Lot 259    

Mary Ann Moorman Polaroid Photographs Capturing John F. Kennedy's Assassination
11/15/2013 - American History: Live Salesroom Auction
Description:  A pair of unique, Polaroid prints, silver diffusion transfer (Polaroid roll film Type37), each approximately 2.5 x 3.5 in., one numbered 3 on verso, the other numbered 5 .

These are numbers 3 and 5 of an 8 image pack taken on November 22, 1963.

These compelling images capture one of the most newsworthy events in American history:  the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.   One of the two is generally accepted as showing the near exact moment at which Lee Harvey Oswald’s first bullet struck the doomed President. Taken by bystander Mary Ann Moorman, these images were widely circulated at the time of the assassination, though curiously were never included in the Warren Commission Report.  Never before publicly exhibited, these remarkable photographs are center pieces of J.F.K. , November 22, 1963:  A Bystander’s View of History recently mounted by the International Center of Photography in New York, City.

Mary Ann Moorman:  Eyewitness to History

On November 22, 1963, Mary Ann Moorman, a  thirty-one year old housewife and her friend Jean Hill drove to downtown Dallas, Texas hoping to catch a glimpse of the motorcade of President John F. Kennedy.  The young, immensely popular 35th  President was in town for a luncheon at the Dallas Trade Center.  The excitement that day was palpable; huge crowds were expected to line the way of the motorcade from Love Field to the Trade Center.   Mary Ann took her Polaroid camera, hoping she could capture something to show her eleven- year-old son Ricky who was in school that day. "Truth be told," Moorman remembers, "We both wanted to see Jackie."
Arriving downtown about 10:30 in the morning, they parked their car on Main street, and, after realizing the Polaroid needed more film, purchased an 8-pack at a nearby department store.  They stopped at Mary Ann’s Thunderbird and took two photographs, one of each other standing or sitting by the car. Jean kept those “test” photographs, the first two in the pack.

Walking towards Houston Street, they found the sidewalks were already crowded with spectators.  They turned the corner at Elm and found a grassy area on Dealey Plaza opposite the Texas Book Repository sparsely populated.  It was a misty morning and both wore raincoats, Moorman in blue, Hill in red.  They took up a position that placed them in what they felt would be the direct line of the motorcade. As the morning cleared, they continued to wear their blue and red coats. They waited.
A motorcycle policeman approached, and Moorman recognized him as Glenn McBride, an old childhood friend, and took a picture.  They coated the Polaroid with the chemical pad to fix the image, and Mary Ann pocketed the print, her third picture of the day.   Shortly afterwards another motorcycle approached, driven by George Lumpkin, whom Mary recognized as working the traffic detail at her church on Sunday.   Stepping into the street, she took Lumpkin’s picture, and later gave it to him as his souvenir of the day when the President came to town.
Stepping back onto the grass, Mary Ann and Jean now saw the Presidential motorcade turn the corner onto Elm.  Now the President and Jackie were clearly visible.  Jackie was wearing a bright pink dress - "Pink!" - Mary Ann and Jean commented to each other.

Moorman lifted her camera to take the fifth of her eight photo pack.  It would be the last picture she would take that day.  With the presidential limousine merely feet away, she pushed the button to activate the shutter, and heard Jean yell “Mr. President, look this way, we want to take a picture.”   Later that day, she gave official testimony to the Dallas County Sheriff’s office, describing what she had just recorded on film:

"As I snapped the picture of President Kennedy, I heard a shot ring out. President Kennedy kind of slumped over. Then I heard another shot ring out and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up in the car and said ‘My God he has been shot.’ When I heard these shots ring out, I fell to the ground to keep from being hit myself. I heard three or four shots in all. After the pictures were developed, the picture of President Kennedy showed him slumped over. When the pictures were developed, they came out real light. These pictures have been turned over to Officers investigating this incident."

Mary Ann’s photograph is generally acknowledged to show the President at the near instant he was hit by the first of three bullets that Lee Harvey Oswald fired from the Texas Book Repository. In the chaotic moments after the assassination, Moorman can be seen in other surviving photographs of the scene, including a widely circulated image of her being questioned by a newspaperman, and she and Hill are clearly visible in frame number 298 of the  famous film taken by Abraham Zapruder. Both wear their raincoats, Mary Ann with her Polaroid camera to her eye.

Controversies have swirled around Moorman’s photographs just as they have around nearly every aspect of the assassination and its witnesses.  After the assassination, Jean Hill (1931-2000), Moorman’s companion spoke repeatedly  - and inconsistently -  about the events  that day, and whether intentionally or accidentally,  provided fodder for  conspiracy theorists.  For her part, however, Mary Ann Moorman has remained largely silent until very recently, when she has granted several extensive interviews.  Her recollections about that dreadful day remain unchanged from the deposition she gave in 1963. Regardless, for many conspiracy theorists, Moorman’s Polaroids are like a Rosetta  Stone for unlocking the secrets of the assassination.

Mary Ann Moorman:  Citizen Journalist

Beyond their historical significance, these images mark the dawn of an era. In a day where hundreds of millions of photographs and videos are taken daily by cell phone users --  many of which record newsworthy events  -- it is easy to forget that at the time Moorman took these photographs, photo-journalism was almost exclusively the  domain of professionals.   Newspapers in every major city had special departments employing professional photographers whose sole job was to ensure that they were in the right place at the right time to “get the picture.”   Much of what passed as “news” photos were carefully staged photo-ops where the news photographer was part of a “scrum” of press, waiting patiently with a cumbersome Speed-graphic, or later, 35mm camera.

The exception, of course, was the combat photographer.  Robert Capa had produced unforgettable images during the Spanish Civil War; during World War II and the Korean War that followed, official Army photographers routinely sent back images that captured the immediacy of the moment.   At the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the War in Vietnam was just beginning to ramp up.  Soon, Americans would view the horrors of war nightly on their televisions.

But in 1963, America was at the dawn of the mass-media era; television was still in its infancy, and the American consumer was being exposed to new advances in photography.  While Edwin Land had invented instant film in the years following World War II, the Polaroid camera that Moorman used on that November day was still new to the market and because of its price, out of reach for many.   Just a few months earlier, Kodak, long a leader in making photography available to the average consumer, introduced the Instamatic  in February, 1963.   Between 1963 and 1970, when the line was discontinued, more than 50 million Instamatics were sold.

The rise of mass media in the 1960s developed a new sort of intimacy between the American public and public figures.   Kennedy, probably the most photographed President of the 20th century, early on recognized the power of television and used it to his benefit during his 1960 campaign debate with Richard Nixon.  He also recognized the importance of the rope-line, where supporters could “snap” a picture of the candidate and later use it as a trophy of their moment in history. Moorman’s photographs, though not much to look at, must be viewed through this historical lens.  She was not a professional, merely a bystander with a camera.  And yet, as Brian Wallis, Curator of the International Center Photograph has so aptly pointed out, she was only one of a number of amateur photographers that day, all of whom beat the professional media to the punch.  In the aftermath of the assassination, the images these casual picture-makers captured challenged the classical notion of photojournalism.   While the professionals were waiting for their photo-op at the Dallas Trade Center the real news pictures – grainy and blurry, yet horrifying in their intimacy – were being made by some of the first, unsuspecting citizen-journalists.
As imperfect as they may be, this pair of images -- from one of the most memorable days in the last half century of American history --  are icons of national importance, as much for the history they have left, as the history they recorded.

J.F.K. November 22, 1963: A Bystander’s View of History.  International Center of Photography.  October 4, 2013-January 19, 2014.  (Note: The photographs will be removed from the exhibit and returned to Cowan’s Auctions, Inc. on November 11, 2013.)


1. Cowan’s is grateful for discussions with Brian Wallis, Curator of Photography at the International Center of Photography, and who is the organizer of the recent exhibit : J.F.K. November 22, 1963:  A Bystander’s View of History which explores the role of the amateur photographer in recording events in Dallas on the day of the assassination.  Moorman’s photographs were publicly exhibited here for the first time.

2.  Cowan’s also wishes to acknowledge both the personal verbal history communicated by Mary Ann Moorman Krahmer, as well as her interview with Mr. Gary Stover, in 2011, the transcript of which can be found online (http://www.iantique.com/pages/Mary-Moorman-Interview-Transcript).

3.  A condition report by Slyvie Pénichon, Conservator of Photographs at the Amon Cater Museum accompanies each photograph. 
Sold: $52,875.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

7th Maine Battery, Four CDVs of Identified Soldiers
Lot # 26 - 7th Maine Battery, Four CDVs of Identified Soldiers
One officer and three enlisted men, one a pair of seated pards. The officer is tentatively identified as Capt. Adelbert B. Twitchell by Wm Pierce, Brunswick, Me. The captain wears a shield-shaped ID badge on his frock coat. Twitchell had prior service in the 5th Maine Battery as ... > Item Details
<i>You Will Co-Operate or You Will Obstruct</i>, National Association of Manufacturers Illustrated Poster, 1918
Lot # 188 - You Will Co-Operate or You Will Obstruct, National Association of Manufacturers Illustrated Poster, 1918
18.25 x 24.5 in., framed, 25.5 x 32 in.  Will you Co-Operate Or Will You Obstruct? -President Wilson / America Needs Its Man Power...It's Your Way To Help Lick The "Kaiser."  Featuring a cartoon by Phifer admonishing men to get and hold jobs. Copyright 1918 to the National As... > Item Details
Edward Everett, Original Handwritten Speech Given After Firing on Fort Sumter, Plus Quotation
Lot # 429 - Edward Everett, Original Handwritten Speech Given After Firing on Fort Sumter, Plus Quotation
Edward Everett speech, April 27, 1861. 5pp. plus note signed by Everett in initials. A minister, politician, and diplomat, Edward Everett (1794-1865) was one of the northern states’ greatest celebrities at the time of the Civil War and was considered one of the greatest orators of his gener... > Item Details
McPherson & Oliver Albumen Photographs of Fort Morgan, Alabama, 1864
Lot # 139 - McPherson & Oliver Albumen Photographs of Fort Morgan, Alabama, 1864
Lot of ten albumen photographs of Fort Morgan, AL, by McPherson & Oliver, copyright 1864.  Nine are roughly 5.75 x 7.75 in. prints on 7.75 x 9.5 in. mounts with imprinted titles, numbered 1-9, showing the bombarded fort from various angles, the coastal batteries, and the light house. The te... > Item Details
Sixth Plate Tintype of American Indians with a Caucasian Gentleman
Lot # 332 - Sixth Plate Tintype of American Indians with a Caucasian Gentleman
Sixth plate tintype of a white man posed with American Indians. The image was found in a family photo album belonging to the consignor's grandparents, and identified in the album as family member Vernon S. Merrick, who worked on the Cherokee Indian reservation in Oklahoma (Indian Territory), as ... > Item Details
C.S. Fly Boudoir Photograph, <i>Geronimo and Natches Mounted</i>
Lot # 315 - C.S. Fly Boudoir Photograph, Geronimo and Natches Mounted
Albumen boudoir photograph with C.S. Fly's copyright hand-stamp lower right; verso with paper label identifying the image as from Fly's series, Scene in Geronimo's Camp, The Apache Outlaw and Murderer, No. 171 Geronimo and Natches mounted. Natches with hat on; son of Geron... > Item Details
Abraham Lincoln Civil War-Period ANS, January 3, 1864
Lot # 245 - Abraham Lincoln Civil War-Period ANS, January 3, 1864
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).  ANS, June 3, 1864, responding to a personnel issue. Lincoln's response is docketed on verso of a 1p letter from Captain Alfred F. Puffer to James S. Barnard, on Department of the Gulf letterhead, 4.875 x 7.875 in., dated at New Orleans, Oct. 12, 1862.  Tha... > Item Details
9th Maine, Autographed CDV of BBG Geo. F. Granger, 9th Me., with Surg. Palmer
Lot # 50 - 9th Maine, Autographed CDV of BBG Geo. F. Granger, 9th Me., with Surg. Palmer
Exquisitely detailed CDV, ink signed beneath vignette portrait in profile, Col. G. Fred Granger, with dedication on verso, Truly Your friend & bro./G. Fred Granger/Col. 9th Me. Vols./to Capt. J.W. Swift/139th N.Y. Vols./Sept 9th 1864. George Frederick Granger (1837-1883) joined the reg... > Item Details
Bellin's Map of Canada and the Great Lakes Region, 1755
Lot # 283 - Bellin's Map of Canada and the Great Lakes Region, 1755
Bellin, Jacques Nicolas. Partie Occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou du Canada. Title cartouche hand-colored, lakes outlined. Plate 17.5 x 21.5 in. (44.4 x 55.2 cm). On 2 sheets (as issued). This version published by the Homann Heirs. Wonderful map of the Great Lakes region, issued just before the F... > Item Details
<i>The Capture of Major Andre</i>, Engraving by Smillie & Hinshelwood, 1836, Plus Union Case
Lot # 227 - The Capture of Major Andre, Engraving by Smillie & Hinshelwood, 1836, Plus Union Case
Lot includes framed engraving and the Union case derived from it.  Engraving is titled in the margin: The Capture of Major Andre / From a painting by A.B. Durand in the possession of the Honble James K. Paulding / Published by the American Art Union exclusively for the members, 1845. ... > Item Details
<i>Ft. Supply, Indian Territory, 1880</i>, Albumen Photograph
Lot # 350 - Ft. Supply, Indian Territory, 1880, Albumen Photograph
Albumen photograph, 7.5 x 8.375 in., mounted, 8 x 10 in., inked in the left margin Ft. Supply, I.T., 1880, with the building at left identified as Headqtrs and the building at right as Mess House. Fort Supply was established by General Philip Sheridan's forces on November 18, 1868.  Loca... > Item Details
Leavitt & Allen, <i>Our Generals</i> Civil War CDV Album, 1862
Lot # 110 - Leavitt & Allen, Our Generals Civil War CDV Album, 1862
Carte-de-visite album sold commercially by Leavitt & Allen, New York, containing 24 brilliant gray-tone lithographic, mounted views of the most popular Union Generals of the day. The patriotic album contains the original pre-printed gold leaf index listing everyone from Scott, Halleck,... > Item Details
Charles J. Belden Photograph of a Sheepherder Tending his Flock in a Blizzard
Lot # 388 - Charles J. Belden Photograph of a Sheepherder Tending his Flock in a Blizzard
Silver gelatin photograph, unmarked, but by Charles Belden, showing a ranch hand tending to a herd of sheep in a snowstorm. Most likely taken in Wyoming, ca 1910s-1940s, 16 x 20 in. Charles J. Belden (1888-1963) was born in San Francisco into a wealthy California family. He developed a life-long ... > Item Details
Major General W.T. Sherman, Signed Cabinet Photograph
Lot # 434 - Major General W.T. Sherman, Signed Cabinet Photograph
Cabinet photograph of William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) as Major General, with celebrity photographer Napoleon Sarony's studio imprint and 1888 copyright date on mount recto, boldly signed beneath portrait: W.T. Sherman / General / 1890. Matted and framed, 9.75 x 12 in.  > Item Details
Geronimo & Family, Cabinet Card Photographs
Lot # 319 - Geronimo & Family, Cabinet Card Photographs
Lot of two cabinet photographs taken during the same session at Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama, ca 1887-1894, where Geronimo was being held as a prisoner of war.  One shows Geronimo wearing striped pants and a military jacket and holding a bow and arrow, and is inked on verso Geronimo.  Th... > Item Details
34-Star American Parade Flag
Lot # 173 - 34-Star American Parade Flag
Cotton, 5 x 7.25 in., printed flag attached to original staff, 12 in. ln. Oval of 18 stars surrounding four rows of stars. Slight offset printing of canton / 4th red stripe. Ca 1861-1863. The 34-star flag became official on July 4, 1861, several months after the secession of southern states from ... > Item Details
Medicine Lodge Treaty, 1867, Manuscript Copy
Lot # 415 - Medicine Lodge Treaty, 1867, Manuscript Copy
Cheyenne and Arapaho nations, Medicine Lodge Treaty with Gen. Alfred H. Terry et al., Oct. 28, 1867. 21p. Not long after the Civil War ended, all-out warfare in the west resumed with violence, setting the Plains aflame from Texas to the Canadian border and beyond. With white settlers and the US a... > Item Details
31st Maine, Four CDVs of Identified Officers
Lot # 63 - 31st Maine, Four CDVs of Identified Officers
A group shot by Wm. Stearns, Bath showing Captain Thomas P. Beals in civilian dress seated with crutches. An unidentified Captain in uniform is standing to the left while another wounded soldier supported by a crutch stands at right. Thomas P. Beals had six months prior service in the 7th ... > Item Details
CSA Colonel Marcellus Pointer, 12th Alabama Cavalry, Tintype Portrait
Lot # 10 - CSA Colonel Marcellus Pointer, 12th Alabama Cavalry, Tintype Portrait
CDV-sized tintype of Marcellus Pointer, 12th Alabama Cavalry, seated in studio, with the gray collar, three stars, and triple sleeve cords of a CSA cavalry colonel clearly visible.  Housed in a pressed paper case. The youngest of eight children born to a Virginia doctor, Marcellus Pointer (1... > Item Details
Civil War Quarter Plate Tintype of a Soldier Armed with Sword & Revolver
Lot # 19 - Civil War Quarter Plate Tintype of a Soldier Armed with Sword & Revolver
Quarter plate, hand-tinted tintype of a Union soldier standing in front of a military camp backdrop, displaying his cavalry saber and wearing a Remington New Model 1858 percussion revolver in his belt. With two 5 cent revenue stamps affixed to plate's verso, each including inked cancelation... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20