Ask just about anyone who was alive on November 22, 1963, what they were doing when they found out President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and they'll almost certainly recount that day in incredible detail. And if you ask those same people to show you the next day's newspaper, there's a good chance that they've still got it tucked away in a drawer or box somewhere.
It's not a great stretch to say that Kennedy assassination newspapers are amongst the most saved, and most valued, newspapers of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, just because something's valued doesn't necessarily mean that it's also valuable.
There's a well-meaning, but quite inaccurate, perception that JFK assassination newspapers are high-value items that can never be thrown away under any circumstances. That's why libraries and museums across the country are regularly contacted by thoughtful citizens who are looking to donate copies of their, or their recently deceased relatives', JFK paper.
While the urge to support local libraries is definitely appreciated, the vast majority of newspapers, including November 22, 1963, are not something that your local library will be placing in its collection.
Supply & Demand
The biggest problem with Kennedy papers is the simple rule of supply and demand. Because so many people kept these papers, there is a plentiful supply that collectors can tap into which makes their monetary value very low. (There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as afternoon editions of the Dallas newspapers and some "extra" editions that were printed the day of the assassination.)
From a collection standpoint, most libraries already have microfilmed copies of the paper that are well-suited for research purposes. DPL, for example, has microfilm of the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and New York Times, that include November 22, 1963. We also offer access to the New York Times Historical database, which includes electronic copies of articles from the paper of record.
Because newsprint becomes very brittle after just a few years, not many libraries keep actual hard copies of newspapers in their open collections. Here at DPL, we have a large collection of print newspapers but limit their use to very specific occasions.
In short, most libraries neither want nor need additional copies of any newspaper.
That said, JFK assassination papers definitely qualify as valuable family artifacts and conversation pieces. For anyone who wants to share their memories of that fateful day with children and grandchildren, JFK papers are an invaluable tool, but they do need a bit of tender, loving care.
Newspaper print is a notoriously delicate and temporary medium for transporting information. After all, the lifespan of a daily newspaper is about 24 hours, not 52 years. There are, however, a few techniques for keeping your historic papers in as good a shape as possible:
- Store them in a cool, dry place away from heat sources. Attics are not great storage areas, but dry basements work pretty well.
- Keep the paper as flat as possible (though the original folds can be kept.)
- For extra protection, consider buying a dedicated newspaper storage box that's been constructed from acid-free materials. (And if you're looking for a low-cost alternative, check out this video from Duke University's Chief Library Officer.
Historic newspapers give families and researchers an insightful look into the social context of the events that have shaped our world and should be carefully cared for to ensure their use for future generations.