This Day In History: December 12

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On December 12, 1963, a vinyl long-playing record (“LP”) called John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sets a record for album sales. A total of 4 million copies sold in the first six days of its release.

The album, released on the Premier label, included recordings of some of Kennedy’s most memorable speeches, as well as memorial tributes to the president broadcast in the aftermath of his assassination on November 22, 1963. The recordings included excerpts from his inaugural address and his campaign debates with Richard Nixon as well as highlights from speeches on a variety of topics from civil rights to space to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Some of Kennedy’s most enduring quotes were captured on the album including “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (from his inaugural) and “ich bin ein Berliner” (translated as “I too, am a Berliner”) from a speech he delivered at the Berlin Wall during the height of the Cold War.

Each copy of the album cost 99 cents and the proceeds went to the Joseph Kennedy, Jr., Foundation for Mental Retardation. Although Kennedy remains one of the most beloved and documented presidents in American history, the album itself has not yet garnered much value as a collector’s item. In 2006, a mint copy of the album fetched a mere $15.00 on several internet auction sites. This may be because most of Kennedy’s speeches are now accessible on the internet.

The Premier record was not the only one released in honor of Kennedy in 1963. An LP documentary called The Presidential Years 1960 – 1963 sold a respectable 1 million copies in its first six days, also at 99 cents per copy.