TIME psychology

Extraterrestrials on a Comet Are Faking Climate Change. Or Something

Just to be clear: This is a comet, not a spacecraft
Just to be clear: This is a comet, not a spacecraft ESA

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Conspiracy theories never die, but that doesn't mean we can't get smarter about dealing with them

You’ve surely heard the exciting news that the European Space Agency successfully landed a small spacecraft on the surface of Comet 67P—or perhaps we should say “Comet 67P.” Because what you probably haven’t heard is that the ostensible comet is actually a spacecraft, that it has a transmitting tower and other artificial structures on its surface, and that the mission was actually launched to respond to a radio greeting from aliens that NASA received 20 years ago.

Really, you can read it here in UFO Sightings Daily, and even watch a video that seals the deal if you have any doubt.

None of this should come as a surprise to you if you’ve been following the news. Area 51, for example? Crawling with extraterrestrials. The Apollo moon landings? Faked—because it makes so much more sense that aliens would travel millions of light years to visit New Mexico than that humans could go a couple hundred thousand miles to visit the moon. As for climate change, vaccines and the JFK assassination? Hoax, autism and grassy knoll—in that order.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. If the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the myriad libels hurled at myriad out-groups over the long course of history indicate anything, it’s that nonsense knows no era. The 21st century alone has seen the rise—but, alas, not the final fall—of the birthers and the truthers and pop-up groups that seize on any emerging disease (Bird flu! SARS! Ebola!) as an agent of destruction being sneaked across the border from, of course, Mexico, because… um, immigration.

The problem with conspiracy theories is not just that they’re often racist, foster cynicism and erode the collective intellect of any culture. It’s also that they can have real-world consequences. If you believe the fiction about vaccines causing autism, you will be less inclined to vaccinate your kids—exposing them and the community at large to disease. If you believe climate change is a hoax, you just might become the new chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, as James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma soon will be, thanks to the GOP’s big wins on Nov. 4.

That’s the same James Inhofe who once said, It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence… In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.” It’s the same James Inhofe too who wrote the 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. So, not good.

Clinical studies of conspiracy theory psychology have proliferated along with the theories themselves, and the top-line conclusions the investigators have reached make intuitive sense: People who feel powerless are more inclined to believe in malevolent institutions manipulating the truth than people who feel more of what psychologists call “agency,” or a sense of control over their own affairs.

That’s why the CIA, the media, the government and the vaguely defined “elite” are so often pointed to as the source of all problems. That’s why the lone gunman is a far less satisfying explanation for a killing than a vast web of plotters weaving a vast web of lies. (The powerlessness explanation admittedly does not account for an Inhofe—though in his case, Oklahoma’s huge fossil fuel industry may be all the explanation you need.)

Psychologist Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in London is increasingly seen as the leader of the conspiracy psychology field, and he’s been at it for a while. As long ago as 2009, he published a study looking at the belief system of the self-styled truthers—the people who claim that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government as a casus belli for global war.

He found that people who subscribed to that idea also tested high for political cynicism, defiance of authority and agreeableness (one of the Big Five personality traits, which also include extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism). Agreeableness sounds, well, pleasantly agreeable, but it can also be just a short hop to gullible.

In 2012, Swami conducted another study among Malaysians who believe in a popular national conspiracy theory about Jewish plans for world domination. Swami found that Malaysians conspiracists were likelier to hold anti-Israeli attitudes—which is no surprise—and to have racists feelings toward the Chinese, which is a little less expected, except that if there were ever a large, growing power around which to build conspiracy theories, it’s China, especially in the corner of the world in which Malaysia finds itself.

The antisemitic Malaysians also tended to score higher on measures of right-wing authoritarianism and social domination—which is a feature of almost all persecution of out-groups. More important—as other studies have shown—they were likelier to believe in conspiracy theories in general, meaning that the cause-effect sequence here may be a particular temperament looking for any appealing conspiracy, as opposed to a particular conspiracy appealing to any old temperament. People who purchased Jewish domination also liked climate change hoaxes.

Finally, as with so many things, the Internet has been both potentiator and vector for conspiracy fictions. Time was, you needed a misinformed town crier or a person-to-person whispering campaign to get a good rumor started. Now the fabrications spread instantly, and your search engine lets you set your filter for your conspiracy of choice.

None of this excuses willful numbskullery. And none of it excuses our indulgence in the sugar buzz of a sensational fib over the extra few minutes it would take find out the truth. If you don’t have those minutes, that’s why they invented Snopes.com. And if you don’t have time even for that? Well, maybe that should tell you something.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME JFK

JFK’s Assassination: How LIFE Brought the Zapruder Film to Light

Legendary editor Dick Stolley recalls how he tracked down and purchased the Zapruder film of JFK's assassination for LIFE magazine in 1963

Fifty years after the Warren Commission delivered its still-controversial findings about JFK’s assassination to President Lyndon Johnson, LIFE presents the story of how one-time LIFE magazine editor Richard Stolley flew to Dallas from Los Angeles within hours of the murder; how he tracked down a 58-year-old amateur-film buff named Abraham Zapruder; how he purchased Zapruder’s home movie of the assassination for LIFE — and what all of that ultimately came to mean for LIFE, for Zapruder, for Stolley himself and for the nation, then and now.

[In this video, Stolley recounts his grim, and ultimately historic, adventures in Dallas]

It’s unlikely that any 26 seconds of celluloid have ever been discussed and dissected as thoroughly as the chilling scene that Zapruder captured that day in Dallas, in a movie known ever after as “the Zapruder film.” The jittery color sequence showing JFK’s motorcade moving through the sunlit Dallas streets — leading up to the utterly shocking instant when a rifle bullet slams into the president’s head — is still, five decades later, one of the 20th century’s indispensable historical records.

Having flown from L.A. that afternoon, Stolley was in his hotel in Dallas just hours after the president was shot. “I got a phone call from a LIFE freelancer in Dallas named Patsy Swank,” Stolley recently told TIME producer Vaughn Wallace, “and the news she had was absolutely electrifying. She said that a businessman had taken an eight-millimeter camera out to Dealey Plaza and photographed the assassination. I said, ‘What’s his name?’ She said, ‘[The reporter who told her the news] didn’t spell it out, but I’ll tell you how he pronounced it. It was Zapruder.’

“I picked up the Dallas phone book and literally ran my finger down the Z’s, and it jumped out at me — the name spelled exactly the way Patsy had pronounced it. Zapruder, comma, Abraham.”

The rest is history: fraught, complex, riveting, unsettled history.


[Buy the LIFE book, The Day Kennedy Died]

[See photos from JFK and Jackie’s 1953 wedding]

[See photos from JFK’s funeral at Arlington]


TIME JFK

JFK’s Funeral: Photos From a Day of Shock and Grief

Fifty years after JFK's assassination shook the world, photos -- many of which never ran in LIFE magazine -- from his 1963 funeral

More than 50 years after the grisly fact, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few unmistakably signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as the rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on Nov. 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president.

There was Camelot — a media construct, of course, but a rarity in that it actually resonated with so many people, everywhere — and then there was the somber, profoundly uncertain period after Camelot. For countless millions in America and around the globe who lived through the near-surreal transition, the days and weeks after JFK’s assassination felt like a chilling, restless pause: a moment so charged with unease that even reflection, or taking stock, seemed impossible.

Here, LIFE.com features photographs (some never published in LIFE magazine) from the funeral held three days after John F. Kennedy was killed: Nov. 25, 1963, which was also his son John Jr.’s third birthday.

[Buy the LIFE book, The Day Kennedy Died]

“A woman knelt and gently kissed the flag,” LIFE magazine reported of the scene as JFK’s casket lay in state for two days after his assassination. “A little girl’s hand tenderly fumbled under the flag to reach closer. Thus, in a privacy open to all the world, John F. Kennedy’s wife and daughter touched at a barrier that no mortal ever can pass again.”

The next day, Kennedy’s body was taken “from the proudly impassive care of his honor guard” and was carried from the Capitol rotunda to Arlington National Cemetery.

“By a tradition that is as old as Genghis Khan,” LIFE noted, “a riderless horse followed” the flag-draped casket, “carrying empty boots reversed in the stirrups in token that the warrior would not mount again. . . . Through all this mournful splendor Jacqueline Kennedy marched enfolded in courage and a regal dignity. Then at midnight she came back again, in loneliness, to lay some flowers on her husband’s grave.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME

Meet America’s Most Successful Political Families

It's that time of year again: Bushes and Clintons galore are on the campaign trail supporting candidates who are up for election. Here's a look at America's most successful political dynasties

TIME White House

13 of JFK’s Wedding Negatives Have Been Auctioned for $37,000

Wedding Of John F. Kennedy And Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy outside St. Mary's Church in Newport, R.I., after their wedding on Sept. 12, 1953 Charles F. McCormick—Boston Globe/Getty Images

The images, depicting the newlyweds and the wedding party, were reportedly taken by photographer Frank Ataman

Thirteen original negatives of photographs taken at John F. Kennedy’s wedding were auctioned off on Wednesday for a sum of $37,073.

Boston-based RR Auction said the negatives, which have probably never been published, were sold to a Las Vegas doctor who chose to remain anonymous.

The images show Kennedy and his new bride, Jacqueline Bouvier, cutting their wedding cake and leaving the church, and a couple of others show the entire wedding party posing outside, the Associated Press reported.

The wedding took place on Sept. 12, 1953, in Newport, R.I., and was attended by nearly 2,000 people. Kennedy was still in his first term as a U.S. Senator, and wouldn’t go on to become President until more than seven years later.

According to RR Auction, the images were taken by freelance photographer Frank Ataman, although the negatives were found in another photographer’s darkroom.

Other items related to the Kennedys sold on Wednesday included a holiday card signed by the couple just days before the President’s November 1963 assassination. It fetched $19,500.

[AP]

TIME politics

The Wedding That Changed American History

Kennedy Wedding
Joseph P Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, on their wedding day in 1914 Getty Images

Rose Fitzgerald's father had doubts about Joseph Kennedy, but it's a good thing she didn't listen

Exactly 100 years ago, on Oct. 7, 1914, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, having just finished his term as mayor of Boston, walked his daughter Rose down the aisle to marry a guy he had doubts about. Sure, the bridegroom was then the youngest bank president in America, but Rose hadn’t dated around enough.

It’s a good thing she didn’t share her father’s doubts. The man waiting at the altar was Joseph Kennedy, and their wedding probably influenced the course of American history more than any before or since, thanks to the fruit of their union. Of their nine children, three became United States senators: Edward, known as Ted; Robert, who also became U.S. attorney general; and Jack — John F. Kennedy — who became a president of no small consequence.

The other children round out the epic American story. The oldest, Joe Jr., died a hero’s death in World War II. Kathleen married the heir to a Duke but lost him in the war less than a month after losing her big brother. Kathleen died at 28 in a plane crash in France. Patricia married a Hollywood leading man, and Jean married a shrewd businessman who became a trusted financial and campaign adviser to the family. Rosemary was intellectually disabled, which led sister Eunice to pursue a lifelong calling that effectively redefined popular understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities through such programs as the Special Olympics.

Joe and Rose were not a perfect couple by most standards. He was unfaithful, for years carrying on with film star Gloria Swanson. As parents, though, they did something indisputably right.

Of course, their children had the best education then available, from boarding schools to colleges like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. Joe famously led spirited dinner-table discussions of public affairs and drove them to fierce competitiveness in sport. With Rose’s Catholic faith as moral compass and Joe’s money as enabler, the children followed lives dedicated to public service.

And then there was sailing.

When he was president, JFK said privately that the family’s reputation for competitiveness, and his father’s insistence on winning at everything, was often overstated — except in that one arena. Most of the children were obsessive about sailing and winning races. Their parents bought them mostly small boats at first. When they became a family of ten, they named one of them Tenovus. With the birth of the youngest, Ted, the family named another boat, Onemore. In 1932, Joe and Rose bought their children a 25-ft. boat that Jack named Victura. The 15-year-old, a mediocre student of Latin, chose a word that meant “about to conquer.”

Jack and his big brother Joe later teamed up on the Harvard sailing team to win a major intercollegiate regatta. Not long after, they both went into the Navy, where Joe Jr. died and Jack narrowly survived a sinking of the boat under his command. Fifty years later, Ted said it was Jack’s experience on Victura that saved his life and most of his crew. Jack sailed Victura on Nantucket Sound through his presidency. Bobby and Ethel loved sailing it so much that a painting of the two of them sailing Victura hangs to this very day on the dining room wall of Ethel’s home at Hyannis Port. The painting was one of three of that boat, commissioned in 1963 by Kennedy sisters as Christmas presents for their three brothers. Jack did not live to receive his.

When Ted died in 2009, among the many eulogists were four who all told stories of sailing with Ted on Victura. By then 77 years had passed since Joe and Rose bought it. All the children of Joe and Rose, and the Kennedys who came after, told and still tell stories of sailing together. But the sailing was nothing, really, compared to the other things they did.

Before Jack died, he and his brothers loved talking about the space program that got us to the moon. Astronauts were sailing a “new ocean,” said Jack. Eunice campaigned tirelessly for her brothers and successfully made the capabilities of people with disabilities a cause all the family embraced, to this day. Now, together, they work on environmental causes, human rights and children’s interests.

To this day, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Joe and Rose continue to pursue public service and, yes, sailing. They race boats identical to Victura, even taking them the 30 miles between Nantucket and the very same moorings their grandparents used all those years ago.

James W. Graham is the author of, Victura: the Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea.

Read a 1960 profile of the Kennedy family, here in TIME’s archives: Pride of the Clan

TIME Opinion

Why JFK Conspiracy Theories Won’t Go Away

Lee Harvey Oswald
The November 23, 1963, mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald Hulton Archive / Getty Images

We’ve known the truth for 50 years, but many continue to deny the facts

Half a century ago today, the Warren Commission released its comprehensive 888-page report, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy. Since then, exhaustive investigations, such as those by Gerald Posner (Case Closed, 2002) and especially Vincent Bugliosi (Reclaiming History, 2007) have backed up that original finding: Oswald acted alone.

Nevertheless, according to a 2009 CBS News poll, between 60 and 80 percent of Americans believe that President Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy; that is, that there was more than one shooter in Dealy Plaza that November day in 1963.

Consider just a few of the many facts that are not in the conspiracy believers’ favor: Oswald’s Carcano bolt-action rifle — with his fingerprints on it — was found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building, where he was employed, in a sniper’s nest he built out of boxes that also had his fingerprints on them. Three bullet casings there match what 81% of eyewitnesses in Dealey Plaza reported hearing — three shots. (And tests with this rifle found that three shots are possible in the amount of time he had.) It was the same rifle Oswald purchased by mail order in March 1963. Co-workers saw him on the sixth floor of the Book Depository building shortly before JFK’s motorcade arrived, and saw him exit soon after the assassination. Oswald went home, picked up his pistol and left again, shortly after which he was stopped by Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippet, whom Oswald shot dead with four bullets, all witnessed by numerous observers. He then fled the scene and ducked into a nearby theater without paying. The police were summoned and Oswald was confronted. He pulled out his revolver and attempted to shoot the first officer but the gun failed and he was arrested, saying, “Well, it is all over now.”

So why, 50 years later, do the conspiracies persist? There are several psychological factors at work:

Cognitive dissonance. Big effects need big causes — we want balance between the size of the cause and the size of the effect. Example: The Holocaust is one of the worst crimes ever committed in history and its cause was the Nazi government, one of the most criminal regimes in history. There’s a balance. JFK was the most powerful political person on the planet, yet he was killed by a lone nut, a nobody living on the margins of a free society. There’s no balance. To reduce this dissonance and balance the scales, people have concocted countless co-conspirators (some 300 total) to stack on the “cause” side of the scale, including the KGB, Communists, radical right-wingers, the CIA, the FBI, the mafia, Castro, pro-Cuban nationalists, the Military Industrial Complex and even Vice-President Johnson (in a coup d’état). We saw a similar effect unfold when Princess Diana died. The cause of her death? Drunk driving, speeding, no seatbelt — but Princesses are not suppose to die of common causes. So, to dissipate the dissonance, conspiratorial cabals, everyone from the Royal family to the MI5 British intelligence agency, were conjectured to have been the real cause.

Anxiety. Psychological research also shows that when people are placed in environments or conditions in which they feel anxiety and a loss of control, they are more likely to see illusory patterns in random noise and to look to conspiracies as explanations for ordinary events. Sociological research has also found that natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes lead people to think that there are conspiratorial forces at work. The assassination of JFK was exceptionally disrupting and anxiety-producing, so it fits the bill.

Randomness. Another psychological factor at work is that the mind abhors randomness. We humans are terrible at understanding chance and probabilities. We find hidden patterns everywhere, even in purposefully random sequences and noise. And yet much of what goes on in life, in politics and in history at large is the product of chance and randomness. By this I do not mean to imply that JFK was killed by a random event, but that Oswald acting alone feels like a random factor when compared to a vast conspiratorial cabal plotting to overthrow the United States government.

Some conspiracy theories are real — Lincoln’s assassination, Watergate — so we should not dismiss them all out of hand without first examining the evidence. But once an unmistakable pattern unfolds before our eyes — as it has, for 50 years straight, in the case of JFK’s lone killer — it’s time to let the President RIP, for this conspiracy theory is DOA. QED.

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain. His next book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

TIME White House

Behind the Scenes: The Complete Kennedy Assassination Story in 9 Pages

Oct. 2, 1964, cover
The Oct. 2, 1964, cover of TIME TIME

Looking back on the Warren Commission Report, 50 years after its findings on the Kennedy assassination were released

Only a week had passed since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination when his successor in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed the Warren Commission to investigate the crime. The nation and its government wanted answers about what had happened, and the Commission was given the task of finding them, releasing their report 50 years ago Wednesday on Sept. 24, 1964.

In the form in which it was delivered to Johnson, the Warren Commission Report was 888 pages long, including photos and diagrams and, by TIME’s count, 706 pages of text.

For the reporters and writers at TIME, that length meant that efficiency was of the essence to publish a response ahead of the magazine’s weekly deadline. As recounted in the publisher’s note from the Oct. 2, 1964, issue, the staff was given a small head start:

While printing presses ran day and night to reprint the full document in various editions, our job was different: we went to work to excerpt the report, cull its most significant detail, and summarize its meaning in a special nine-page section.

The task began on Friday morning, 54 hours before the report’s official release and less than 36 hours before this issue was to go to press. In the Indian Treaty Room of Washington’s old Executive Office Building, advance copies were being handed out to the press from three pushcarts. Near the head of the line that had formed was John Brown, a messenger working for TIME’S Washington Bureau. He placed ten copies in a suitcase and headed for the airport. Less than two hours later, copies were turned over to a team assigned to prepare the special section—Nation Editor Champ Clark, Writers Marshall Loeb and William Johnson, Researchers Harriet Heck and Pat Gordon. They closed their doors and started reading the nearly 300,000 words.

About seven hours later, they were ready for a dinner conference with TIME’S managing editor. The entire section was written, edited, checked and in type not long after our usual press time on Saturday night.

“We worked through the night and into a second night,” recalls Marshall Loeb, now 85. “The mood was one of determination to get the story done.”

In addition to recounting the events that surrounded the assassination, the Commission’s report debunked the major conspiracy theories that had emerged in the year after that day. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. He and Jack Ruby had no connection. There was no foreign conspiracy, nor was there a domestic one.

But what the report lacked in scandal it made up for in detail. “Its great value comes from the thoroughness with which the Commission carried out its investigation, from its laying to rest many malignant rumors and speculations, and from its fascinating wealth of detail by which future historians can abide,” noted TIME’s story on the report.

Among those details were many that Loeb and his colleagues decided were worth highlighting for TIME’s readers. There was the clear plastic bubble that could have covered the convertible in which the President was driving, had it not been such a nice day. The fact that the plastic wasn’t actually bulletproof in the first place. The “chilling re-enactment of the assassination” that the Commission staged in order to make sure the car would have been visible from the Book Depository window. The list of characteristics of Oswald’s home life: an unusual attachment to his mother, delusions of grandeur, insistence that his wife could not smoke or drink or wear make-up. The Secret Service agents who were out drinking the night before. The failure to secure the buildings along the motorcade route.

“The Warren Commission Report piece was to be the definitive piece for TIME on the Kennedy assassination,” Loeb says, and everyone working on it knew so.

After the special issue was published, Loeb, who had first joined TIME in 1956, would end up spending 30 more years at Time Inc., retiring in 1994 from his job as managing editor of Fortune magazine. Following his retirement, he became editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. So it’s only fitting that, when he looks back on the Warren Commission Report piece, it’s with an editor’s eye that he sees the way those 36 hours of work have stood the test of 50 years.

“I think it was a well-done job — one, to focus the material and, two, picking out which areas of the report to focus on. To this very day, if someone picks up the Warren Commission Report, which is like a big book, and picks up one of our stories about the report, it will look very good,” Loeb says. “There were no huge errors discovered afterward — I mean years afterward, when there was plenty of time to examine it.”

Read TIME’s special section on the Warren Commission Report, free of charge, here in the archives: The Warren Commission Report

Watch a video report on how LIFE acquired Abraham Zapruder’s film of the JFK assassination: How LIFE Brought the Zapruder Film to Light

TIME Style

Jackie Kennedy’s Wedding Dress Almost Didn’t Make It to the Ceremony

JFK Wedding Announcement
The Kennedy wedding announcement in the Sept. 21, 1953, issue of TIME TIME

Sept. 12, 1953: John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier wed in Newport

Before feeling the glare of the spotlight as First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier shone in the society pages as the beautiful debutante daughter of an elite New England family. She was already a tastemaker with a reputation for “devil-may-care chic,” although it would be a few years before her every fashion statement was scrutinized on a national level, and before she would feel stung by a housewife’s comment in the New York Times Magazine that she looked “too damn snappy.”

But when the 24-year-old left behind a job as a photographer for the Washington Post and Times-Herald to marry the 36-year-old freshman Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, she wore a wedding dress she found neither chic nor snappy, according to the book What Jackie Taught Us. The ball gown, with a portrait neckline and a wide bouffant skirt adorned with wax flowers, bundled Jackie’s thin frame in 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta. She had wanted a simple dress with sleek, straight lines, but bowed to family pressure to wear something more traditional, despite thinking it looked like a lampshade.

When she wed John F. Kennedy on this day in 1953, she almost didn’t get to wear the dress after all. A week before the ceremony — at a Newport, R.I., Catholic church where the Archbishop of Boston led Mass and delivered a personal blessing from the Pope — Jackie’s dress and her bridesmaids’ pink taffeta gowns were drenched when a pipe burst in the designer’s New York studio. Designer Ann Lowe and her team worked around the clock to reproduce the wedding dress, which had originally taken eight weeks to cut and sew. They finished just in time, and the gown had its intended effect, stunning crowds at the ceremony and the reception, as well as readers of LIFE Magazine, which ran three pages of photos from the event.

According to the magazine’s 1953 story, “The Senator Weds: Young John F. Kennedy takes pretty photographer for bride,” the couple radiated an air of royalty:

Outside (the church), 2,000 society fans, some come to Newport by chartered bus, cheered the guests and the newlyweds as they left the church. There were 900 guests at the reception and it took Senator and Mrs. Kennedy two hours to shake their hands. The whole affair, said one enthusiastic guest, was “just like a coronation.”

Read a 1961 profile of the First Lady here, in TIME’s archives: Jackie

 

TIME U.S.

How Presidents Take Vacation

As Obama kicks off his Martha's Vineyard vacation, TIME looks at other presidential destinations. Fishing, golfing, time at the beach...in short, pretty much like the rest of us

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