The Real Story Behind Hy Peskin’s Camelot

JFK and Jackie on Kennedy yacht
Hy Peskin // Fair Use

A nation that had suffered through a Great Depression, a Second World War, and years of rebuilding was finally ready to look toward a more hopeful future. And for many, the first glimpse of that new frontier came when rookie Senator John F. Kennedy and his fiancée Jacqueline Lee Bouvier graced the cover of LIFE magazine for the July 20, 1953 issue.

Though the Kennedy family wasn’t new to the national stage, a young John Kennedy was. He had just settled into his new role as U.S. senator from Massachusetts after the 1952 election, and he was due to marry Bouvier later in 1953. Joseph P. Kennedy—his father and the Kennedy clan's patriarch—was a master at crafting a political image and knew that he needed the perfect outlet to present his son and his beautiful bride-to-be to the nation. In 1953, a photospread in LIFE magazine was about as big as you could get.

Televisions still weren't a staple in American households, with sets in only around 44 percent of homes. Print was the way most people got their news, and, more importantly, one of the only ways they actually saw the politicians they were voting for.

Joseph Kennedy jumped at the opportunity, inviting LIFE, and famed sports photographer Hy Peskin, to the family’s compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, for a weekend to capture the couple at their most radiant and welcoming. It was set to be a coming-out party for JFK as he went from an ambassador’s son, to Representative, to national figure.

The spread featured a casual look at the family’s life, with Jackie playing baseball in the backyard, John skipping stones on the beach, and the extended Kennedy family asking the future First Lady how he proposed to her. For a political image-maker like Joe Kennedy, this was a goldmine.

As eye-catching as those interior images were, nothing could compare to the cover picture, now known as Camelot. Here, John looked self-assured and at home on his boat, the Victura, while Jackie was positively beaming next to him. This couple—nearly crackling with energy—was in sharp contrast to the conventional, and highly polished, political photos at the time. Gone were the stuffy suits, dusty libraries, and cold offices; these Kennedys were living a life any reader would envy.

When the magazine hit stands, John F. Kennedy was still credited as “Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy’s son,” but the grace and confidence he and Jackie showed on that cover turned them into something much more. Though the public didn’t know it quite yet, they were witnessing the first moments of a political dynasty.

The real story behind the photos, however, isn’t quite as effortless. The shoot had to be perfect, which meant everything was overseen by the Kennedy elders, including Joe and Rose. Jackie may have looked like a natural on that boat, but that was far from how it really happened.

“They just shoved me into that boat long enough to take the picture,” she said to a friend, as revealed in the book Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea. Rose would even tell her how she should be posed, and TIME described Jackie as having “bristled at the intrusion.” Yet thanks to Peskin's skill behind the lens, the whole weekend came off so naturally and charming, you would never have known that you were looking at anything less than authentic.

Camelot was more about branding than spontaneity, but it worked. It created a public fascination with this new young couple—a couple that was getting ready to lead a new generation of Americans into the future.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Was Route 66 Decommissioned?

David Winkler, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
David Winkler, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Very little inspires nostalgia for the golden age of road trips the way Route 66 does. The roadway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, which first opened in 1926, was clearly designed with convenience and efficiency in mind, as it connected small towns with major thoroughfares throughout its 2448-mile stretch. By the 1950s, America's "Mother Road"—with its roadside tourist traps, charming drive-ins, and kitschy hotels—had become a major tourist attraction in and of itself.

Route 66 inspired John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, was the basis for a popular television series, and supported countless small business owners who served vacationers as they passed through. So how did the beloved Main Street of America fall into a state of disrepair and disuse less than 30 years after the height of its popularity?

Three words: the Eisenhower Interstate.

During WWII, General Eisenhower saw how efficient the German Autobahn was. In 1956, President Eisenhower enacted the Federal Interstate Act, which called for the construction of four-lane highways to make crossing the U.S. more efficient, eliminate traffic congestion, and make it easier to evacuate big cities in the event of a nuclear attack.

Unfortunately for Route 66 and the people who depended on it, the Federal Interstate Act meant that parts of the Mother Road had to be upgraded, replaced, or bypassed entirely. By the 1970s, the original route had been almost entirely chopped up; on June 27, 1985, the all-American roadway was decommissioned.

Much of the actual Route still remains—85 percent, in fact. The famous Wigwam Motel and other attractions still stand, helped in part by the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, which was launched in 1999. You may see more of the route being revitalized in the coming years, too. In 2015, several preservation organizations combined to form the U.S. 66 Highway Association, an organization dedicated to preserving the roadway and all of its architecture, historic sites, and attractions.

Perhaps by its 2026 centennial, the Mother Road will once again serve millions of Americans headed west for adventure.

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