by Brandon Wolf
Exclusive to Pinkpillbox.com
December 3, 2014
In Search of the Pink Pillbox
As outlined in Part 1, Jackie’s pink pillbox hat is missing. Torn off by her own doing in the nightmarish dash to Parkland Hospital. The famous pink suit topper passed through several hands that day before last being seen in the White House Map around 8 pm. So what happened?
Possibilities, and Their Probabilities
Now, here are some examples of developing possibilities about what happened to the hat that day:
Caroline and John Jr.'s Secret Service Agent Robert Foster may have taken the bag and given it to Providencia Parades, Mrs. Kennedy’s personal/wardrobe assistant:
- Probability: Low
- Foster and Paredes were known to be good friends. But if he had given her the hat, why wouldn’t Provi have included in it the box that went to Janet Auchincloss’? She would have been in possession of the hat nearly 12 hours before she had access to the suit.
Agent Foster may have just put the envelope down in the Map Room, and left it there:
- Probability: Low
- Secret Service agents are taught to do things by the book. Since the bag was supposed to go to Hill, it seems likely Foster would have made sure it got to Hill – most likely by giving it back to the guard.
Agent Foster may have given the envelope back to the White House guard, who took it back to the guard office:
- Probability: High
- This has more logic to it. Even in the midst of a crisis such as this, Secret Service agents (and the White House police are part of the Secret Service) are taught to be in control and to do things by the book.
Jackie's Secret Service Agent Clint Hill picked up the envelope from the guard office:
- Probability: Low.
- In a 2011 article, Hill is quoted as saying he gave it to Mary Gallagher. That would seem to imply he never saw it again.
Jackie's secretary Mary Gallagher decided to reclaim the bag, in the possibility that no one else would sign for it:
- Probability – Low
- Mary has been known to sell items that belonged to Jackie (including a slip), to make money for her retirement years. But she is no fool, and that hat would be a hot potato to suddenly emerge with. However, she has adopted a policy of never answering any questions about the hat anymore. That may just be a matter of being tired of answering it again and again. But it has cast suspicion on her as the holder of the hat. Even if she did have it, it legally belongs to the family. That would leave her with selling it on the black market. Mary may have her flaws, but I don’t believe that would be one of them.
The White House guard office kept the envelope to give to Agent Hill:
- Probability: Medium to High
- In the emotional climate following the assassination, the guard never got around to giving it to Hill. That would also be a hard piece of wardrobe to give back to Jackie (even through a surrogate), thinking it would upset her. Sometimes decisions are made simply by not deciding. So it may have sat in a file drawer for a year, and then shipped out with an annual dispensing of no longer current files, to the National Archives. If so, it would have been included in the list of items in that archival box.
It may have been placed in the guard office ‘lost and found’:
- Probability: Medium
- With no one wanting to deliver the hat to Mrs. Kennedy, it just sat there by default in the Lost and Found, and was finally shipped off with other lost and found items during an annual file purge to the National Archives. Since it would be listed on an inventory of the box, the office may have felt that “There’s a trail, if anyone ever asks.” Managers and staff change over time, and after a decade no one may have known it was there in the Archives.
An unscrupulous guard may have realized at some point that no one was claiming the envelope, and simply took it home:
- Probability: Medium
- Owning a piece of history or selling it on the black market are two reasons for doing such a thing – the first motive fairly innocent – the second motive greedy. People are capable of anything – morgue staff members have been known to sell photos of famous people in their morgues. People are also capable of forgetting about things. So the hat could be in an attic somewhere, forgotten. Or it might be locked in a special vault owned by someone rich and powerful who sees owning it as a symbol of greatness.
On-Line and In-Person Research through the National Archives and Presidential Libraries
Probably the most important thing to establish first is if there a record of the hat package being logged in by the White House Police on 11-22-63. If that information is found, it would hopefully also have information as to who signed for it.
White House Police office records are available through the National Archives. However, they have been given to the Presidential Library for the period of time matching when that particular President was in office.
I contacted the Kennedy Library, and they have records, but most are not digitized, and require a researcher to personally study them at the Library. The Library said they did not have a research staff to do independent research projects, such as looking for a sign-in log. Link to the Library's Secret Service records.
If it was established that the package was logged in, hopefully the name of the officer would be on that log. A search for the officer could begin, and he could be questioned about what happened to the hat.
As for checking archive boxes or lost and found boxes, that would probably switch to the Johnson Library, because it would have happened under his administration.
In addition, anything having to do with the assassination now has to be stored at one facility of the Archives. But it’s hard to see the hat as relevant to the assassination. Link to the National Archive records of the Secret Service.
The following items that are kept by the National Archives relating to the White House Secret Service details are:
87.3 Records of White House Secret Service Details (1902-69):
Textual Records: Microfilm copy of daily reports of agents on White House detail, 1902-36 (4 rolls). Records relating to the safety of the President, 1933-45 (in Roosevelt Library); 1945-53 (in Truman Library); and 1952-61 (in Eisenhower Library). Appointment slips for visitors, 1961-63 (in Kennedy Library); and 1963-69 (in Johnson Library). Gate logs, 1961-63 (in Kennedy Library). Presidential movement logs, 1963-69 (in Johnson Library). Executive Protective Service White House and Executive Office Building work project reports, 1964-68 (in Johnson Library).
Related Records: Papers of individual Secret Service agents and high-level officials (in Hoover, Eisenhower, and Johnson Libraries). Oral history interviews of Secret Service Agents James J. Rowley and Rufus W. Youngblood (in Johnson Library). Gate logs and appointment slips for visitors, 1974-77 (in Ford Library).
Continuing the Search:
The trail of the missing hat is the stuff that books are written about. Active investigation could uncover interesting leads that point to other leads.
It would be helpful to interview all the current Kennedy agents still alive and ask about those days. Did any of them ever hear about the hat? And what was the White House Police office like? Was it tightly or loosely run? Was it a place things could get lost easily, or could they always be counted on? And did they fire anyone for unethical behavior during late 1963 or early 1964?
Perhaps the hat was victim to a simple careless mistake – someone throwing it out accidentally. Perhaps it was destroyed purposely by someone in the inner circle who wanted Jackie to never have to confront it again.
Or perhaps, it is right in front of us and we don’t know it yet. Jackie said as much about the nature of historical preservation in the White House tour. She saved a Monroe period table for the Blue Room, which she had been hidden away in White House storage for years.
So the search is on.
Imagine the feeling of opening an archive box and pulling out a heavy large envelope and looking inside and discovering the vibrant raspberry pink hat. What a find for history.
Image source: Kennedy Library. Graphic by Steven L. Brawley/Jake Gariepy.