Breaking News: President Kennedy's Assassination

20, February 2017
Color photo of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy arriving in Dallas in November 1963President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy arriving in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Photo by Cecil W. Stoughton. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Last October, I received a letter from retired newspaper reporter Ted Pollard. In it he offered to donate a document related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Although he lives in Ohio now, for about six months in 1963 Pollard worked on the business desk of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Each day he watched the incoming tapes of the noontime quotes from the Dow Jones business-wire machine, which sat next to the main, broad-tape teletype device that carried major news stories from the Associated Press (AP).

On November 22, 1963, Pollard was alone in the wire room to watch the business news when the bell on the AP-wire machine started ringing, the signal that a big story was breaking. He watched in shock as the first AP bulletins about the Kennedy assassination began to roll in.

Pollard rushed into the newsroom to report the astonishing news, but most of the paper's staff had already left for lunch, including the city editor. The man covering the city editor's lunch break rushed into the wire room, tore off the Kennedy portion of the teletype tape, and ran back to the copy desk to write the story. Pollard remained at the wire machine, tore off several feet of the teletype's carbon copy, and kept the rolled-up tape in his personal effects for the next 53 years—that is, until he donated it to the Missouri History Museum. 

Click below to view the initial AP bulletins that rolled into newsrooms in St. Louis and across the country.

President Kennedy's Assassination

Black-and-white photo of President Kennedy's motorcade in DallasClose-up of President Kennedy's motorcade as it moved through Dallas on November 22, 1963. Photo by Victor Hugo King. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

By donating this important artifact, Pollard helped us augment an area of our collections that is seriously lacking. We have many wonderful items from the 18th and 19th centuries, but we have far fewer artifacts from the many historic events of the 20th century. For example, although we've received numerous donations from people who served in both world wars, we have very little regarding the Great Depression, the counterculture of the 1960s, Watergate, the Cuban Missile Crisis—the list goes on.

Many of us have lived through significant moments in the history of our nation and our region, often accumulating related memorabilia. Although this may not feel monumental to us as we go about our daily lives, it's important to preserve and protect what we can from these moments in order to give future generations the value of past perspectives. If you have items at home related to historic events of the 20th century, please consider donating them to the Missouri History Museum. Our curators and archivists are more than happy to speak with you.

—Molly Kodner, Head Archivist

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