January 24, 2012
JFK LIBRARY RELEASES LAST WHITE HOUSE RECORDINGS
Boston, Massachusetts (JFK+50) The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library announced today that is releasing the last 45 hours of recordings that were made secretly by President Kennedy.
Tom Putnam, JFK Library Director, said:
“We are thrilled (that) researchers will be fascinated with these recordings from JFK’s final days as President.”*
*Follow the link below to read the transcripts from the recordings or to hear and/or download excerpts.
JFK LIBRARY NEWS RELEASE
STORY BEHIND THE JFK RECORDINGS
John F. Kennedy used a Dictaphone recording machine both before & after he became President of the United States.
The Dictaphone was manufactured by American Dictaphone Corporation beginning in 1947.
The machine used a 3.5″ wide thin plastic belt which was placed on a cylinder.
A moving needle in the machine made the recordings on the belt.
As Senator & then as President, JFK used the Dictaphone primarily for dictating letters or notes which would then be transcribed & then printed on a typewriter by his secretary.
JFK with Ted Sorensen
Dictaphone located on the
table behind JFK’s chair
In summer 1962, however, JFK put in a request to the Secret Service asking them to place recorders in the West Wing basement for the purpose of recording his meetings & conversations in the Cabinet Room & Oval Office.
The SS chose state of the art Tandberg reel to reel tape recorders & connected them to microphones placed in both rooms.*
*Tandberg tape recorders were made in Norway.
JFK had the option of turning the recorders on & off using switches placed in those two rooms of the West Wing of the White House. In the Oval Office there was a switch at JFK’s desk & on the coffee table in front of his rocking chair.
“The most plausible explanation for Kennedy’s making secret tape recordings is that he wanted material to be used later in writing a memoir.”*
“The Presidential Recordings: JFK, The Great Crises, Volumes 1-3,” by Philip Zelikow & Ernest May (2001).
Although President Eisenhower did make selective recordings at the White House, JFK “was the first president to extensively record his meetings & telephone conversations.”
JFK turned on the recording mechanism in over 300 meetings held in the Cabinet Room & Oval Office. These were recorded onto 127 reel-to-reel analog tapes.
The President also turned it on for 275 of his telephone conversations. They were recorded onto 73 dictabelts.
Only JFK, Evelyn Lincoln, his personal secretary & the technicians who installed & maintained the recording system knew of its existence.**
“History of Presidential Audio Recordings & the Archival Issues Surrounding Their Use” by John Powers, 1996.