AMESBURY — It took longtime John F. Kennedy personal adviser and friend David Powers decades to amass more than 2,000 pieces of memorabilia related to the late president.
Sunday, those items — including personal photos, letters and a one-of-a-kind Air Force One leather bomber jacket that sold for a jaw-dropping $570,000 — were auctioned off over several hours to serious collectors, fans and everyone in between at a much-anticipated presidential auction at John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury.
Hundreds of people braved a blustery winter storm to fill the Main Street auction house to take in the fast-paced sale firsthand, while an estimated 1,000 bidders participated via phone or Internet. Aside from a few technical problems related to phone lines and Internet connections, the auction proceeded smoothly, if not quickly.
The 723-lot auction began shortly after 11 a.m., and among the early highlights were a signed copy of Kennedy’s book “Why England Slept,” the published thesis he wrote while in his senior year at Harvard that went for $4,500, and a copy of Robert Donovan’s book “PT 109, John F. Kennedy in World War II,” signed by the president in 1961, which fetched $7,600.
For decades, Powers, who died at 85 in 1998, was inseparable from Kennedy, serving as his longtime friend’s confidant during his political career. After Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, Powers became a driving force behind the creation of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, donating thousands of items to the iconic library. But Powers kept many of the most personal items to himself; and after members of his family discovered the items while cleaning out his house, they decided to put most of the pieces up for bid.
During Sunday’s auction, McInnis appraiser Dan Meader announced to the crowd that the library would be interested in acquiring some of those items from whoever purchased them.