Ernest Hemingway and the JFK Library

The JFK Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

The JFK Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Alley Jordan, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Designed by I. M. Pei, the John F. Kennedy Library stands in Boston, Massachusetts. The library was originally supposed to be close to Harvard University in Cambridge but the site was moved to South Boston. Ground was broken on June 12, 1977, and the building was officially dedicated on October 20, 1979.

Among the library’s many Kennedy materials rest, strangely enough, manuscripts of the great American author Ernest Hemingway. The library’ Ernest Hemingway Collection contains 90 percent of Hemingway’s manuscripts.

Ernest Hemingway standing in his home at the Finca Vigia in Cuba, 1953. (Ernest Hemingway Collection, JFK Library)

Ernest Hemingway standing in his home at Finca Vigia in Cuba, 1953. (Ernest Hemingway Collection, JFK Library)

Hemingway and JFK bore no strong connection with one another. In fact, the JFK Library’s possession of the Ernest Hemingway Collection came about by sheer happenstance.

Following the Cuban Revolution, which began in 1953 and lasted until 1959, Hemingway left Cuba—his home for 20 years—and returned to the United States.

When Hemingway died in 1961, much of his materials were still in his home in Cuba, called Finca Vigia.

After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, relations between Cuba and the United States were especially tense. But President Kennedy’s intervention allowed Hemingway’s widow, Mary Hemingway, to enter the country in order to retrieve the writer’s personal effects from Finca Vigia.

Ernest Hemingway and actress Lauren Bacall having espresso in Pamplona, Spain, 1959. (National Archives Identifier 192696)

Ernest Hemingway and actress Lauren Bacall having espresso in Pamplona, Spain, 1959. (National Archives Identifier 192696)

In 1964, through journalist William Walton, a mutual friend of both the Kennedys and the Hemingways, Mary Hemingway contacted Jacqueline Kennedy and offered to donate the writer’s materials to the future library.

According to the JFK Library, “The donation was settled in 1968, and four years later Hemingway materials began arriving at the library in Bonwit Teller shopping bags, cardboard boxes, and dented trucks with French and Cuban labels. The Hemingway papers were first opened for research at the library’s temporary facility in 1975.”

The official Hemingway Room at the JFK Library was opened in 1980 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Hemingway’s son Patrick.

The Hemingway Room evokes rooms in the Finca Vigia with Hemingway’s original belongings, such as a lionskin rug, the author’s personal library, and original artwork.

Among the many manuscripts of Hemingway in the library rests hundreds of photographs of the author from his travels around the world.

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph. (National Archives Identifier 192693)

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph. (National Archives Identifier 192693)

Included are Hemingway’s 1923 passport, photographs of him and his beloved cats in Cuba, portraits of him in Italy, and childhood photographs.

Hemingway left his effects in Cuba as revolution erupted, and his home remained intact even after President Kennedy’s death.

At the JFK Library, visitors can not only celebrate and explore one of America’s Presidents, but they can also explore the papers and mementos of preservation of a beloved American writer.

Learn more about the Hemingway Collection at the JFK Library’s website and in Prologue.

Replica of Hemingway’s study in Cuba at the JFK Library in Boston. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

The Hemingway Room at the JFK Library in Boston. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

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4 Responses to Ernest Hemingway and the JFK Library

  1. Fact Check says:

    1977 – 1979 is not four years. Also, why aren’t these Presidential Library articles, like the Lady Bird Johnson article, written by the people who know the materials best rather than some intern in the Prologue office in DC. “Field” office mentality again #EVSscoresstaylowinNARAforareason

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    • Jessie Kratz says:

      Thank you for pointing that out. I made the correction. To your second point, the National Archives History Office promotes the history of all NARA, not just the Washington DC area. We want to share the histories of the regional archives, the FRCs, and the Presidential libraries as well. The history office interns take great pride in their research and often spend a great deal of time contacting each of the facilities they are researching. Anyone at any NARA facility is welcome, even encouraged, to submit articles to us to publish on the blog. If there is something you would like to share please let me know and we’ll work with you.

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      • Fact Check says:

        The point is not that the Archives History Office shares the histories of all of NARA, of course they do, the point is that those histories should be written by those people who actually are in those facilities. Would it be kosher for someone from Spanish Lake to write a history of the negotiations to build Archives II in College Park? Of course not.

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      • Jessie Kratz says:

        I could not disagree with you more. If someone in Spanish Lake wants to write a history of AII go for it. I’ll help them get the resources they need. People write histories of things/places/events that they were not part of all the time. That is what historians do. Can no one write about ancient Greece b/c they weren’t there? Am I only to write about the history of AI because that is where my office happens to be located? Of course not.

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