John F. Kennedy Makes Last-Minute Appeal for Votes in His First Run for Congress in 1946 on Rare Letterhead with His Photograph
Using his youth and good looks, Kennedy appeals to a potential supporter in the Boston suburb of Somerville just days before the Democratic primary.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, Typed Letter Signed, to Mrs. Patrick OÂ’Sullivan, June 14, 1946. On colorful Â“KENNEDY for congress headquartersÂ” stationery with a two-inch photograph of a youthful Kennedy. Includes typed envelope with postmarked 3-cent stamp and Â“returned to senderÂ” and Â“No Such Street NumberÂ” stamps. 1 p., 8.5" x 11". Expected folds; envelope torn open at top; very good.
This may be a secretarial, perhaps his earliest, signature as illustrated in Andreas Wiemer’s book on the subject as example #180. It does, however, closely match example # 9 which is listed as authentic and has a postscript. Nonetheless, we offer this as secretarial but we also feel the visual nature and time period still makes this very desirable and collectible.
Dear Mrs. OÂ’Sullivan
Your name was mentioned to me recently by Ruth A. Carr Conroy, who suggested that I contact you.
As you know, I am a candidate for Congress in the election to be held on next Tuesday, June 18th. I would very much appreciate your vote and the votes of any members of your family or friends whom you might have an opportunity to speak to in my behalf.
With deepest appreciation for your kindness, and looking forward to having the pleasure of meeting you personally in the near future, I am
John F. Kennedy
When Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. tragically died in a military mission over southeastern England in August 1944, his next younger brother John F. Kennedy became the familyÂ’s designated political candidate. At the urging of Joseph P. Kennedy, former Massachusetts governor and current Congressman James Michael Curley announced that he would vacate his seat in Congress to become mayor of Boston for the fourth time in January 1946. Curley later spent five months of his term in federal prison for mail fraud.
John F. KennedyÂ’s older brotherÂ’s Harvard roommate and family friend Richard Flood later recalled that he spent about three months at KennedyÂ’s headquarters in the Kimball Building in Boston, Â“doing all types of work.Â” Many of those working on KennedyÂ’s campaign were not political professionals, but his classmates and friends. In another headquarters in the Central Square neighborhood of Boston, according to Flood, another family friend Lem Billings had Â“thirty or forty young girls working over there almost every day, doing a tremendous job, getting all kinds of correspondence out.Â” They also distributed reprints of John HerseyÂ’s article on KennedyÂ’s PT-109 experience in 1943 that originally appeared in The New Yorker in June 1944, then in the ReaderÂ’s Digest two months later.
In this letter, written days before the June Democratic primary, Kennedy appeals to Mrs. Patrick OÂ’Sullivan in a Boston suburb for her and her friendsÂ’ votes. Ruth A. Carr Conroy, the 47-year-old wife of a telephone company payroll supervisor who also lived in Somerville, had given the Kennedy campaign DesmondÂ’s name. Unfortunately for Kennedy, the letter seems to have been improperly addressed and was returned. Perhaps the difference between Â“8 Hamlet StreetÂ” on the letter and Â“8 Hamley St.Â” on the envelope made it undeliverable. Mrs. Elizabeth A. Sullivan was a 70-year-old widow, who lived at 8 Hamlet Street in Somerville. Four of her sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren lived with her. Her oldest son Patrick A. Sullivan was a medical doctor, while two other sons were truck drivers, and the fourth was a salesman.
With his fatherÂ’s support, John F. Kennedy won the Democratic primary by capturing 42 percent of the vote, defeating nine other candidates, and outpolling his nearest competitor by nearly two-to-one. In November, Kennedy went on to defeat his Republican opponent, Lester W. Bowen of Somerville, with nearly 72 percent of the vote.
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