Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses, JFK’s rocking chair among presidential auction ending Thursday


(The Hill) – Some “extremely rare” pieces of presidential history are being sold at auction, with everything from Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses to a John F. Kennedy rocking chair up for grabs.

“These are some of the finest specimens in the world,” said Joe Maddalena, executive vice president of  the Texas-based Heritage Auctions. “They’ve been locked away for decades in this collection. So it’s a really, really unique opportunity.”

Among the items that political history junkies can salivate over is the rocking chair that Kennedy, a then-senator, used to help manage his chronic back pain.

“He’s trying everything to be able to basically stand up,” Maddalena said of the 35th commander in chief. “He’s introduced to Dr. Janet Travell. He goes to her office and she has this rocking chair — which we’re selling — sitting in her office. And Kennedy sits in the rocking chair and he’s like, ‘Wow, my back feels better.’”

Travell later became the White House physician, the first woman in that role, and brought the same chair with her to treat Kennedy during his presidency.

The oak chair, which became known as the “Kennedy Rocker,” has an opening bid of $50,000 in the auction, which ends Thursday. Maddalena said he wouldn’t be surprised if the chair fetches more than $250,000.

Another bidder might get lucky with former President Harry Truman’s poker table.

Truman, an avid poker player, likely played his hand at many games at the octagon-shaped folding table, being auctioned starting at $10,000.

“Remember there’s no internet,” said Maddalena. “They sat around in the Cabinet Room and they played cards, and they talked, and smoked cigars and talked about the world, and the wars. It was a different world.”

Other items include Roosevelt’s famed eyeglasses and pages from a 1912 speech that saved the then-White House hopeful during an assassination attempt, Thomas Jefferson’s signed letters from the 1790s, Dwight Eisenhower’s Stetson hat and Abraham Lincoln’s desk from the Illinois State House where he first served in public office.

Maddalena sees the auctions as a unifying force — with bipartisan appeal, especially in the country’s hyper-politically fractured state.

The historic items “kind of level the playing field for this divisive world we’re kind of in right now and remind us of truly how important these moments in time were,” said Maddalena.

“This is a reminder of whence we came,” he said. “We’ve kind of gone far away from that. Maybe this will get you to bring your compass back a little straighter.”

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