JFK Memorabilia

Dallas' Sixth Floor Museum receives collection with key footage of JFK

Dallas' Sixth Floor Museum receives collection with key footage of JFK

Grassy Knoll
Photo taken on November 22, 1963 by Charles L. Bronson. Charles L. Bronson Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza has received a collection of photos and film that brings an incomparable perspective to the November 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It comes from the family of Charles L. Bronson, one of only four known home movie photographers to have captured the fatal shot on film. The Charles L. Bronson Collection includes an eyewitness 8mm color film, five still photos, and documents and correspondence related to the images and film.

Bronson passed away in 1995; his collection had been on loan to the museum since 1996. Sixth Floor Museum executive director Nicola Longford says they're delighted to add it to the permanent collection.

"The Bronson Collection is of both historic significance as well as a subject of investigation and careful study by the assassination research community," she says in a release. "Every photographic viewpoint, particularly Mr. Bronson's unique perspective some distance away, adds to our overall understanding of those tragic moments in Dealey Plaza."

Bronson stood atop a concrete pedestal at the southwest corner of Main and Houston streets, where he took a series of still photographs and home movie film sequences of the moments just before and during the assassination in Dealey Plaza.

His still photographs show the presidential limousine approaching Houston Street, then traveling north on Houston towards Elm Street. Another still, taken at the moment he heard the first shot, captures a blurred yet almost panoramic view of Dealey Plaza as the motorcade proceeded down Elm Street, with many key eyewitnesses visible.

Bronson's home movie includes a sequence filmed approximately six minutes prior to the assassination of an ambulance picking up an epileptic seizure victim in Dealey Plaza, an event that later became part of a conspiracy theory. The Texas School Book Depository is visible in the background. Because there was a possibility of movement in this brief glimpse of the sixth floor window, this film was of particular interest to the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation and later film studies.

More significantly, Bronson's film includes two seconds of the assassination — one of only four known home movies to capture the fatal shot on film. Although the Bronson film features the farthest perspective of these four films, it remains relevant more than half a century later as it helps disprove an ongoing theory suggesting that a Secret Service agent in the follow-up car accidentally fired the shot that killed President Kennedy.

With this donation, the Sixth Floor Museum now owns the copyright to three of the four films that recorded President Kennedy’s assassination, including eyewitness films made by Abraham Zapruder and Orville Nix.

Bronson was 45 years old and a chief engineer of Varel Manufacturing in Dallas in 1963. He used a Leica Model III for his still photographs and a Keystone Olympic K-25 for color home movies. Both cameras are on display in the Museum.

The donation of the film and photos was made by his four daughters: Barbara Young, Joyce Hall, Alice Bronson, and Charlette Laughlin, who said it was important that his historic materials be preserved, and that the Sixth Floor Museum "would be a fitting and proper place for their safekeeping and display."