50 Star U.S. Flag, President John F. Kennedy Limousine - Assassination in Dallas 11/22/1963.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Limousine Flags, 1961-1963
50 Stars: July 4, 1960 - Present (Hawaii statehood August 21, 1959)
The last half of the 20th century witnessed continuing changes in the visual media which have dramatically altered our perception of history. Signal historic events have been captured by amateur and professional photographers, whose images were transformed into icons of the events depicted. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) on November 22, 1963, stands paramount as the numbing event of the 1960s. The image of the presidential limousine speeding away with its pair of flags whipping wildly in the wind was seared into the nation's collective memory.
These flags, which President John F. Kennedy used throughout his 1,037 days in office, were on the presidential limousine when his life was taken in Dallas. After the burial on November 25, 1963, the driver, Secret Service Agent/Driver William Greer gave these flags to Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln, the late President's secretary (later private secretary to his widow, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy) who preserved the flags.
The U.S. Presidential Flag always represents an office, not a specific person. In a monarchy the royal standard symbolizes personal hereditary rights. Our Constitution gives an individual responsibility and rights only for so long as he serves as president. Although separate flags to designate the commander in chief of the Navy and of the Army had existed from 1882 and 1896, a common flag for the president of the United States was not adopted until l916.
The first president to travel with small versions of that flag and the flag of the United States mounted on an automobile was in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson traveled to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of WWI. All presidential flags were altered by President Truman on October 25, 1945 when he issued Executive Order 9646, to depict the stylized coat of arms of the United States surrounded by a circle of white stars equal to those on the U.S. flag.
The story of the JFK Presidential limousine flags is an interesting odyssey. In the late 1950s the 50 star U.S. and Presidential flags were anticipated because of the pending admission of Hawaii to statehood. Congress approved statehood on 18 June 1959, the citizens of Hawaii assented in the election of 27 June and Hawaii became a state under President Eisenhower's signature on 21 August 1959. On that same he issued another Executive Order 10834, establishing the 50 star national flag, which would take effect on 4 July 1960. President Eisenhower had previously, on 5 February 1960, authorized and issued Executive Order 10860 increasing the stars around the arms on the presidential flag creating the current fifty-star version.
These flags were authorized for production only six days after the admission of Hawaii as the 50th stars on 21 August 1959. Not only are these flags historic, but they are among the earliest examples of documented 50-star flags produced by the government. Both flags were made by the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot (PQMD) to exacting standards.
The 1959 U.S. Government blueprints for these flags are meticulous and specify the fabric and type of device for each size flag; Field Flags (80" X 144") are sewn wool with percale arms; Colors (52" X 66") are embroidered silk; Boat (aka Traveling) Flag (36" X 48") are also sewn wool with percale arms and the Automobile Flags (18" X 26") are, like the colors, hand-loomed embroidered silk. For use on Presidential limousines a matching pair of silk flags was always used.
These flags were ordered from the PQMD in the late summer of 1959, and delivered to the U.S. Secret Service. As is the custom, when a new president is inaugurated, he starts his administration with new flags as those of his predecessor are retired and officially to be given to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These automobile flags meet all of the PQMD standards.
These two flags travelled with the Presidential Limousine to Dallas ahead of the President and were waiting for him in the tarmac at Love Field on the morning of 22 November 1963. We know from photographs that a different set of flags were used on the limousine used in Fort Worth earlier that morning. The cars had arrived the day before and were secured in an airport garage by the Secret Service. The motorcade limousines were code named by the Secret Service, "SS-100-X" a custom built 1961 Lincoln Continental and the follow car, a custom 1956 Cadillac, aka "The Queen Mary" (the former Presidential limousine) "SS-679-X". Photographs and film clips clearly show the flag on the limousine protected by their canvas covers. As Air Force One approached, Secret Service agents were filmed uncasing and unfurling these flags.
According to President John F. Kennedy's personal secretary Evelyn Lincoln, these two flags were used throughout the presidency of JFK, and were the flags on the Presidential Limousine November 22, 1963. It was chauffeured by Secret Service Agent/Driver William Greer. The numerous surviving photographic images of the Presidential motorcade show the flags are clearly visible on SS-100-X. It is interesting to note that these were the only flags displayed in this Presidential motorcade. The follow car contained no protectee, and thus displayed no flags; the two bare flagstaffs on SS-679-X are clearly visible in photographs. Vice President Lyndon Johnson's vehicle also displayed no flags in the Dallas motorcade. After the assassination, as SS-100-X carrying the mortally wounded president sped to Parkland Hospital the flags are clearly visible and again they appear in the photographs of the vehicle arriving at and later parked at the hospital.
While doctors were treating President Kennedy, Special Agent Sam Kinney assisted by Special Agent George Hickey Jr. secured the limousine by placing the clear plastic bubble top and the black leatherette cover over it. In photographs, the flags are still visible on the limousine but these are the last images of the two flags on the SS-100-X because the Secret Service assigned Texas State Highway Patrolman Hurchel Jacks to prevent any further photography of the SS-100-X.
After President Kennedy died Secret Service Agent Roy H. Kellerman ordered Agents George Hickey Jr. and Sam Kinney to take control of SS-100-X and SS-679-X and drive them to Love Field, load them for transport to Andrews Air Force Base and await further orders. In accordance with US Secret Service protocols the U.S. and Presidential flags were stowed in SS-100-X, as flags are not displayed when no protectee is present.
They left Parkland hospital and drove directly to Love Field, communicating with the Air Force while enroute so that the rear ramp of the C-130 would be down to facilitate immediate loading of the vehicles. They loaded the limousines, tied them down and secured the aircraft allowing no one to enter except the crew. The USAF C-130 flew non-stop from Love Field to Andrews Air Force Base with the cars and agents Kinney & Hickey.
According to the Secret Service report of the measures taken to protect the cars after their arrival in Washington DC, the two cars were driven under police escort directly to the White House Garage at 22nd and M Streets, NW. They were parked, covered with a cloth cover and put under a combined White House and Secret Service guard.
In the early morning hours of November 23rd SS-100-X was inspected by both the FBI and the Secret Service, the report notes, "that nothing was removed from the vehicle." At approximately 4:30 P.M. on the 24th of November the separate combined security detail for SS-100-X was discontinued. The vehicle however, remained in the secure White House Garage.
According to Evelyn Lincoln, President and Mrs. Kennedy's private secretary, Secret Service Agent/Driver William Greer removed the flags from SS-100-X and gave them to her on 25 November 1963. She memorialized the event, including the individual identification numbers on the tags sewn into the sleeve of each flag. As she was an employee of the U.S. Government there was no impropriety, the flags remained under the dominion and control of the U.S.
After the assassination Ms. Lincoln was entrusted by the NARA and the Kennedy family with the responsibility of safekeeping President Kennedy's personal effects, historical items and writings in order to determine what the family would retain and what would be donated to the Kennedy Library. Among her possessions were archival paper, including discarded letters, drafts, JFK doodles, personal items and personal handwriting of John F. Kennedy dating from his days in the Senate and the two limousine flags.
Unfortunately, rather than turning over all of these materials to President Kennedy's family and the NARA, Lincoln kept many of these items and eventually gave or sold some of them. Many of these items went to Robert L. White, a friend and an avid Kennedy collector. On 11 September 1992 she conveyed control of these flags to Robert L. White; however title to them still lay with the United States.
Robert White, a native of Woodbine and later Catonsville, Maryland, considered the flags to be the centerpiece of his collection and occasionally exhibited them. White was interviewed about the JFK limousine flags by the Baltimore Sun newspaper in 1992 as he hoped to arrange for a 30th anniversary JFK assassination exhibition in1999 at Baltimore's Peale Museum. In 1998 Robert White and his Kennedy Collection were featured on NBC's Dateline, a weekly television newsmagazine.
This segment was seen by St. Petersburg Junior College president Carl Kuttler who thought that St. Petersburg deserved something like that and presented his idea to the Florida International Museum, who was looking for a new exhibit. After extensive negotiations with White, the museum secured the collection. Work began on the exhibit display in December 1998. Under the terms of their November 1998 agreement with White, the museum leased his collection for 31 years. The museum could buy the collection from White at any time for $5-million.
The JFK Limousine flags were among 500 artifacts that became a part of the Florida International Museum's first year-round display in their inaugural John F. Kennedy: The Exhibition, which was originally planned as homage to President John F. Kennedy's visit to the Tampa Bay area on 18 November 1963.
The exhibition's 20 galleries spanned Kennedy's experiences in World War II, his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, his years in politics, his family life, his visit to Tampa four days before his death in Dallas, the mournful journey to Arlington Cemetery and, finally, the legacy of the president who spent only 1,037 days in office. The flags were in exhibited in Gallery 15, entitled Dallas. The exhibition ended after Robert White suffered a heart attack on 11 October 2003. He was 54.
The success of the exhibition brought unwanted additional scrutiny to the Robert L. White Collection and now the Robert L .White Estate in the form of the attention of both the NARA and the Kennedy Foundation. At the time of his death Robert White was already involved in discussions with The Kennedy Library, NARA, the Kennedy Family and the Justice Department over the title to many of the artifacts in the White Collection.
In June 2005 a global settlement was reached between the White Estate, NARA & The Kennedy Library, represented by the Justice Department and the Kennedy Foundation, representing the Kennedy Family, wherein the papers and artifacts desired were returned to the appropriate parties in exchange for a release and clear title for the remaining items in the White Estate. This settlement included and specifically mentioned these JFK Limousine Flags.
In December 2005 the JFK Dallas Assassination Limousine flags went to public auction by Guernsey's Auctions of New York City and were subsequently acquired by a private collector.
John F. Kennedy:The Exhibition, The Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1998 - 2003.
Night of Flags
In celebration of George Washington's Birthday
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in California
Patriotic Services Committee
James Ferrigan, Curator, Flag Center
Ben Zaricor, Director, Flag Center
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Octagon House, San Francisco
5:30pm - 7:30 pm
Washington Flag Congress, 2011
24th International Congress of Vexillology and
45th annual meeting of the North American Vexillological Association.
Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA
July 31-August 6, 2011
Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, p. 134.
Schrambling, Regina, "A Lifelong Pledge." Collection, Published by Robb Report, June 2014, p. 48F.
• The JFK Limousine Flags made at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, and appropriately tagged as U.S. Government property, 1959.
• The flags delivered to the President John F. Kennedy Administration, 1960.
• The flags used on JFK Presidential Limousine, SS-100-X, 1961- 1963.
• The flags placed on JFK Presidential Limousine, SS-100-X, on the morning of 22 November 1963.
• The flags are clearly visible in phonographs of the Dallas JFK Motorcade and later at Parkland Hospital.
• The flags are removed from the JFK limousine in White House Garage by Secret Service Agent/Driver William Greer, 24/25 Nov. 1963.
• The flag are given by Agent Greer to President & Mrs. Kennedy's Private Secretary, Ms. Evelyn Lincoln, 25 November, 1963.
• Flags retained by Ms. Evelyn Lincoln until, 11 September 1992.
• The flags conveyed to Mr. Robert L. White, 11 September 1992.
• The flags are exhibited privately by Mr. Robert L. White, 1992-1998.
• The flags are leased by Mr. White to the Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, and exhibited 1998 - 2003.
• Mr. Robert L. White dies, 11 October 2003.
• The flags pass by descent in the Robert L. White Estate to Mrs. Robert L. White, until 2005.
• Release of the title to the JFK limousine flags by the National Archives and Records Administration and Carolyn Kennedy representing the Kennedy Foundation, 15 June 2005.
• The JFK Limousine Flags are sold via Guernsey's Auction, New York City, to the Zaricor Flag Collection, December, 2005.
ZFC Significant Flag
Companion piece to ZFC2501