A wedding ring belonging to Lee Harvey Oswald, the man behind the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, is one of 290 items of Kennedy memorabilia being auctioned off in Boston this week.
The ring is one of the more curious items in the auction, which is being organized by the New Hampshire auction house RR Auction, with live bidding beginning at noon ET Thursday at the Omni Parker House hotel in Boston.
Oswald bought the gold band in 1961 in Minsk, Belarus, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time, for his Russian wife Marina Prusakova. Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union earlier that year but returned to the U.S. with his new wife in 1962 and settled in Dallas.
The day of the assassination, Oswald left the ring on his wife's night stand after spending a night at the home outside Dallas she shared with her friend Ruth Paine. The couple was separated at the time and although Oswald visited regularly, his arrival on Nov. 21, 1963, was unexpected because it was a day earlier than his usual visits, his widow writes in a letter documenting the history of the ring that accompanies the item.
RR Auction executive vice-president Bobby Livingston told Reuters news agency that the ring is historically significant in part because it attests to Oswald's state of mind at the time — the fact that he purposefully left it on the night stand as he headed to the Texas School Book Depository where he worked and from where he shot the president suggests he knew he would not be coming back.
"This is the ring that Oswald takes off right before he goes to work," Livingston said in an interview with Reuters.
After the assassination, it was confiscated by the U.S. Secret Service and eventually wound up among the files of a Texas lawyer who had represented Marina Oswald, who later remarried and changed her last name to Oswald Porter.
It was found by a researcher looking into JFK's assassination and only returned to Oswald's widow in 2012.
"That is the only item of Lee’s that has been returned to me, and it took almost 50 years," she writes in a letter accompanying the item in the auction. "At this time of my life, I don’t wish to have Lee’s ring in my possession because, symbolically, I want to let go of my past that is connecting with Nov. 22, 1963."
The ring's provenance was verified in part through a small stamp on the inside of the band depicting a star with a tiny hammer and sickle at its centre.
Online bidding on items in the auction has already begun and ends at 12:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. Bidding on the wedding ring began at $2,500 US and had reached $32,541 by 10 a.m. ET.
Other items in the auction include:
- Kennedy's presidential limousine.
- A monogrammed shaving kit and golf balls used by the former president.
- Clothing and shoes worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.
- The sixth-floor corner window from the Texas School Book Depository from which Oswald is believed to have shot the president.
- A revolver belonging to Oswald.
- A hat and suit jacket belonging to Jack Ruby, the notorious mobster who fatally shot Oswald as he was being transferred from Dallas police headquarters two days after Kennedy's assassination.
- Assorted documents and photographs relating to Kennedy's presidency, his home life and his assassination.