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May 29, 2023

Amazing Photographs of Young John F. Kennedy During His Summer Tour Through Europe in 1937

In 1937 John F. “Jack” Kennedy took a 2-month tour of Europe with his friend Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings. In his diary of the trip, he kept a list of all their overnight stays. He made the entry: “Hague – Salvation Army – 40 cents.” So no top-of-the-bill accommodation for the future president of the United States of America.

John Kennedy was at that time a Harvard University student and he wanted to see the Old World. As the threat of war in Europe grew larger, his father (soon to become U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) advised him to go “before the shooting starts.”

John and Lem set off on June 30 1937. In New York Harbor, their Ford convertible was hoisted aboard the liner Washington. The crossing and transport were quite expensive, but once in Europe,  they didn’t spend much money on accommodations or food. They stayed in cheap hotels and hostels, including those of the Salvation Army.

They traveled amongst others through France, Italy and Germany. The visit to The Netherlands occurred at the end of their tour.

In Germany they added a dog to their company, a Dachshund they named ‘’Dunker.” John adored the animal and if it had been up to him, he would have bought another one. But it turned out he was allergic, so they had to sell their companion in The Netherlands.

Earlier that same year, The Netherlands had celebrated the marriage of Princess Juliana to Prince Bernhard. Images of this royal wedding had also reached the US and apparently had stuck in John’s mind. In a letter to his mother he wrote that everybody in The Netherlands looked like Juliana and Bernhard. He starts the letter with the joke: “We are now at The Hague, visiting Princess Juliana”.

Jack and Lem visited The Hague’s city centre and went to Scheveningen and its harbor. At the end of their second day, they sold the Dachshund and then set out for Antwerp.

The tour ended in England and Scotland, where Jack and Lem visited with family and friends and went shopping in preparation for the upcoming academic year.

Both were worn out from their European adventure. Lem had caught a cold in July by swimming in the Loire River at Chenonceau and Jack developed his own problems in Southampton on August 27 while saying goodbye to his mother and siblings Joe and Kick as they departed for America.

Jack and Lem sailed out of Southampton on September 10 and were back on U.S. soil on September 16.

In this photo Jack is having his luggage gone through. He is going on his 1937 tour of Europe with his friend Lem Billings.

John F. Kennedy at the Château de Chambord, France, July 19, 1937.

John F. Kennedy at Carcassonne, France, July 29, 1937.

John F. Kennedy in Cannes, France, July 31, 1937.

John F. Kennedy at the Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy, August 4, 1937.

John F. Kennedy at the Plaza de San Marco in Venice, Italy, August 15, 1937.

John F. Kennedy feeds the pigeons at the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy.

John F. Kennedy juggling in Nuremberg, Germany, August 20, 1937.

John F. Kennedy in the Hague, Netherlands, August 24, 1937.

John F. Kennedy and two German soldiers near Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, August 8, 1937.

John F. Kennedy and Lem Billings with the dog Dunker/Offie in the Hague, Netherlands, August 24, 1937.

John F. Kennedy with his dog Dunker during his summer tour in the Hague, Netherlands, 1937.

John F. Kennedy with his dog Dunker during his summer tour in the Hague, Netherlands, 1937.

Photos of “The Dunker,” etc., Lem Billings scrapbook, 1937.

Photos of the dog, Dunker/Offie, Lem Billings scrapbook, 1937.


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