"When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance."— President Kennedy to the people of New Ross, Ireland, June 1963
About the Exhibit
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the offspring of two families whose roots stretched back to Ireland. The Fitzgerald family was from the rural County Limerick village of Bruff in western Ireland. Between 1846 and 1855 some of the Fitzgeralds migrated to America because of the devastating Potato Famine. During that same period of time, Patrick Kennedy, a cooper, left his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford for the United States. In 1849 he married Bridget Murphy in East Boston. Nine years later she was a widow with four small children, the youngest of whom, Patrick Joseph ("P.J."), would become John Kennedy's grandfather.
The Fitzgeralds and Kennedys lived and worked in Boston, seeking to take advantage of the economic opportunity offered in America. To do that, they had to overcome the harsh, widespread discrimination toward Irish Catholic immigrants at that time. The first Kennedys and Fitzgeralds to settle in the new world worked as peddlers, coopers and common laborers; later they became clerks, tavern owners and retailers. By the end of the century, P.J. Kennedy and John F. Fitzgerald, the President's other grandfather, had become successful Boston politicians.
In 1914, while a rising young business man, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, son of P.J. Kennedy married Rose E. Fitzgerald, daughter of the colorful Boston Mayor, “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald. The wedding was front page news in Boston. To their nine children, Joseph Kennedy was a demanding, hard-driving but loving father. He urged them to public service and hoped that they, especially his four sons, would fulfill some of the political dreams that had eluded him.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. He was named in honor of Rose’s father, John Francis Fitzgerald, the popular Boston Mayor who everybody knew as Honey Fitz.
John F. Kennedy first thought of becoming a journalist, a diplomat or a college professor. His older brother, Joseph, seemed to have inherited the family’s gift for politics. But after Joe’s death in World War II, John took up the family tradition. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Boston and Cambridge in 1946, and six years later won a seat in the United States Senate. His two brothers, Robert and Edward would also hold seats in the United States Senate.
On display is a selection of Kennedy Family artifacts including Kathleen Kennedy's Red Cross uniform jacket, a Kennedy Family Commemorative cup, a blackthorn walking stick and a replica of the Great Gallaway Mace from Ireland.