FAQ Follow On:Twitter Google+ Facebook Tumblr subscribe by RSS or Email

As It Happened: AP Wire Copy of the JFK Assassination

|

Fifty years ago, mobile devices, Twitter, and Instagram didn't exist, but the basic technologies of transmitting voice, text, and image electronically were well-established. Reporters in far-flung news bureaus could broadcast text through teletypesetter machines, and images via wirephoto machines, approaching real-time reporting of breaking events. When President John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, Associated Press staffer James Altgens was photographing the motorcade, and became an eyewitness. His quick phone call to the AP's Dallas bureau became the first news bulletin about the shooting distributed across the AP's teletypesetter circuit. Hours of frantic reporting followed, supplying newspapers and broadcasters with information as events unfolded. If news is the first draft of history, then these pages of raw wire copy are pieces of the rough draft. [28 photos]

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate  Choose:
On November 22, 1963, after hearing a rumor that the president had been shot, Associated Press Dallas Bureau Chief Bob Johnson sat at his desk, and answered a phone call from AP staffer James Altgens. Altgens had been photographing President Kennedy's motorcade, witnessed the assassination, and was reporting the details to Johnson as fast as he could. Altgens' account, relayed to Johnson, went out immediately as an AP Bulletin on the teletypesetter circuit, distributed worldwide within minutes of the event. (AP Photo)
On November 22, 1963, after hearing a rumor that the president had been shot, Associated Press Dallas Bureau Chief Bob Johnson sat at his desk, and answered a phone call from AP staffer James Altgens. Altgens had been photographing President Kennedy's motorcade, witnessed the assassination, and was reporting the details to Johnson as fast as he could. Altgens' account, relayed to Johnson, went out immediately as an AP Bulletin on the teletypesetter circuit, distributed worldwide within minutes of the event. (AP Photo)
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. Stray letters may have resulted from the page being pulled from the machine as it was still typing, arrows indicate flow, and pencil marks are copy edits made locally. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. An apparent glitch during transmission is corrected on the next page. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. A glitch during transmission is copy-edited. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Reports were filed continuously throughout the day as more information became available, and as President Kennedy's condition changed. Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press "A" wire copy covering the assassination of President Kennedy, edited for the teletypesetter circuit, November 22, 1963. (AP Photo) #
Associated Press teletype news bulletin from Friday, November 22, 1963 shows news that President Kennedy had died after being shot in Dallas. The message reads, "TWO PRIESTS STEPPED OUT OF PARKLAND HOSPITAL'S EMERGENCY WARD TODAY AND SAID PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED OF HIS BULLET WOUNDS." This document is now located in the AP Corporate Archives in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) #
This picture of the Associated Press Dallas Bureau was taken November 22, 1963, the night of Kennedy assassination. At left is James W. Mangan, Texas bureau assistant, filing the "A" wire. He did it continually for 13 hours after the slaying. At right is State Editor Robert E. Ford, who had telephoned from Parkland Hospital the first report that Kennedy was dead, and had returned to the office. Standing at center is Texas Chief of Bureau Bob Johnson, who wrote the first bulletin that the President been shot. (AP Photo) #

Related links and information

Previous gallery | Next gallery | View All Back to top

Recent Entries

Join the Discussion

blog comments powered by Disqus

On Newsstands Now

Subscribe and SAVE 65%
10 issues JUST $2.45/COPY

The Atlantic Monthly

The Technology Issue: Why kids sext (and what to do about it), the new technology of adultery, what Silicon Valley's best minds think about everything from drones to Uber, the Steve Jobs of beer, and more