Hemingway and Kennedy: What's the Connection?
When Mary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's widow, chose to give her late husband's papers to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, she did so as a gift to Hemingway scholars and readers around the world.
When Ernest Hemingway died in 1961, a large portion of his literary and personal estate remained at the Finca Vigia, his home in Cuba where he and Mary lived before Castro's revolution.
Through the intervention of President John F. Kennedy, Mary received permission to travel to Cuba, despite the break in relations between the two countries in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion. With Fidel Castro's personal approval she was able to ship crates of papers and paintings on a shrimp boat from Havana to Tampa, Florida.
Mary Hemingway considered numerous sites for the Hemingway Collection. In a 1968 agreement with Jacqueline Kennedy, who had an abiding interest in American arts and letters, Mary decided to donate all materials (including those that had been stored for years behind Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Florida, and at the Ritz Hotel in Paris) to the National Archives and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
When announcing the gift, the former First Lady noted that the Hemingway Collection would "fulfill our hope that the Library will become a center for the study of American civilization, in all its aspects, in these years."
The collection contains 90 percent of existing Hemingway manuscripts as well as family scrapbooks, 10, 000 photographs, and several thousand letters, making it the world's principal center for research on Hemingway's life and work.
In recent years, the Hemingway Collection has benefited from the generous support of Patrick Hemingway, the author's son, who continues to offer leadership and generous support to preserving and enhancing this unique literary collection.
Spring 2006, Vol. 38, No. 1
By Thomas Putnam
Researchers come to the Hemingway archives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library primarily to examine Ernest Hemingway's original manuscripts and his correspondence with family, friends, and fellow writers. But upon entering, it is hard not to notice the artifacts that ornament the Hemingway Room—including a mounted antelope head from a 1933 safari, an authentic lion-skin rug, and original artwork that Hemingway owned.
Though not as conspicuous, one object on display is far more consequential: a piece of shrapnel from the battlefield where Hemingway was wounded during World War I. Had the enemy mortar attack been more successful that fateful night, the world may never have known one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Conversely, had Hemingway not been injured in that attack, he not may have fallen in love with his Red Cross nurse, a romance that served as the genesis of A Farewell to Arms, one of the century's most read war novels.
Hemingway kept the piece of shrapnel, along with a small handful of other "charms" including a ring set with a bullet fragment, in a small leather change purse. Similarly he held his war experience close to his heart and demonstrated throughout his life a keen interest in war and its effects on those who live through it.