The Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 12, 2001
November 12, 2001
VOL. 31, NO. 11


Before They Were Icons

New JHU Press book captures 5 days in lives of newlywed Kennedys

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

In early 1989, Anne Garside took what would be a fateful trip to New York City. Her destination was the Greenwich Village apartment of Max G. Lowenherz, the then 80-year-old founder of the Three Lions Picture Agency. Lowenherz had made it known that he wished to make a gift to the institute in memory of Irving Lowens, a friend who had been dean of the Peabody Conservatory.

Garside, director of Peabody's Public Information Office, accompanied Valerie Wilson, the institute's director of development, on a visit to the potential donor. What the two had come to see was a scrapbook of original photographs, most of which had never been seen before.

Inside the scrapbook's covers were more than 100 images of a junior senator from Massachusetts and his wife, instantly recognizable as John and Jacqueline Kennedy. The series of black-and-white photos were shot in May 1954 by Orlando Suero, a Three Lions staff photographer who was on his first major assignment.

Suero's plan was to do a women's interest story focused on Jackie, who had just enrolled in classes at Georgetown University. As it turned out, the photo essay was about them both because the media-savvy Jack kept insinuating himself into the photographer's focus.

In May 1954, Orlando Suero photographed Jack and Jackie Kennedy walking in Georgetown to meet brother Bobby and his wife, Ethel, to toss around a football.

The collection would ultimately be donated to Peabody later in 1989, and a few of the photographs were exhibited one year later. Most of them, however, have gone unseen--until now.

More than 90 of these unique images and the story behind them are the subject of Suero and Garside's book titled Camelot at Dawn: Jacqueline and John Kennedy in Georgetown, May 1954, published this month by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Royalties from the $24.95 book support the Peabody Institute. Garside, who selected the photographs and wrote the text, will discuss the making of Camelot at Dawn on Nov. 14 at Homewood's Shriver Hall, part of the Wednesday Noon Series presented by the university's Office of Special Events.

Garside, who claims not to be a "Kennedy addict," says the images she first saw that day in 1989 had an immediate impact on her.

"I wasn't even thinking at that point that he might give the collection to Peabody. I just felt emotionally drawn to the photos. They were so beautiful, and I had never seen any of them before," Garside says. "I think [the Kennedys] looked so young and appealing, and also kind of vulnerable. Of course, that is all very emotional because you are projecting onto the photos your knowledge of what was going to happen to this young couple."

Anne Garside chose the photos, which belong to the Peabody Institute, and wrote the text.

The Kennedys--Jack was 36 at the time and Jackie, 24--had moved into a three-story townhouse at 3321 Dent Place in Georgetown, just a few months after their wedding. Suero spent five days with the Kennedys, documenting their life with intimate access. Suero captured the two at work and play: Jack in his Senate office, Jackie preparing for a dinner party at home, the two of them happily poring over wedding photos in their living room. Several of the candid photographs also depict the couple interacting with Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and their children, who lived nearby.

Lowenherz, who owned all the prints and negatives, wanted the collection to be preserved and documented by a prestigious institution. He had earlier contacted the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to gauge its interest in the collection but was turned away, sort of. Dialing the library's general information number, Lowenherz reached a low-level staffer who did not take him seriously. Offended, he vowed never to give the collection to the JFK Library. Following a series of meetings, Garside and Wilson convinced Lowenherz that the Peabody Archives would make a proper home for the photographs.

The Peabody Archives, located in the Arthur Friedheim Music Library, are home to various special collections, including early records of the Lyric Theatre, the personal papers of opera singer Enrico Caruso and the Baltimore Sun editorial cartoons of Mike Lane. While the archives are not open to the general public, special exhibitions from its collections are mounted periodically. The most recent major exhibition was The Storm Is Passing Over: Celebrating the Musical Life of Maryland's African-American Community from Emancipation to Civil Rights.

Next spring, the Max G. Lowenherz Collection of Kennedy Photographs will be exhibited at the university's Evergreen House. The exhibition, also titled Camelot at Dawn, is being sponsored by the Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Company and will run from April 7 to June 30, 2002.

Garside says the idea for the exhibition originated two years ago from the Friends of Peabody, a group led by Wendy Brody, wife of university President William R. Brody. The Friends' mission is to bring the community to Peabody, and vice versa. Brody says she had to see only a few of the Suero photographs before she knew Peabody possessed a collection of significant public interest and that Evergreen would be an ideal place to display it.

"All I could think of were the pictures of the Garretts with heads of state and presidents and all that," says Brody, referring to Evergreen's former owners. "[The idea of this exhibition] just fit in so well with the permanent collections there."

The book grew out of a catalog that was to accompany the exhibition.

"From the first moment I saw them, there was something about the photographs that just kind of reached out and grabbed me and made me want to know more," says Garside, who was born in Scotland and lived all over the world before coming to the United States 25 years ago. "They were this time capsule of Jack and Jackie's early married life."

When the collection was given to Peabody in 1989, Garside contacted Suero, the photographer, and Evelyn Lincoln, JFK's secretary for 12 years, to help her document the photos. She also interviewed members of the Childs family, from whom the Kennedys rented the townhouse.

Garside says the firsthand recollections of these five days in May 1954 were invaluable to her more recent research, as she had hit a brick wall looking for detailed information in existing texts.

"When I tried to find references to the house at Dent Place in books on the Kennedys, there were only fleeting mentions of those few months in their first married home," Garside says. "It was then that I began to get the feeling that this collection might be truly unique. Most of what has been written about the Kennedys concerned what happened before or after this period."

What Garside ultimately discovered was that during the six months the Kennedys lived at 3321 Dent Place, life was as simple as it would ever get for these two American icons. Less than two months after the pictures were taken, an ailing John Kennedy (whose back brace can be seen in some of Suero's photos) would undergo the first of two spinal fusions that almost killed him. Later still came his steady ascent to the presidency.

"This was a period before they had become so famous. It was an interlude in their lives when they were living, relatively speaking, like any other young married couple," Garside says.

Between 1990 and 1991, Garside had approached several prominent publishing houses about doing a book. The response, she says, was indifferent.

"They all turned me down," she says. "They said that nobody was interested anymore in the Kennedys." Discouraged, Garside abandoned the concept.

Ten years later, however, Garside received a much more favorable response.

Recalling the lunch when Garside pitched the concept, Robert Brugger, history/regional books editor at the JHU Press, says the deal was cemented in record time.

"All she had to say was Jack and Jackie Kennedy, Georgetown, a week's worth of photographs," says Brugger, the book's editor. "I practically ran back to the office after lunch. We decided it was such a good idea we should run with it for the fall list."

Camelot at Dawn has already received a favorable review from the Washington Post, was part of a bidding war among major newspapers for first serial rights in Britain and its authors, Suero and Garside, were recent guests on Good Morning America.

With at least nine books on the Kennedys on publishers' fall lists, it's obvious that the public's interest in the couple has reawakened. Garside says she thinks the fresh material in Camelot at Dawn should please Kennedy fans.

"I always thought that the book might have a modest success because everyone I had ever shown the photos to was so interested in them," Garside says. "But the advance publicity for the book has far exceeded expectations."

Camelot at Dawn is available at all major bookstores, directly from JHU Press at 800-537-5487 or and at Garside's Nov. 14 Wednesday Noon Series talk in Shriver Hall, where she will autograph books.