During his decades-long photographic career, Teenie Harris photographed President John F. Kennedy more than any other US president. Kennedy visited Western Pennsylvania several times during his presidential campaign, but during a 24-hour period on October 12 and 13, 1962, while campaigning for Democratic congressional and state candidates, Teenie Harris captured all of his speaking engagements in the area. Kennedy spoke on national issues still pertinent today, including jobs, healthcare, and education, as well as the discord between congressional Democrats and Republicans. All of his speeches in Western Pennsylvania during those two days expressed these same themes, but were delivered differently at each stop. They were also recorded on audio tape and are available today through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.
Friday, October 12, 1962
Afternoon: Kennedy flies to the Pittsburgh area after attending a Columbus Day parade in New York City. Harris waits in the crowd at the airport, possibly getting damp from a passing rain. He photographs the president disembarking Air Force One and greeting the crowd.
4:00 p.m.: Harris captures the crowds gathered in Aliquippa, the site of Kennedy’s first speech of the trip.
The newspapers report that the rain ended in time for the president’s speech. Harris is crowded by other press photographers and takes only one known picture, perhaps knowing he got a clear view at that moment. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Aliquippa or read the transcript.
Late afternoon: The Pittsburgh Press prints the exact route that Kennedy’s motorcade would take to Pittsburgh so that the public could line the streets to watch. After arriving in Pittsburgh, Kennedy checks in to the Penn-Sheraton Hotel for a few hours before his next event.
9:00 p.m.: Kennedy speaks to a packed crowd at the Fitzgerald Field House on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland.
Harris isn’t able to, or chooses not to, get close to the platform. He also experiences a little camera trouble or a darkroom accident, as several of the negatives have light leaks on the left margins. It is likely that he was quickly developing and printing the film later that night (or the early hours of the morning) in the basement darkroom of his house in Homewood. Hear Kennedy’s speech from University of Pittsburgh or read the transcript.
Saturday, October 13, 1962
10:30 a.m.: The weather has cleared, and is described as “near perfect.” Kennedy’s first speech of the day was scheduled in McKeesport.
Harris moves about the crowd photographing from several angles, capturing the president framed by the dark shadow of the marquee and the massive crowd gathered in downtown McKeesport. Hear Kennedy’s speech in McKeesport or read the transcript.
11:40 a.m.: Running 10 minutes behind schedule, Kennedy makes his remarks in Monessen.
Here Harris makes one of the most beautiful images of the president, as well as one among the most popular in his body of work. He seems to be standing on the speaker’s platform and perhaps leaning slightly against the railing on the right. No other photographers are jockeying for his spot. And the police officer on the roof in the distance becomes a foreshadowing element to many who view the image today.
Harris also captured the event from Kennedy’s point of view—a trademark of his photographic work with musicians and other celebrities on stage. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Monessen or read the transcript.
12:30 p.m.: Kennedy’s last stump speech took place in Washington, Pennsylvania, where he also had lunch.
Harris again stayed back in the crowd, perhaps aware of the strength of the portrait he had taken less than an hour earlier. That negative was likely still undeveloped and secured in his coat pocket or the trunk of his car. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Washington, PA, or read the transcript.
3:00 p.m.: Kennedy returns to the Pittsburgh area to take a flight to his next event in Indianapolis, Indiana. Harris is likely in his darkroom. The next day, a US military surveillance aircraft took aerial photographs of Cuba, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kerin Shellenbarger, Research Archivist, Teenie Harris Archive