19. Kennedy’s Cowboy Hat

By Sam Collings-Wells

On the morning of his assassination, John F. Kennedy was in Fort Worth, Texas, giving a speech at a breakfast gathering of the Chamber of Commerce. When the speech was over, Kennedy was handed a Stetson (pictured). Despite cries of “put it on!” emanating from the crowd, the visibly uncomfortable president refused, unconvincingly promising to put it on at the White House the following Monday.

The president sheepishly holds the hat. Moments later he refuses to put it on.
Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/texas-hat-john-f-kennedy-would-never-wear-flna2D11637673

But Kennedy himself was never entirely comfortable with the frontier mythology that suffused his administration’s rhetoric. In many ways, his own identity as a “Boston Brahmin” always made it a difficult fit. Many of Kennedy’s opponents picked up on this disjuncture. They turned the president’s rhetoric against him, arguing that he was failing to live up to the mythic archetypes he appealed to in his speeches. No-one did this better than Senator Barry Goldwater, who marketed himself as an authentic cowboy from Arizona who would return the United States to the genuine values of the old frontier.

Perhaps, then, Kennedy was aware that photographs of him wearing a cowboy hat would provide ammunition for his opponents – a chance once again for them point out the gulf that existed between the old frontier and the president’s “New” one.

Featured Image Source: Kennedy’s Stetson, now housed at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/texas-hat-john-f-kennedy-would-never-wear-flna2D11637673.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close