John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy Makes Last-Minute Appeal for Votes in His First Run for Congress in 1946 on Letterhead with His Photograph

John F. Kennedy Makes Last-Minute Appeal for Votes in His First Run for Congress in 1946 on Letterhead with His Photograph

 

Using his youth and good looks, Kennedy appeals to a potential supporter in the Boston suburb of Somerville just days before the Democratic primary.

 

JOHN F. KENNEDY, Typed Letter Signed, to Mrs. Patrick O’Sullivan, June 14, 1946. On colorful “KENNEDY for congress headquarters” stationery with a two-inch photograph of a youthful Kennedy. Includes typed envelope with postmarked 3-cent stamp and “returned to sender” and “No Such Street Number” stamps. 1 p., 8.5" x 11". Expected folds; envelope torn open at top; very good.

 

Complete Transcript

Dear Mrs. O’Sullivan;

            Your name was mentioned to me recently by Ruth A. Carr Conroy, who suggested that I contact you.

            As you know, I am a candidate for Congress in the election to be held on next Tuesday, June 18th. I would very much appreciate your vote and the votes of any members of your family or friends whom you might have an opportunity to speak to in my behalf.

            With deepest appreciation for your kindness, and looking forward to having the pleasure of meeting you personally in the near future, I am

                                                                        Sincerely yours,

                                                                        John F. Kennedy

 

Historical Background

When Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. tragically died in a military mission over southeastern England in August 1944, his next younger brother John F. Kennedy became the family’s designated political candidate. At the urging of Joseph P. Kennedy, former Massachusetts governor and current Congressman James Michael Curley announced that he would vacate his seat in Congress to become mayor of Boston for the fourth time in January 1946. Curley later spent five months of his term in federal prison for mail fraud.

 

John F. Kennedy’s older brother’s Harvard roommate and family friend Richard Flood later recalled that he spent about three months at Kennedy’s headquarters in the Kimball Building in Boston, “doing all types of work.” Many of those working on Kennedy’s campaign were not political professionals, but his classmates and friends. In another headquarters in the Central Square neighborhood of Boston, according to Flood, another family friend Lem Billings had “thirty or forty young girls working over there almost every day, doing a tremendous job, getting all kinds of correspondence out.” They also distributed reprints of John Hersey’s article on Kennedy’s PT-109 experience in 1943 that originally appeared in The New Yorker in June 1944, then in the Reader’s Digest two months later.

 

In this letter, written days before the June Democratic primary, Kennedy appeals to Mrs. Patrick O’Sullivan in a Boston suburb for her and her friends’ votes. Ruth A. Carr Conroy, the 47-year-old wife of a telephone company payroll supervisor who also lived in Somerville, had given the Kennedy campaign Desmond’s name. Unfortunately for Kennedy, the letter seems to have been improperly addressed and was returned. Perhaps the difference between “8 Hamlet Street” on the letter and “8 Hamley St.” on the envelope made it undeliverable. Mrs. Elizabeth A. Sullivan was a 70-year-old widow, who lived at 8 Hamlet Street in Somerville. Four of her sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren lived with her. Her oldest son Patrick A. Sullivan was a medical doctor, while two other sons were truck drivers, and the fourth was a salesman.

 

With his father’s support, John F. Kennedy won the Democratic primary by capturing 42 percent of the vote, defeating nine other candidates, and outpolling his nearest competitor by nearly two-to-one.  In November, Kennedy went on to defeat his Republican opponent, Lester W. Bowen of Somerville, with nearly 72 percent of the vote.

 

 

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Item: 64926

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John F. Kennedy
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