Lot #225
Kennedy Assassination: James Altgens

"Fragments from the President's head went airborne with particles landing at my feet"
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Estimate: $800+


"Fragments from the President's head went airborne with particles landing at my feet"

American photojournalist and field reporter for the Associated Press (1919-1995) who famously took two photographs during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, both of which have since been printed in innumerable newspapers and magazines across the globe. TLS signed “James W. Altgens,” three pages, 8.5 x 11, December 2, 1994. Letter to Roy Hensel, describing in harrowing detail the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In part: "I had run across Dealey Plaza after making pictures at Main & Houston Sts to get in position to make additional photos as the Presidential limo made its way onto Elm from Houston as it headed toward the triple overpass. Upon hearing the first noise, which I presumed to be a firecracker explosion, I pointed my camera in the direction of the limo and snapped the shutter. I could not see any noticeable change in the President, or his party, and the procession continued in my direction.

As the caravan continued toward me, I heard another explosion, but there was no indication that shots were being fired—the limo rolled on in my direction. I pre-focused my camera for a good closeup of the Presidential party (15 feet by camera scale) and prepared to make my photo—one I never took—because at that point President Kennedy received the fatal gunshot to the back of his head. Fragments from the President's head went airborne with particles landing at my feet. What a shock—even to a professional newsperson—I could not snap the shutter on what would have been an historic photo. I could not believe what was happening.

Mrs. Kennedy, who was also in apparent shock, screamed 'Oh No!,' then proceeded to climb out of the car seat and onto the rear deck, crawling in a circle most likely to avoid further bloodshed by the gunman. As President Kennedy fell toward Mrs. Kennedy, I noticed there was no blood on the right side of his head, or his face, but there was blood aplenty on the back and left side of his head, showing clearly no face or right side hit to his head." In fine condition. A grave and haunting report from not only an eye witness, but a trained journalist and photographer who was studying the scene close up.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autographs and Artifacts
  • Dates: #589 - Ended August 12, 2020