In the days and weeks following the death of President Kennedy, the White House received a flood of condolence mail—over 800,000 letters in the first six weeks, a figure that would eventually rise to over 1.5 million letters.
Condolences arrived from around the world. Men, women, and children from diverse backgrounds—social, economic, political, ethnic, racial, and religious—wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy and her children.
On January 14, 1964, Mrs. Kennedy gave a televised speech, during which she thanked the public for the outpouring of kindness and support:
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of messages…The knowledge of the affection in which my husband was held by all of you has sustained me, and the warmth of these tributes is something I shall never forget. Whenever I can bear to, I read them. All his bright light gone from the world.
Today, the condolence letters are housed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Because of the immense volume received in the weeks and years after the death of President Kennedy, the Library kept a representative sample of approximately 250,000 letters.
These letters are a reflection of what President Kennedy meant to the American people and citizens of the world. They remain as a transcript of the American experience at a time of great national grief.
See more condolence letters on the Pieces of History blog.
Image: Letter from Patricia Hall of Australia to Jacqueline Kennedy, November 23, 1963 (Kennedy Presidential Library)