Rose Kennedy’s Family Album
Rose Kennedy’s Family Album, with Foreword by Caroline Kennedy (Grand Central Publishing, $45)
By Stuart Nulman
In 1938, as the Kennedy family’s stature and public visibility began to grow thanks to Joseph P. Kennedy being appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in England in December of 1937, family matriarch Rose Kennedy began to discover that family photographs began to disappear from her many volumes of photo albums that stored her vast collection.
The photos, which were taken to satisfy requests of newspaper reporters to have pictures of the new ambassador and his growing family accompany their stories, prompted Rose to include the following type-written card on the front page of each album: “I should appreciate it if no one remove pictures from this book. If you do so, it will not be so interesting for other people … Many of these pictures have been lost in the past, due to the clamor of newspapermen, so please do not remove any more. Thank you.”
Thankfully for Rose’s warnings, she managed to maintain a remarkable photographic record of the evolution of an American family dynasty. A dynasty that started with the marriage of Joseph Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald nearly a century ago and developed into a family of nine children whom have experienced their share of triumphs and tragedies.
There have been a number of images that were photographed between 1914 and 1960 that have been published in countless books about the Kennedys that have become quite familiar to many Kennedy aficionados and experts. However, these images just scratch the surface, and count for just a small percentage of the thousands of photos from Rose’s collection that completely tell the story of the formative years of the Kennedy dynasty.
And now, readers get the chance to have a rare glimpse of a dynasty in the making with the book “Rose Kennedy’s Family Album”. The book contains over 300 photos that were selected from her expansive collection and covers the period between 1878 (covering the roots of both the Kennedy and Fitzgerald clans) to 1946, when a gaunt looking 29-year-old John F. Kennedy ran his first electoral campaign for public office, as he won a seat in Congress as a representative for Massachusetts.
The photos show the gradual progression of the Kennedy dynasty from the birth of eldest child Joe Kennedy, Jr. to youngest child Teddy, and every child in between. You see them as a typical American family, enjoying leisurely and family activities at their homes in Bronxville, New York, Palm Beach, Florida, and of course, the famed Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. There are some familiar photos (for example, a studio portrait of Jack and Joe, Jr. photographed side-by-side in their naval officer uniforms during World War II), but it’s the rare, never before seen photos that make the book such an interesting one to thumb through, as if you are looking through your own family album (favorites include seven-year-old Teddy watching a column of Italian soldiers marching past him in Rome during the height of the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, and Congressional candidate Jack Kennedy photographed at Fenway Park during his 1946 campaign, alongside future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Hank Greenberg).
However, you can’t help to feel a sense of sadness and poignancy when you look through the photos in this book. You ask yourself what could have been or might have been when you see a picture of Joe Jr. speaking at the 1940 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and wonder what his future might have been if he wasn’t killed during a dangerous secret Air Force mission in 1944; you see a rather glamourous photo of eldest daughter Rosemary, and wonder what her life could have been if she didn’t go through a lobotomy in 1941, and later institutionalized for the rest of her life; and then, you look at the pictures of young Jack and Bobby and wonder how the world might have ended up if they fulfilled their political ambitions, and did not tragically end by an assassin’s bullet?
“Rose Kennedy’s Family Album” is a wonderful keepsake of a book, in which thanks to the power of the photograph, we see America’s most famous family in their age of innocence, before fame and tragedy brought them into the forefront and made them the world’s family.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at email@example.com.