New Exhibit to Celebrate JFK's Love of the Sea

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2000
Further information: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1662

Boston -- To mark the return of the Tall Ships, and the last visit of the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy to Boston, the Kennedy Library will display in its museum many new materials which document John F. Kennedy’s naval career and celebrate his lifelong love of the sea and sailing. The new summer exhibit, John F. Kennedy: Man of the Sea, will open Saturday, June 3 and run through November 1, 2000. (This exhibit has been extended until April 30, 2001)

Among the historical treasures to be exhibited are items from President Kennedy's private collections of scrimshaw, tall ship models, and maritime paintings; his boyhood sailing trophies; the 26-foot sailboat Victura he sailed all his life off Cape Cod; and artifacts relating to his service in the U.S. Navy, including his World War II uniform and cap, and the coconut shell on which he scratched the message that brought the rescue of his crew after their PT boat was sunk by an enemy ship.

Other items include the sailboat shaped weathervane from President Kennedy's Hyannis Port home; the sword of John Barry, the founder of the U.S. Navy; JFK’s chronometer and barometer; seabird sculptures given to the President by Jacqueline Kennedy; and one of the many doodles the President made of his sailboat Victura.

President Kennedy’s love of the sea is legendary. An avid sailor as a young man, he served in the United States Navy during World War II, earning the Purple Heart and receiving the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his heroism in the rescue of his crew.

President Kennedy spoke of this deep attraction to the sea in a speech he delivered at the America Cup races in Newport, Rhode Island in September 1962:

I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came.

Perhaps no single item better represents President Kennedy’s passion for the sea and sailing than his sailboat, Victura, built by the Crosby Yacht Yard in Osterville, MA in 1932. Made entirely of wood, the 26-foot Wianno Senior was given to John Kennedy by his parents on his 15th birthday.

In recalling Victura's rich history, Dave Powers, longtime aide to President Kennedy and former curator of the Kennedy Library, wrote:

Victura was among the President's most prized possessions. A gift on his fifteenth birthday, he sailed it as a young man, Navy hero, Congressman, Senator and finally as President. It was on the Victura that he began winning races at the age of 15, and on which he taught his wife Jacqueline how to sail. If the President wasn't sailing on Victura, he was thinking about it as evidenced by his many doodles of the sailboat. Even during his toughest crises like the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy's doodles reflect his love of Victura and of the sea...When the President visited Hyannis Port, he was never happier than when he was at the helm of Victura, sailing with family and friends.

President Kennedy’s love for maritime materials was well-known and visiting heads of state would often present the President with priceless additions to his collections. Among the tall ship models from the President’s collection that will be displayed is the one presented to President Kennedy by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Another of President Kennedy’s more priceless collections was scrimshaw -- whale teeth and whalebone carved with intricate designs by sailors of the 18th and 19th centuries. As part of the exhibition, the Museum has assembled some of the collection’s finest examples, many of which have never before been seen by the public.

The exhibit is designed to complement the return of the Tall Ships to Boston, which, on July 11, will parade into the Port of Boston led by the U.S.S. Constitution. It was of America’s "Ship of State," that President Kennedy wrote:

I have been interested in the sea from my earliest boyhood…My earliest recollections of the United States Navy go back to the days when, as a small boy, I used to be taken to the U.S.S. Constitution in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The sight of that historic frigate, with its tall spars and black guns, stirred my imagination and made American history come alive for me.

The exhibit John F. Kennedy, Man of the Sea will run concurrently with Jacqueline Kennedy, Travels Abroad, a special exhibit on Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's travels as first lady. Both new exhibits run through November 1.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is open daily from 9 am-5 pm, except Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving. Admission for adults is $8; seniors and students $6; children ages 13-17 $4; children ages 12 and under free. The Museum is located on Columbia Point in Boston, off of Morrissey Blvd., next to the University of Massachusetts Boston campus. There is free parking and free shuttle service from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the Red Line. The Museum is fully handicapped accessible. For more information, please call toll free 1-866-JFK-1960.

The Museum at the John F. Kennedy Library features a permanent exhibit on the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, enabling visitors to step back into the recreated world of the early 1960s. Period settings from the White House and 25 multimedia exhibits create a stirring account of President Kennedy’s thousand days in office. Visitors can witness the first televised presidential debate, glimpse life during the Cold War, feel the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and relive the thrill of the first manned exploration of space. Follow first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy on her televised tour of the White House and sit in on Oval Office meetings as President Kennedy prepares to address the nation on the need for civil rights legislation. Housed in a striking building designed by I.M. Pei, the national memorial to President Kennedy sits on a 10-acre waterfront site on Columbia Point offering panoramic views of Boston's skyline and Harbor Islands.