"Landing at Saipan" by William F. Draper.
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October 1, 2008
Hopedale History
No. 117
Draper and Kennedy

Hopedale in September           Hopedale Pond in September  

Were knives made at Draper Corporation during World War II and given to their employees who went into the service? Iíve been asked that question a couple of times and havenít found anyone who knows anything about it.
Click here to read more about this.

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Draper and Kennedy

William F. Draper, grandson of the general of the same name, was a Navy combat artist in World War II, and in the years after that, he was a portrait artist. Peter Metzke, whose name must be familiar by now to regular readers of these articles, recently sent yet another Hopedale item to me; an extensive interview with Draper. It was sponsored by the Smithsonian and done in 1977. In contains many anecdotes about his life as an artist, including World War II stories, starting in Alaska and continuing on to Tarawa, Saipan and Guam. It also tells of painting Admiral Halsey, Admiral Nimitz, the Shah of Iran, and quite a bit about the Kennedys, among others.
Click here to start the entire interview, or read on for some of his memories of painting President Kennedy. Draper died in 2003 and is buried in Hopedale Village Cemetery. Who was Mr. McNaught? I have no idea, other than that heís the guy who conducted the interview.

MR. DRAPER:  And so the next day he posed for me and I -- he was worried as a matter of fact about his jowls because his face -- when I met him in Washington he really, his face had really gotten very heavy and thick because of this -- I think it was cortisone he was taking for his back or something.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, for his back.
MR. DRAPER: He didn't look well. And then all the swelling had gone when I painted him. Luckily I painted him in 1962. He looked very young. Boy, did he age the next year after that. But my picture I think is one of the best I've ever done and I think I caught him really right. I have him looking almost straight ahead and he kept turning his head when I would look up to be sideward. I would -- then he would look around and I would say, "Look at me, Jack," or Mr. President. I'm sure I never said Jack. He would look around and then I could see his face full forward you see, full face. I painted him -- at the time he was in a skivvy shirt out on the patio of the house in Palm Beach that they had been given to live in as a Palm Beach White House. And so he posed there, but talked to Mrs. Lincoln all the time in his skivvy shirt, reading his letters and doing that, and then Pierre Salinger would come in. He would suddenly say, "You know, Mrs. Lincoln, have you got that -- has so and so answered that letter I sent off two weeks ago?" Like that he remembered different things and she would say, "Yes, I've got the answer here," or this and that. He was very businesslike. I was very impressed. But he was in his skivvy shirt. When I finished it he said, he told me I couldn't show it until clothed, that he had a tie and a coat on. Well, I did it on a small 20 x 20 canvas but I had plenty around. So I stretched it into a 25, 30 and painted it in after. It was all done and I had come back and I had painted in a blue suit and a Speed Club tie. Well, then I showed it to him when I finished. He was at the Carlyle Hotel and I went over and showed it to him there. He loved it. He had Hallmark Cards reproduce it, a big picture. Well, not big, maybe 14 by 17. When he went to South America he gave it away to the head of state and I was very pleased. Then I was commissioned by some class at Choate to give a picture of the President to Choate and he was going to come up and pose for one hour for me in my studio. LeMoyne Billings was going to come to the studio and see it. I had worked, got a professional model to sit in a chair and I got the chair over from the Carlyle Hotel, all the paraphernalia, and whipped this thing out. He was to come and sit for it. Well, Billings came in and looked at it and said, "Oh, Bill, this is wonderful. We don't need to do anything." He called the President up and said, "You don't have to come." I was so mad. He said, "It's fine the way it is." I had just copied the head from my picture. So the one at Choate could have been from life. The body and everything was painted from the model from life and painted in my style, and then I used my own head to block it in. I wish I had never finished it. I wish I had just blocked it in and let Billings see it that way. Then the President would have come and sat for an hour and I would have had it. Well, anyway, it turned out very well, the one at Choate.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did he ever see that one?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes. He couldn't get up to the unveiling but they had a tape of him saying I'm so sorry I can't be there in person but my voice is here and I'm so delighted to -- and said good morning, Dr. St. John and all of the, you know, and a little speech at the presentation. I was up in the dais with Dr. St. John, the headmaster. Then they said, "The President of the United States will now speak." The tape evidently got going too fast and so they had to turn it off and rewind it and then slow it down. They finally had John Kennedy talking and saying hello to everybody in his voice. But that was very funny. It got everybody hysterical. Then the picture was hung at Choate.

William F. Draper obituaries.  

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Recent deaths:

Helen Blois Hammond, 90, September 13, 2008

Bruna M. (Mei) Bresciani, 93, September 20, 2008