Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The chair and the car

I was 10 weeks old when President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was assassinated during the motorcade in Dallas. My Mom left me laying on the couch when a friend knocked at the door to tell her to turn on the TV, and I chose that moment to roll over for the very 1st time and fall on my head (according to family lore, that's "what happened" to me). The limousine in which the Kennedys and Texas governor John Connally (1917-1993) and his wife Nellie (1919-2006) were riding was not decommissioned until 1980. After the assassination, the 7,800lb midnight-blue 1961 Lincoln Continental was modified and reconditioned. Safety improvements included the addition of armor plates, bullet-proof glass, run-flat tires, and a hardtop to replace the removable bubble top. Now topping 9,800lbs, the limo was returned to service in 1964 and used by presidents Richard Nixon (1919-1994), Gerald Ford (1913-2006), and Jimmy Carter (b. 1924). It may now be seen at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

I grew up in Illinois - the "Land of Lincoln" - and have been to New Salem (click here for a virtual tour), his home and the Old State Capitol (click here for a virtual tour) in Springfield, and Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was assassinated. The chair in which he was shot, a black walnut rocker, was purchased at auction by an agent of Henry Ford and transported to his museum in Dearborn (click here for vintage footage of the chair being unpacked). I have not seen it, but have seen other Lincoln assassination artifacts at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum, the Mütter Museum, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

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