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The Kennedy Files

Looking Back: Mystery donation to the Archives turns out to be an alum's special collection.

April 6, 2018

By Victoria McCargar, University archivist

Aside from newspapers and magazines covering major events in President John F. Kennedy’s time in the White House, the inventory includes campaign buttons, collectible postmarks, inauguration memorabilia and audio cassettes.
Aside from newspapers and magazines covering major events in President John F. Kennedy’s time in the White House, the inventory includes campaign buttons, collectible postmarks, inauguration memorabilia and audio cassettes.

Archivists both love and dread emails. “We are going to send you 2-3 boxes of memorabilia/materials that were donated about 10 years ago (donor unknown),” read the note from a library colleague. The boxes contained “JFK memorabilia,” the note said, adding “it might be of interest and/or of value.” It had been stored untouched in the Doheny Campus’ J. Thomas McCarthy Library for more than a decade.

Like many such deliveries, this one was larger than promised — nine or 10 boxes instead of two or three. But unlike some deliveries, the contents this time really were interesting and valuable, not to mention somewhat mysterious.

Our “donor unknown” had meticulously compiled more than 200 items having to do with the life and times of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. There are magazine spreads on his 1961 inauguration; photos of him and his wife, Jacqueline, in the White House; even a comic strip dated six months before his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. There is extensive news coverage from that event and its aftermath, and scores of items on all matters Kennedy from the next three decades — photos, newspaper clippings, complete magazines, campaign buttons, pictures, a vinyl record and even menus.

Luz Sandoval ’18 and Jenelle Wilson ‘18 discovered the donor's identity while creating an inventory of the collection.
Luz Sandoval ’18 and Jenelle Wilson ‘18 discovered the donor's identity while creating an inventory of the collection.

Two student workers, history majors Luz Sandoval ’18 and Jenelle Wilson ‘18, discovered the donor’s identity while creating an inventory. In an old envelope they found a receipt with the name and work address of the buyer. A little more research finally revealed her to be Susan Crowe ’57, former student body president, one-time president of the Alumnae Association and a generous donor until her death in 2002. Not just a student leader at the Mount, Crowe also held leadership roles in professional organizations throughout her career as a librarian at the Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo.

“Oh, she was a collector all right,” remembered Crowe’s Mount classmate, friend and fellow librarian Sheila Thornton ’57. “She had boxes and boxes of clippings under her bed. We used to worry about bugs and mice.”

Crowe’s sister Carolyn recalled that Susan was a devoted fan of President Kennedy and probably started collecting clippings and memorabilia during his Senate career in the late 1950s. “She was devoted to Kennedy,” she said.

Two generations later, fascination with JFK endures, and since 2006 the Mount has offered a course on the legacy of John F. Kennedy and his family. In Crowe’s memory, the fully inventoried and cataloged collection will be given to the History and Political Science Department as a permanent research resource for students.

 

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