John F. Kennedy: The Robert L. White Collection
December 15, 16, 17 & 21, 2005
New York, New York
About the Auction
This auction contained more than 1,500 lots covering all eras of Kennedy's life – from early family life and youth to his political beginnings as a Senator and on to the Camelot years in the White House and the tragedy in Dallas. Family, friends, and key members of his administration will also be represented with many important letters, documents, gifts, and other personal items included in the sale.
The print catalogue contains over 1,400 lots. A few of our favorites are available for preview here on the website. These have been chosen to highlight just a few of the most significant lots in the auction as well as the many, many areas of John F. Kennedy's life and political career. Click here to see these featured lots.
Robert L. White: A Passionate Collector
The cornerstone of this auction is The Robert L. White Collection. Excerpted below is a brief history of Robert L. White and how his Collection grew to be the pre-eminent Kennedy collection in private hands. (The full version can be found in the print version of the auction catalogue.)
The Collection Begins
Robert L. White specialized in rare documents, historically significant items, and personal artifacts, and dedicated his life to the passionate assembly of the Robert L. White Private Kennedy Collection – a truly unique and all encompassing testimonial to JFK’s personal and political history.
Robert’s lifetime course was set as a child’s hobby – prompted by his father and a Lassie television episode on collecting autographs. A youthful Robert White, already fascinated with history and autographs, decided to write to Evelyn Lincoln, John F. Kennedy’s Personal Secretary, and requested a signature from the President. Several weeks later, a letter arrived from the White House which contained a facsimile signature of John F. Kennedy. Even though Robert knew it was not an original signature, this cherished first item formed the seed for what was to become the largest, most comprehensive and finest privately-owned John F. Kennedy collection of artifacts and documents in the world.
John F. Kennedy has countless, world-wide admirers to whom the 35th President of the United States of America will always be remembered as charismatic and special. The events of November 22, 1963 horrified the world. Along with the rest of the country Robert White was devastated. On that day, this 15-year old dedicated a page in his journal to the President, noting “…What happened today will be down in history books forever. And I will never forget it.”
A Lifetime of Collecting
Above all, Robert enjoyed the sleuthing and challenges involved in the process of assembling his Collection. His studious approach to the history and surroundings of the JFK story was fueled by his enthusiasm for collecting. His sincerity and manner allowed him to seek out many of those who were part of the Kennedy Administration and immerse himself in their stories. Many also sought Robert out because of his reputation, Kennedy dedication, and camaraderie which spread among insiders by word of mouth. Sometimes these friendships would result in a lead or an artifact to add to his Collection, sometimes not, but he cherished the knowledge and time they shared and his interest in the President’s legacy never waned.
The provenance and authenticity of this Collection is impeccable. Robert embellished his private collection by personal insights and genuine appreciation for Kennedy and the President’s role in history. The scope and magnitude of his knowledge was enormous. Both he and the Collection evoked heartwarming and stirring memories that have brought both smiles and tears to those who have experienced the Collection and who had the privilege of knowing Robert White.
The composition of the Collection is neither easily nor briefly described; however, a true perspective of the breadth and scope of the Collection is essential to any discussion. Robert viewed the Collection from three separate perspectives. Most simply, the Collection is “Everything Kennedy.” Within the Collection, however, are several areas of specific focus including: Kennedy family, political memorabilia, historical paper, Evelyn Lincoln related items, assassination, and the Kennedy legacy. While these terms are descriptive of broad categories of materials, Robert’s display and visualization was that of a walk through Kennedy’s life. Each item, while extremely significant on its own, takes on an importance larger than the item itself when enhanced by other related items.
John F. Kennedy: The Exhibition at Florida International Museum
It was his dream to eventually transform the Collection into a permanent exhibit within a museum, which focused not only on John F. Kennedy, but on one of the most tumultuous eras in American history. In 1999, Robert was able to realize this vision when his Collection became the cornerstone and focus of the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Robert L. White Collection was displayed there, with galleries traveling nationally and internationally, through 2003. While on display, Robert was able to share personally his knowledge and enthusiasm with the many thousands who visited. Robert and his Collection were afforded the deserved respect for his life-time of effort.
Two years ago, at age fifty-four, Robert White suddenly passed away. He is dearly missed by his family as well as his close personal friends and the thousands who had the opportunity to know Robert through his Collection. “This is my life’s work and I want to share that with the Nation,” Robert said in an interview. The White family have determined that it is appropriate to offer Robert’s personal Kennedy Collection to the public. These treasures have been showcased as the finest privately-owned Kennedy collection in the world. Through Robert White’s remarkable efforts and keen sense of history, many treasured artifacts will now be passed along to future generations while history is preserved.
Now that this auction has come to a conclusion, we have a very limited supply of these fully-illustrated, 320 page color catalogues still available for purchase. Click here to securely order your copy.