John F. Kennedy is an American icon. These 21 colour photos helped define his legacy

  • John F. Kennedy prominent family background, elite education, and high-profile political career made him an American icon of the 1960s.
  • Kennedy’s highly publicized life came with cameras following him at his family home in Massachusetts and at work in Washington.

After graduating from Harvard, serving in the Navy, and being elected to Congress at 29, John F. Kennedy established himself as an American legend before dying as the youngest president in history.

Since Kennedy was born into a privileged family that was well known in American politics and society, he spent most of his life on and off the job in the public eye.

See some of the most iconic colour pictures from his life:

Kennedy was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1947 and the Senate in 1953, where he served until 1960. Then-Senator Kennedy is pictured here at his desk in Boston, Massachusetts in August 1956.

Source: US Senate

Then Senator John F. Kennedy is pictured with Jackie Lee Bouvier on June 27, 1953 in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, months before their lavish wedding.

Source: Town & Country

Kennedy was a rising star in the Senate, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his book on the immense pressures and interests lawmakers confront, titled “Profiles in Courage.”


Source: US Senate

The senator and his young family were often at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, pictured here in July 1960 with three-year-old daughter Caroline.

Source: Town & Country

The family spent time at the compound in all seasons, and are pictured here at Hyannisport in November 1960.

Kennedy was friendly with other Democrats who had eyes on the presidency, as he is pictured here on July 10, 1960 in Beverly Hills with Adlai Stevenson and Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who would become his vice president.

Source: New York Times archive

Alongside then-Senator Kennedy for the July 1960 Democratic National Convention was his brother Robert Kennedy, who would become one of his closest advisers in the administration.

Kennedy was swarmed by supporters in Los Angeles at the convention, where he would accept the Democratic nomination for president with remarks before a roaring audience.

Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Some complications with Jacqueline’s pregnancy largely prevented her from joining candidate Kennedy on the campaign trail, but she made one appearance in New York City in the back of an open car in October 1960.


Though she wasn’t always by his side, Jacqueline supported her husband’s bid with occasional television spots and a weekly newspaper column that appeared nationwide, called “Campaign Wife.”

Source: INSIDER, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Kennedy and Nixon’s 1960 runoff for the presidency made history with the first televised debates, like this October 21, 1960 broadcast.

Source: History

Kennedy’s campaign appearances drew crowds for stops across the country, like this speech on October 26, 1960 in Chicago, Illinois.

President-elect Kennedy began celebrating his election victory before he travelled from New York City to Washington, DC to be sworn in. On the way, he was photographed reviewing a draft of his inauguration speech.

The first year of Kennedy’s presidency included several dramatic happenings like the Freedom Riders movement, Bay of Pigs Invasion, creation of the Peace Corps, and putting the first American in space.

Source: University of Virginia Miller Center for Public Affairs

Throughout his time in Washington, Kennedy was able to escape the pressure of the office by travelling to Hyannisport with his family, like here with daughter Caroline in 1962.

The press followed the president abroad to West Berlin, Germany in 1963, where Kennedy toured the city with Mayor Willy Brandt.

The Kennedy family gathered for Easter at the Palm Beach home of the president’s father on April 14, 1963.

The Kennedy children made regular appearances around the White House, like John Jr.’s outside walk with his father.

The president and first lady were captured in what would be his final moments riding through Dallas November 22, 1963.