The East Hampton Historical Society’s new show, “Young Jackie on the South Fork,” on view at the Clinton Academy Museum from August 5 to October 8, features a trove of photographs by society photographer Bert Morgan, who was the first to document Jackie Kennedy’s mesmerizing charm.
“I think the most important thing is that even at 5 years old, you could tell that she was going to be a star,” photo archivist Patrick Montgomery, owner of the Bert Morgan Archive, says, describing the power of the images of a young Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, who was born in Southampton, Long Island, in 1929. The show features a treasury of photographs taken by British-born photographer Bert Morgan, who came to America at age 7, grew up in Brooklyn, and bought his first camera in 1930, for a quarter. He became not only one of the most prolific high-society photographers of his day, but he was the first to document the little girl who exhibited such a captivating presence that she became the most famous and photographed woman in the world.
Montgomery purchased the archive of half a million negatives ten years ago from Morgan’s son. “The reason the quality is so good,” Montgomery says of the prints, “is that the negatives were four-by-five. He had a big speed graphic camera, the kind that newspaper reporters used.” Morgan, who was also the official photographer of the New York Racing Association, made it his business to follow socialites throughout the seasons from Palm Beach to the Hamptons. One photo of a very serious and resolute Jacqueline Lee Bouvier leading her pony Buddy at the Southampton Riding and Hunt Club for the annual horse show in 1934, is the earliest picture Morgan took, and he was on hand to document the young competitor at horse shows, dog shows, and accompanying her mother and sister, Lee, at society events.
How could he ever have known that he was in the process of creating historic photographs of this little girl who would grow up to become the woman who, to this day, the world can never get enough of? See a preview of the exhibition in the slideshow ahead.