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Life magazine cover featuring John F. Kennedy's funeral

Millions of Americans can never forget where they were or what they were doing when they heard that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Kennedy's death and the subsequent period of mourning transfixed the nation, in part because television brought the events clearly, immediately, and constantly into American homes.

Kennedy's death ended the optimism that emanated from the youth, idealism, and energy of his administration. As the nation mourned, the Kennedy family turned to the rituals and practices of official remembrance first practiced after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.



Drum played at John F. Kennedy's funeral
This is one of four drums that played a muffled cadence during the funeral procession of John F. Kennedy. His family looked to history to help shape the funeral and mourning ceremonies. The drum was modeled after one used during the American Revolution.

Lent by U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Army

Master Sergeant Vincent Battista, a member of the United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own," at Fort Myer, Virginia, was one of the drummers in President Kennedy's funeral procession.

John F. Kennedy lying in state
Many of the public's memories about the Kennedy assassination stem from visual images of the event, like this photograph of the late president lying in state in the Capitol rotunda.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Closing sign, National Museum of American History
The assassination of John F. Kennedy curtailed many activities. Stores, government offices, factories, and museums closed. People rushed to buy magazines and mementos that would allow them to have a concrete expression of their grief. And most Americans huddled around the television to see the latest news updates.
Funeral program
After the Kennedy assassination, there was an official mourning period of thirty days, ending with a service at the Lincoln Memorial. But for most Americans, the funeral held on November 25th, 1963, was the most poignant and memorable event.
Kennedy memorial service program


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