Washington cries foul over JFK mementoes

An auction of John F Kennedy memorabilia in New York next week is certain to arouse keen interest - after all, the Kennedys are the nearest thing America has to a royal family. But as the 600-odd lots were unveiled yesterday, a hitch had arisen. Should some of them be on sale at all?

Among the hordes milling through Guernsey's, a small New York auction house, were men and women in suits from Washington. Their mission: to retrieve a number of items that officials believe belong to the nation.

The catalogue includes JFK's presidential yacht, Honey Fitz, which alone could fetch several million dollars, as well as his sailing boat Flash II. It also features a large number of items gathered by his White House secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, after his assassination. She died in 1995 and bequeathed her collection to a friend, Robert White, who hopes to build a museum from the sale's proceeds to house those mementoes he is not putting into the sale.

But Ms Lincoln may not have been entitled to all of what she laid her hands on. Yesterday, the National Archives started negotiating to have some lots withdrawn, including Kennedy's inauguration speech, a drop-leaf signing table, notes and correspondence on the Cuban crisis, a report to the nation about the 1961 Berlin crisis and the portable record player that the President took almost everywhere on his travels.

Members of the Kennedy family have also approached Guernsey's with worries about ownership. John F Kennedy Jr is believed to want some items given back to the family. Guernsey's head, Arlen Ettinger, appears unimpressed. "The Kennedy's have money. They can come and bid on anything they want," she remarked.

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