Friday, November 22, 2013


Curious as to what the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination had inspired in the way of person-to-person commerce, I decided to peruse the “sold” listings on eBay.
Which is how I found myself looking down the barrel of a roll of teletype.
This original United Press International transmission of November 22, 1963, was from the newsroom of KPIX in San Francisco. An anchorman at the station had kept the roll since that day. Recorded on it, are the events as they unfolded, background information, updates, and responses to the news from around the world.
So, along with learning that the New York Stock Exchange had ceased trading as of 2:07 p.m., and that that the Mexican government announced it would close its border with Texas for 72 hours, we get a first hand account of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as President on Air Force One. There is a dispatch from Ireland that “men and women dropped to their knees in the crowded streets of Dublin to begin reciting the rosary” and a message from West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, “I feel as if a light has gone out, gone out for all men who hoped for peace and freedom and a better life …”
UPI White House Reporter Merriman Smith received the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the assassination. His personal account of the day, which you can read here, needless to say, is fascinating. He describes what it was like being four cars back from the president’s bubble-top limousine when the shots rang t.
Our car stood still for probably only a few seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime. One sees history explode before one's eyes and for even the most trained observer, there is a limit to what one can comprehend.
Smith takes you through the rest of his day—to Parkland Hospital and then onto Air Force One, where he and Charles Roberts of Newsweek are the only two reporters on the flight back to D.C.

UPI probably reached some 6,000 subscriber news organizations at that time, so the one pictured above is hardly the only ancient scroll to have survived.

Below are snippets from this and another teletype that sold recently.

Obviously, an early report, which no one ran to immediately blurt out on the air before getting more information.

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