The Real Story Behind Hy Peskin’s Camelot

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 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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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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