Life magazine remembers President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn into the office of United States President 50 years ago today. His inaugural speech featured the famous line, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” I don’t recall the happy occasion that began his presidency, but I’ll always remember the tragedy that ended it. Watching the coverage of his assassination and then the as-it-happened killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby probably contributed to my affinity for newsgathering.

Life magazine was also a huge contributor, as I always loved turning the over-sized pages to see page after page of pictures telling the stories of the day. But not all photos taken at an event are published. Only the best of the best make it through editing and layout; the rest are tucked away in negative sleeves and put into storage.

The digital revolution makes it possible for those images to have a second life. Just click to the Life magazine site today ( to see 29 previously unpublished photos taken at the JFK inauguration. The featured players donned top hats and the rest of the men sported fedoras. The smiles are broad and abundant.

Most of the images are in crisp black and white. A few are in color, including one showing the president and first lady riding in an open limousine and wearing clothes that are eerily similar to those worn on the day his life ended in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. One image shows a U.S. Army Pershing ballistic missile, which was revealed to the public for the first time in the inaugural parade.

There are photos of entertainers like Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly performing at inaugural balls. There’s even a cowboy riding a buffalo down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Be ready to spend some time on the Life site, as one gallery leads to several others, including more featuring JFK.

Life is good.

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