John F. Kennedy discusses strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.
Not published in LIFE. John F. Kennedy discusses strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.Paul Schutzer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
John F. Kennedy discusses strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.
Scene from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.
Scene in West Virginia from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.
John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, 1960.
Scene in West Virginia from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.
Scene from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.
A JFK and LBJ supporter in Mount Clemens, Michigan, October 1960.
John F. Kennedy and unidentified boy, 1960.
John F. Kennedy in Grand Prairie, Texas, September, 1960.
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
Richard Nixon, telephone booth, 1960.
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
John F. Kennedy campaign, Texas, 1960.
John F. Kennedy braves an autumn chill while campaigning in an open car at night in Illinois, 1960.
Jackie Kennedy, 1960.
John and Jackie Kennedy, Massachusetts, 1960.
John F. Kennedy during his campaign for president, 1960.
On a drive through Illinois, Paul Schutzer turns his camera on his colleagues in the press, 1960.
John F. Kennedy on the stump, October, 1960.
John F. Kennedy gazes out on New York Harbor from a ferry, October 1960.
John F. Kennedy, 1960.
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960
John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960.
The day after an election in which he bested Nixon by a miniscule 113,000 votes out of more than 68 million ballots cast, president-elect Kennedy gave a brief victory speech at the Hyannis Armory, Nov. 1960.
Not published in LIFE. John F. Kennedy discusses strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.
Paul Schutzer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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JFK on the Campaign Trail, 1960: Photos of a President in the Making

Oct 14, 2013

In stark, revealing contrast to the glamorous, effortless Kennedy of popular myth, John F. Kennedy on the stump was a tough, savvy campaigner. Well aware that much of the country distrusted almost everything about him — his Massachusetts-liberal politics, his Boston accent, his Roman Catholicism — like any good politician he set about winning over skeptics by employing the very gifts that generated such suspicion in those who knew little about him. He charmed. He cajoled. At times (in back-room negotiations with other pols) he browbeat and he bullied.

[Buy the LIFE book, The Day Kennedy Died.]

And on November 8, 1960, John Kennedy was elected president of the United States, defeating Richard Nixon in one of the closest national elections of the 20th century. At 43, Kennedy was (and remains) the youngest person elected to the office, and it was largely this quality in the man and his family — an engaging, youthful dynamism — that so captured the imagination of millions across the country and, ultimately, across the world.

As Kennedy and his team ran a heady, propulsive campaign unlike any America had seen, LIFE's best photographers (Paul Schutzer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Silk and others) were there, chronicling the grind of never-ending public appearances and the quieter moments JFK spent with advisers, with Jackie and — rarest of all — alone, with his own thoughts.

Here, LIFE.com presents photos — none of which ran in LIFE magazine — chronicling an enigmatic, intensely ambitious man making history.

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