,’ Hamilton wrote, not on behalf of Jack but for his siblings. Jack was close to death but recovered, and would face spells of sickness throughout his childhood and his teens, according to the book.

Meanwhile, the family moved to a new home: a ‘colonial-style mansion with two-story, curving bay windows, a wraparound porch, fourteen rooms and a garage for the new Rolls-Royce’ in Brookline, according to the book.

Jack and his older brother, Joe, who was named after their father, were rivals, and ‘when not engaged in fisticuffs with his older brother, Jack turned more and more to books,’ according to the book. Hamilton surmises that while being ill, Jack took up the habit of reading. By aged six, Jack was promoted to second grade, and the next year to third grade when he was seven – ‘a year if not two ahead of most children his age,’ according to the book.

Meanwhile his sister, Rosemary, who was a year younger than him, was a slow learner and was ‘unable to hold a knife and fork at first,’ according to the book, and Rose spent more time with her than Jack. 

By October 22, 1994, while Jack is in third grade at the Edward Devotion School, he pulled out of that institution and sent, along with his older brother, Joe, then nine, to the $400 a year Noble and Greenough Lower School. The Kennedy boys were likely the only Irish Catholic family at the school where most were Protestant and Anglo-Saxon, and as new boys they were the ‘object of derision and taunts,’ according to the book. 

John F. Kennedy (left) stands with an unidentified boy holding a dog (right) outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts, circa 1922. When Jack was two-years-old, he was struck by scarlet fever, and would face spells of sickness throughout his childhood and his teens, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth'

John F. Kennedy (left) stands with an unidentified boy holding a dog (right) outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts, circa 1922. When Jack was two-years-old, he was struck by scarlet fever, and would face spells of sickness throughout his childhood and his teens, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth’

John F. Kennedy (pictured), at aged 12, wears a suit for his First Communion and stands outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts in June 1925. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which recently made the photos available online, notes that the original caption for this photo was 'Jacky First Communion'

John F. Kennedy (pictured), at aged 12, wears a suit for his First Communion and stands outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts in June 1925. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which recently made the photos available online, notes that the original caption for this photo was ‘Jacky First Communion’

Rose Kennedy would have nine children – four boys and five girls – and began a ‘card-index filing system to keep track of the children’s medical histories and vital statistics,’ according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.' The Kennedy family children sit on a wooden seesaw outside the Kennedy family home  in Brookline, Massachusetts sometime in 1924 or 1925 with Kathleen Kennedy (left), an unidentified boy (next to Kathleen), Eunice Kennedy (center) John F. Kennedy (next to Eunice) and Rosemary Kennedy(right)

Rose Kennedy would have nine children – four boys and five girls – and began a ‘card-index filing system to keep track of the children’s medical histories and vital statistics,’ according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.’ The Kennedy family children sit on a wooden seesaw outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts sometime in 1924 or 1925 with Kathleen Kennedy (left), an unidentified boy (next to Kathleen), Eunice Kennedy (center) John F. Kennedy (next to Eunice) and Rosemary Kennedy(right)

John F. Kennedy (center), at around six or seven, holds a toy billy club and is dressed in a police officer costume outside the Kennedy's Brookline, Massachusetts family home while Eunice Kennedy (right) looks on, sometime in 1923 or 1924

John F. Kennedy (center), at around six or seven, holds a toy billy club and is dressed in a police officer costume outside the Kennedy’s Brookline, Massachusetts family home while Eunice Kennedy (right) looks on, sometime in 1923 or 1924

Hamilton, author of ‘JFK: Reckless Youth,' called Rose’s mothering style more like management ‘rather than maternal approach to child rearing,’ and she ‘never kissed or touched’ her children that she ‘rarely saw.’ The children had several governesses. John F. Kennedy (center) has his arms around his sisters, Rosemary Kennedy (left) and Eunice Kennedy (right), outside the Kennedy family home  in Brookline, Massachusetts in May 1926

Hamilton, author of ‘JFK: Reckless Youth,’ called Rose’s mothering style more like management ‘rather than maternal approach to child rearing,’ and she ‘never kissed or touched’ her children that she ‘rarely saw.’ The children had several governesses. John F. Kennedy (center) has his arms around his sisters, Rosemary Kennedy (left) and Eunice Kennedy (right), outside the Kennedy family home in Brookline, Massachusetts in May 1926

Newly available online Kennedy photos show the family vacationing often at the family homes in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida as well as abroad. John F. Kennedy (center) is on skis on the snow-covered slopes in Poland Spring, Maine circa 1923

Newly available online Kennedy photos show the family vacationing often at the family homes in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida as well as abroad. John F. Kennedy (center) is on skis on the snow-covered slopes in Poland Spring, Maine circa 1923

They were driven to school by a chauffeur in a big black shiny car, and both Jack, with his ‘precocious intellect,’ and his older brother Joe liked the school despite all the ‘social and ethnic prejudice they suffered,’ Hamilton wrote. Joe and Jack were also ‘steadfastly loyal to the ex-mayor,’ their grandfather Honey Fitz, and would go campaigning with him.

Among Boston’s upper crust, a contemporary of the Kennedy boys, Augustus Soule, said in Hamilton’s book that they ‘were very down on the Irish’ and that his father would have nothing to do with Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who had made money ‘in ways that were known, in banking circles, to be unsavory.’

Kennedy Sr. was a wealthy businessman who manipulated share prices, according to the book, and at one time owned production companies and tried his hand as a Hollywood impresario. It was during this period that Kennedy Sr., who was considered a womanizer, had an affair with icon and actress Gloria Swanson, according to the book.

When Noble and Greenough Lower School faced calamity and was on the verge of closing, Kennedy Sr. stepped in with other families to financially save it, but not long after, in September 1927, the family moved to Riverdale, a wealthy residential neighborhood in the Bronx, and the Kennedy boys started class at the exclusive, nonsectarian Riverdale Country Day School, according to the book.

The family would then move to a 12-bedroom colonial in nearby Bronxville in Westchester, and ‘at last acquired a summer house at Hyannis Port, on the east coast of Cape Cod,’ according to the book. The Kennedys would vacation often – in Hyannis Port, at their sprawling property in Palm Beach, Florida, and abroad.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), Kathleen Kennedy, (next to Joe), Rosemary Kennedy (right), and John F. Kennedy (end right) on the steps of a house the family rented in Cohasset, Massachusetts, circa 1922. The family would go on to own several residences including in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), Kathleen Kennedy, (next to Joe), Rosemary Kennedy (right), and John F. Kennedy (end right) on the steps of a house the family rented in Cohasset, Massachusetts, circa 1922. The family would go on to own several residences including in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida

John F. Kennedy had a privileged childhood and the family was often on vacation. Above, the Kennedy children sit aboard a boat on the shore of Sandy Beach in Cohasset, Massachusetts, sometime in 1923 or 1924. Eunice Kennedy (far left), John F. Kennedy (holding a white ball, with one arm around his sister's shoulder), Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (center), Rosemary Kennedy (her face in profile on the left), and Kathleen Kennedy (with back to camera)

John F. Kennedy had a privileged childhood and the family was often on vacation. Above, the Kennedy children sit aboard a boat on the shore of Sandy Beach in Cohasset, Massachusetts, sometime in 1923 or 1924. Eunice Kennedy (far left), John F. Kennedy (holding a white ball, with one arm around his sister’s shoulder), Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (center), Rosemary Kennedy (her face in profile on the left), and Kathleen Kennedy (with back to camera)

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum recently made available online rare Kennedy photos that offer glimpses into the famous family's homelife and lifestyle. Above, the Kennedy children standing in the water at a beach sometime in 1923 or 1924 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts with Rosemary Kennedy (left), John F. Kennedy (his arm around Rosemary), Eunice Kennedy (next to JFK), Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (right), and Kathleen Kennedy (far right)

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum recently made available online rare Kennedy photos that offer glimpses into the famous family’s homelife and lifestyle. Above, the Kennedy children standing in the water at a beach sometime in 1923 or 1924 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts with Rosemary Kennedy (left), John F. Kennedy (his arm around Rosemary), Eunice Kennedy (next to JFK), Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (right), and Kathleen Kennedy (far right)

Kathleen Kennedy (left), next are Rosemary Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy who are both seated in the wooden coaster wagon, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (center) who is seated and holding a ball and glove, and John F. Kennedy, (far right), in a hat and holding the handle of the wagon, sometime in 1923-1924 outside of a rented home in Cohasset, Massachusetts

Kathleen Kennedy (left), next are Rosemary Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy who are both seated in the wooden coaster wagon, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (center) who is seated and holding a ball and glove, and John F. Kennedy, (far right), in a hat and holding the handle of the wagon, sometime in 1923-1924 outside of a rented home in Cohasset, Massachusetts

Kennedy Sr.’s affair with Swanson would cause a scandal and ‘triggered by competition with Gloria, Rose Kennedy now began to indulge an obsession with jewelry and grande toilette that would almost match that of Wallis Simpson, later the duchess of Windsor,’ Hamilton wrote. New York society circles continued to shun the Kennedys as ‘Irish micks’ and with the Swanson scandal, the Kennedys ‘found themselves even less accepted in polite society,’ according to the book.

The ‘record of parental absenteeism shockingly high’ for the Kennedy kids, and the ‘general deterioration in the relationship between mother and father created an emotional wasteland,’ Hamilton wrote.

On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashes, billions are lost and the United States is plunged into the Great Depression that follows. Kennedy Sr., however, ‘had shrewdly moved most of his investments out of stocks,’ according to the book.

Joe is sent to the Choate School, the elite boarding school in Connecticut, while Jack attended a boarding school in New England called the Canterbury School. At 13, Jack has an appendectomy, and would leave Canterbury to follow his older brother at Choate, according to the book. 

Unlike Joe, Jack had a hard time conforming to the rules and struggled academically at Choate, and Hamilton said Jack’s four years at the boarding school were ‘grueling.’ Jack was popular with his classmates and had a reputation for ‘wit and clownishness,’ and ‘on one occasion Jack stole a life-size cardboard cutout of Mae West from the Wallingford cinema and slipped it into his bed to shock the cleaning woman the following morning,’ according to the book.

The Kennedy children had several governesses growing up, and their father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. had affairs during his marriage to their mother Rose, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.’ Above, the siblings sit on the porch steps of a rented house in Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1923-1924. Seated in descending order, from top step: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy

The Kennedy children had several governesses growing up, and their father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. had affairs during his marriage to their mother Rose, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.’ Above, the siblings sit on the porch steps of a rented house in Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1923-1924. Seated in descending order, from top step: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy

Starting at aged two when he was struck by scarlet fever, John F. Kennedy had spells of sickness growing up and in his teen years. Above, Jack (pictured) stands with his dog, Bobby, on the lawn of Malcolm Cottage, the home the Kennedy family  in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts in 1925

Starting at aged two when he was struck by scarlet fever, John F. Kennedy had spells of sickness growing up and in his teen years. Above, Jack (pictured) stands with his dog, Bobby, on the lawn of Malcolm Cottage, the home the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts in 1925

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (left) and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (right) on the lawn of the family home in Bronxville in Westchester New York, which they moved to after living outside of Boston, on Christmas Day in 1933. Kennedy Sr. at one time owned production companies and tried his hand as a Hollywood impresario. It was during this period that he had an affair with icon and actress Gloria Swanson, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth'

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (left) and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (right) on the lawn of the family home in Bronxville in Westchester New York, which they moved to after living outside of Boston, on Christmas Day in 1933. Kennedy Sr. at one time owned production companies and tried his hand as a Hollywood impresario. It was during this period that he had an affair with icon and actress Gloria Swanson, according to Nigel Hamilton’s ‘JFK: Reckless Youth’

While at Choate, Jack would fall ill a few times, and in January 1934, months before turning 17, seriously so with a friend saying in the book that he was close to dying. ‘If Rose Kennedy was anxious in Palm Beach, she had a strange way of showing it. She had ventured abroad seventeen times in four years, but could not manage the journey to Connecticut, where Jack lay in the hospital further north,’ Hamilton wrote.

Jack would bounce back again, and once healthy, would form a group called ‘The Muckers Club’ at Choate, which wasn’t about smoking or drinking but rather about planning pranks. Jack and the other members were almost expelled for a proposed prank but the headmaster reconsidered the punishment, which would have dashed the boys’ Ivy League ambitions, according to the book.

Kennedy Sr. pushed his children to be competitive with a winning is everything mentality, according to the book, and a school friend said that while at first the Kennedys appeared to be a ‘model family,’ over time, the ‘storybook façade concealed an almost psychotic drama, with Mrs. Kennedy eclipsed by her ruthless, bullying husband and the tension of that unspoken interparental hostility pervading everything. The competitiveness Mr. Kennedy generate among his nine children was awesomely fascinating.’

Hamilton added: ‘Perhaps most damaging of all was the sexual example Joseph Kennedy set for his children. Jack came home from school to having his father cover his bed with pornographic magazines ‘all open to display the female anatomy at its most immodest.’

Jack would vie for ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ at Choate and win. By the summer of 1935, Jack found out that he got into Harvard and would be put on a path toward the presidency.

John F. Kennedy (right), who is 19, holds a snake in Palm Beach, Florida with his younger sister, Rosemary Kennedy (left) in March or April of 1936. New photos offer glimpses into JFK during his childhood and teen years

John F. Kennedy (right), who is 19, holds a snake in Palm Beach, Florida with his younger sister, Rosemary Kennedy (left) in March or April of 1936. New photos offer glimpses into JFK during his childhood and teen years

Despite being ill several times during childhood, Jack was considered the family's joker. Above, John F. Kennedy, aged 18, is standing and has his younger brother Edward M. Kennedy on his shoulders, and Robert F. Kennedy, who is seated on the ground outside the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach, Florida in April 1936

Despite being ill several times during childhood, Jack was considered the family’s joker. Above, John F. Kennedy, aged 18, is standing and has his younger brother Edward M. Kennedy on his shoulders, and Robert F. Kennedy, who is seated on the ground outside the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach, Florida in April 1936

In April 1936, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (third from left) poses with her children outside the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Easter Sunday. Eunice Kennedy (far left), Robert F. Kennedy (next to Eunice), Edward M. Kennedy (in front of his mother Rose), Patricia Kennedy (next to Rose), John F. Kennedy (third from right), Jean Kennedy (right), and Rosemary Kennedy (far right)

In April 1936, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (third from left) poses with her children outside the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Easter Sunday. Eunice Kennedy (far left), Robert F. Kennedy (next to Eunice), Edward M. Kennedy (in front of his mother Rose), Patricia Kennedy (next to Rose), John F. Kennedy (third from right), Jean Kennedy (right), and Rosemary Kennedy (far right)

John F. Kennedy (pictured) is holding a football outdoors in Bronxville, New York circa 1936. Jack, shown here at aged 19, attended the elite boarding school Choate in Connecticut, and would then go on to Harvard

John F. Kennedy (pictured) is holding a football outdoors in Bronxville, New York circa 1936. Jack, shown here at aged 19, attended the elite boarding school Choate in Connecticut, and would then go on to Harvard

 

 

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