Five Interesting Facts About Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis That You Probably Didn't Know
She was without question one of the most glamorous women of the Twentieth Century. The widow of both a President of the United States and of one of the world's wealthiest businessmen, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis practically defined style.
We know about the pillbox hats and the White House redecorating program. Here are some fun and interesting facts about Jackie Kennedy that you probably don't know.
1. As a Teenager She Spent Several Summers Feeding Chickens
One would be hard pressed to come up with a better image of a woman of breeding than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, Long Island. Her parents, Janet and Jack Bouvier, were from New York City, however, and that was where Jackie and her younger sister Lee were raised. Jackie was to make New York her home for most of her life and was very much a city girl.
By 1940 Jackie's parents had divorced, and in 1942 her mother married Hugh D. Auchincloss, who was born on a farm. Granted that farm was Hammersmith Farm in tony Newport, Rhode Island, with over 75 acres and a manor house consisting of 28 rooms -- large enough for John and Jackie Kennedy to hold their wedding reception there in 1953. The property was nevertheless a working farm, which during World War II provided victuals for Newport's thriving naval base. Jackie spent several summers there as a teenager, and because the war had left Auchincloss short-handed, it fell to her to feed the farm's 2,000 chickens and gather up their eggs. When she wasn't doing farm chores Jackie would go down to the bay and watch the ships coming in and out of the naval base.
2. She Was a Chain Smoker
Almost as unimaginable as Jackie Kennedy having a bag of chicken feed in her hand is her having a cigarette, but Jackie Kennedy had a three-pack-a-day habit that lasted for over forty years. Photographs of her smoking (or getting ready to) exist but they are extremely rare. One of the reasons was her prerogative as First Lady. If she told people not to take a photo, then no photograph was taken. She also made sure that people didn't refer to her habit in print, either. When William Manchester was writing The Death of a President , he made a reference to Jackie at Parkside Hospital fishing a cigarette out of her purse. It was one of many passages Jackie insisted that he cut out of the final draft.
Those who knew her, though, were well aware of her habit. Lyndon Johnson, for example, always made sure that the LBJ Ranch was well-stocked with Salems -- Mrs. Kennedy's brand of choice -- whenever she visited.
After she married Aristotle Onassis, Jackie became a bit less protective of her image, but she still smoked, often with the aid of a cigarette holder. She only quit at the request of her daughter Caroline, after having been diagnosed in early 1994 with non-Hodgkins' lymphoma. Sadly, it was too little too late. She died in May of that year at age 64.
3. She Was a Civil War Buff
Jacqueline Kennedy was very much the Francophile. Her father's family, the Bouviers, were French, of course. While at Vassar, she spent her junior year abroad studying at the Sorbonne (though the program was actually sponsored by Smith College) and upon her return to the States, transferred to George Washington University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in French literature. Her thorough knowledge of French history dovetailed nicely with JFK's knowledge about Great Britain.
One interest the two Kennedys had in common, however, was American history and the American Civil War in particular. According to biographer Barbara Leaming, when Jackie found a new Civil War book to read, JFK would often snatch it away from her and go about reading it himself. When they visited Camp David in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, they sometimes would fly to nearby Antietam or up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to view the battlefields.
4. A Month Before JFK Was Shot, She Was with Onassis
Nineteen sixty-three was not a happy year for Jacqueline Kennedy. It had, however, begun with a lot of promise. In late 1962 Jackie learned that she was pregnant with her fourth child (her first, a daughter, was stillborn in 1956) and preparations were being made to accommodate the new arrival.
Unfortunately that arrival came six weeks early. On August 7, 1963, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, weighing a mere four pounds, was born at the hospital at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. Doctors noted that he had difficulty breathing and determined that he had hyaline membrane disease. Though the baby was transferred to two different hospitals in Boston, where they had better facilities, he lived less than forty-eight hours. Jackie and JFK were understandably devastated, and Jackie fell into a serious depression.
To cheer her up, Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill, spoke with her friend -- and current lover -- Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, and asked if it would be possible for Jackie to take a little vacation with her in Greece. Onassis said of course, and offered to put his 325-foot luxury yacht, the Christina, at the women's disposal, while he would stay onshore. Jackie said nonsense. She would be a very rude guest indeed not to allow her host aboard his own ship. Onassis could come, too.
When JFK heard about the arrangement, he was rankled, not so much because of Onassis' womanizing ways (and the speculations in the press about the tycoon's relationship with his sister-in-law) but because at the time Onassis was no particular friend of the United States. Just recently, for example, Onassis had had to fork over $7 million as a settlement to avoid having the U.S. Maritime Commission prosecute him for reneging on a promise to keep under American registry fourteen ships he had bought from the United States Government. JFK was also worried that the First Lady's trip would smack of jet-setting. When he saw how much Jackie was looking forward to the trip, however, he ultimately gave it his blessing, though to buy himself a little political insurance, he asked Lee's husband Stas to go, too, along with Undersecretary of Commerce Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., and his wife, just so the vacation wouldn't look like some sort of a playboy cruise.
Jackie left on October 1 and toured for about two and a half weeks, visiting Lesbos, Crete, and other ports of call including Onassis' private island Skorpios, which he had just recently purchased. At the conclusion of the trip, she spent a few days in Morocco as the guest of King Hassan II before returning to Washington on October 17. Shortly after her return the Kennedys started making plans for a political trip to Texas.
5. Between Jack and Ari There Was Bobby -- and Charles Addams
Between November 22, 1963, and the end of 1968, the Widow Kennedy was romantically involved with several men, one of whom apparently was her brother-in-law Bobby, at the time a married father of eight and counting. Drawn together by mutual grief much like Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher were after the death of Taylor's husband Mike Todd, Bobby and Jackie at first merely provided each other emotional support. A number of Jackie's biographers, however, insist that by late 1964 or early 1965, their relationship had blossomed into a full-scale romance, often with physical contact that went beyond mere familial affection. Though their opportunities to see each other were understandably limited, their relationship really only ended with Bobby's assassination on June 5, 1968.
Less shocking perhaps but certainly no less unusual was Jackie's relationship with New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams, best known for his creation of Morticia, Gomez, and the other ghoulish characters that became known as the Addams Family. Already twice divorced by the time he started dating Jackie, Addams loved being seen in the company beautiful and famous women, and also counted Greta Garbo and Joan Fontaine among his love interests.
Addams was without a doubt one of the most charming eccentrics ever to grace New York society. By all accounts a gentle and kind-hearted man, he frequently embraced the macabre in his personal life as well as in his cartoons. He married his third wife Tee in a pet cemetery, for example, and lived for many years in a penthouse above a twelve-story apartment building -- essentially the thirteenth floor -- where he collected medieval weapons and other relics including a suit of armor, the helmet of which he would sometimes wear along with a dinner jacket.
Jackie was apparently quite a fan of Addams' work, saying at one point that she had more in common with Morticia than most people realized. But fan or no, becoming the third Mrs. Charles Addams was not in the cards. On October 20, 1968, Jackie wed Aristotle Onassis.