10 Shocking Things You Didn’t Know About The Kennedys

An intimate peek into the Kennedy White House.

Learn more about Upstairs at the White House by J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz, and discover more noteworthy Kennedy titles here.

1. Jackie Kennedy and Mamie Eisenhower were not fast friends.

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“Mrs. Eisenhower kept the Queen’s Room as a special guest room, and you had to be a Queen to sleep there. She didn’t think Mrs. Kennedy fit that requirement.” (p. 171, Upstairs at the White House)

2. The Kennedys were moved into the White House in 2 hours.

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“White House tradition also has it that not one box, not one dressing table, not one book of the new President’s must enter the mansion until he is duly sworn in. And [they] make it a point of pride to do all the moving, unpacking, hanging-up and putting-away, installing the new President in his home within those two hours of his Inaugural ceremony.” (p. 172, Upstairs at the White House)

3. Style icon Jackie O rarely wore dresses in everyday life.

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“After greeting her children, Mrs. Kennedy dressed in pants and a sweater or shirt… and took a brisk hour’s walk, alone, around the sixteen acres of White House grounds.” (p. 178, Upstairs at the White House)

4. Jackie spent her free afternoons like a college student.

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“If she had no appointments or visitors, she joined the children in the ‘high-chair room,’ where they had lunch, then she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, served to her in bed, before her nap.” (p. 178, Upstairs at the White House)

5. JFK spent his free afternoons like a college athlete.

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“President Kennedy left the office at 1:30 every afternoon, he stopped by the pool, shed his clothes, swam nude for half an hour, wrapped himself in a towel-robe, and padded through the exercise room, through the banks of flowers, through the ground-floor corridor, to an elevator which took him upstairs, where he shed his robe, climbed into bed, and ate lunch (usually a hamburger or a glass of Metrecal) from a tray.” (p. 179, Upstairs at the White House)

6. The volume of JFK’s laundry may have exceeded Jackie’s.

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Because he swam twice a day, “John F. Kennedy wore three separate suits of clothes every day of his White House life.” (p. 180, Upstairs at the White House)

7. Sometimes the First Lady was undressed by someone other than her husband.

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One of Jackie Kennedy’s maids said: “I’m sure glad I was here last night. She couldn’t have gotten out of that ballgown by herself if her life depended on it. There were so many buttons on that thing and hooks and all—why, I’m sure she’d have had to sleep in it.”

From then on, she stayed late at the White House whenever there was a special occasion. (p. 181, Upstairs at the White House)

8. The Kennedy White House polluted the Potomac River – and it was legal!

White House Museum

“Following the 1929 law, every broken piece of china or silver had been stored in a special cupboard in the White House butler’s pantry until inventory time at the end of the year. When they were duly recorded as broken, we ceremoniously carted them off to the carpenter’s room, where we smashed the broken or chipped pieces with a sledgehammer.” And they sent a butler to toss it all off Hains Point, into the Potomac River. (p. 208, Upstairs at the White House)

9. JFK got lost in the White House.

Upstairs at the White House

“At approximately the correct moment, the President and his guests came down on the elevator. Instead of stepping into the Blue Room, however, John F. Kennedy marched his guests directly into the pantry! With his usual aplomb, the President laughed and backed out again. ‘Oh, this is another room I wanted to show you,’ he said to the Danes.” (p. 220, Upstairs at the White House)

10. Jackie Kennedy asked her staff members to cross-dress.

Upstairs at the White House

Mrs. Kennedy said to J. B. West, Chief Usher of the White House, “You’re going to wear these to the party and be Miss Ward, our housemother from Miss Porter’s school. And I want you to put a sign around your neck saying, ‘Miss Ward,’ so people will know who you are.” (p. 240, Upstairs at the White House)

Learn more about Upstairs at the White House by J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz, and find more noteworthy Kennedy titles here.

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