JFK and an Antique Log Book

Shapell Manuscript Foundation

JFK log book in the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection

Many people assume that antiques include only large objects like pottery, paintings and the like. Documents, however, are also part of this category, and as a history and antique buff, I’ve always found antique documents fascinating. It was John F. Kennedy’s birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday to our dear 35th President!) and there were a number of articles written about him and about documents from his lifetime.

One that caught my eye, from the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, explained that there was a little-known fact about JFK – he knew how to fly. In 1944, he apparently took flying lessons while he was serving in the US Navy. Shapell Manuscript Foundation has a student pilot’s log book that shows that he took ten lessons, including one where he flew solo. The solo flight, incidentally, took place on his 27th birthday on May 29th, 1944.

It’s of particular interest that JFK knew how to fly, considering the dark history his family has with planes. Joseph Kennedy, John’s older brother, died in a plane in August 1944, while sister Kathleen died four years later in a plane crash. And just about everyone knows about the fatal day in 1999 when John F. Kennedy Junior, flying to a family wedding, died in a plane that he was piloting.

The log book in Shapell’s possession includes a recording by Kennedy’s instructor about JFK’s flights and it has Kennedy’s signature (“John F. Kennedy – Lt. USNR”). Certainly a piece of history worth cherishing and an interesting little-known fact that is worth knowing.

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