Teletype Roll Reporting
President John F. Kennedy’s Assassination
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Beginning with reports of peaceful protesters, this roll quickly descends into the horrific details of Kennedy’s murder in Dallas in as close to real-time as possible. Nearly everyone alive on November 22, 1963, remembers where they were upon hearing the news Kennedy was dead. This teletype roll—the very source of the report remembered by everyone—freezes that pivotal moment in time. [JOHN F. KENNEDY].
Original teletype roll from UPI reporting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. [Dallas, Tex.], November 22, 1963. Single continuous roll, 8½ x 142 in. Tape repair to approximately first 12 inches, not affecting assassination reporting.
Protesters: “One man perched on the roof of his car had hellt [sic] the President a sign saying that because of Kennedy’z ‘socialist beliefs,’ .;. ‘I hold you in complete contempt’...A woman a few blocks later held up a sign saying ‘Can the Clan.’”
Reporting the assassination:
The shooting of Texas Governor John Connally: “Bill Stinson, an assistant to Gov. Connally, saidn [sic] he talked to the governor in the hospital operating room. He said the governor was shot just beltw [below] the smouder [shoulder] blade in the back. Stineon [sic] said he askee [asked] Connally how it happened... ‘I don’t know I guess from the back. They got the President too’... The vice president...was reported badly shocked by the shooting. Dontors [doctors] were trying to keep him as quiet as possible. He was under heavy secret service and police protection... Malcolm Kilduff, an assistant press secretary, nsaid me [said he] ‘cannot say’ whether the president is alive and ‘cannot say where he was hit. There are too many stories’... As the president fought for his life, speciakists [specialists] arrived at the hospital. Nkne [one], a Dr. Wilson, identified himself as a neurosurgeon. vvTelevision newsman Mal Cough said he looked up just after the shot was fired and saw a rifpe [sic] being withdrawn from a 5th or 6th floor window of a nearby building (the Texas Book Depository).”
And the inevitable report: “Flash. President Kennedy Dead!... Bulletin. 2nd lead assassination by Merriman Smith UPI White House Reporter. Dallas, Nov. 22 (UPI) President Kennedy was assassinated today in a burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas. Texas Governor John Connally was shot down with him...The death of President Kennedy throws the command of UnitadnStates [sic] government and its nuclear deterrent into the hands of Lyndon Johnson, until now vice president under Kennedy...1st add 2nd lead... The president, cradled in his wife’s arms, had been rushed in his blood-spattered limousine to Parkland Hospital and taken to an emergency room. An urgent call went out for neurosurgeons and blood. The president, 44 years old, was shot once in the head. Connallyn [sic] was hit in the head and wrist. Police found a foreign-make rifle. Sheriff’s officers were questioning a young man picked up at the scene...”
Later in the day, the Soviet reaction: “The official Soviet news agency, Tass, said it believed the assassination was carried out ‘from among the extreme right wing elements’... Initial comments from individual Russians...deplored the shooting...”
With additional reports on reaction from diplomats and other leaders, the curtailing of government, stock market, and business activities, Johnson’s swearing-in, chasing the assassin, the disposition of the body, and discussion of Kennedy’s wounds.
John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, shocked the world and remains contentious to this day. This teletype roll from United Press International (UPI) records media reports from the day Kennedy was killed—the defining moment of a generation and the nation. Typed quickly by hand and sent via telephone lines to newsrooms across the country, the repeated typographical errors testify that this report is as close to real time as 1963-vintage technology would allow. Throughout the length of the roll, reports are repeated, incorrect information amended, stories rewritten, and language condensed. As important as the subject matter, the technology also shows how print, radio, and television newsrooms operated in the early 1960s.
Many of the reports reflect the international implications of Kennedy’s assassination, including the passing of the presidency (and the nation’s nuclear arsenal) to Lyndon Johnson, reactions from the Soviets and other United Nations’ diplomats, Pope Paul praying for the president, and the business and finance market reactions.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was the 35th president. A Massachusetts Democrat, he served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate before defeating Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election by a narrow margin. He was the youngest person elected to the presidency, as well as the only Catholic president. A Cold War president, Kennedy presided over the building of the Berlin Wall, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and escalation of American involvement in Vietnam. As violence increased during the fight for Civil Rights, Kennedy was forced to launch initiatives that eventually became part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, shepherded through Congress by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. Kennedy also pledged that America would land on the moon within the decade, and established the Peace Corps, both of which, like his civil rights initiatives, were linked to Cold-War goals. His assassination on November 22, 1963, shocked the nation as well as the world, and many conspiracy theories remain.