After doctors at Parkland Hospital declared President Kennedy officially dead at 1:00 p.m. CST, November 22, 1963 – only 30 minutes after the fatal shot captured in Abraham Zapruder’s film ended the president’s life – U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Clinton Hill contacted O’Neil’s Funeral Home in Dallas, stating that he needed a casket. (Hill is actually the individual seen leaping onto the back of the president’s limousine in Zapruder’s film a moment after the assassination occurs.)
Funeral director Vernon O’Neil selected an “extremely handsome, expensive, all bronze, silk-lined casket” and delivered it personally to Parkland Hospital.
This casket, shown in the photograph above, carried the body of President Kennedy on Air Force One during the long flight from Dallas, Texas, to Washington, DC.
This all-bronze casket was not the same one seen three days later during the televised funeral of America’s slain leader, however. Jacqueline Kennedy wished for her husband’s funeral to replicate, as closely as possible, the services of previous presidents who died in office, particularly the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, who also died from an assassin’s bullet.
Those funeral services usually featured an open casket so the public could offer a last goodbye to its leader.
Unfortunately, and despite efforts to prevent it, blood from JFK’s massive head wound escaped the bandages and the plastic sheet in which he was wrapped and stained the white silk interior of the casket during the flight to Washington, DC, rendering the casket unsuitable. (Later, both Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy decided against an open-casket funeral entirely due to the extent of the physical damage to JFK.)
President Kennedy was therefore buried in a different casket – a mahogany model crafted by the Marsellus Casket Company, and supplied by Joseph Gawler’s Sons, the Washington, DC, funeral home that handled JFK’s funeral services. After transferring the president’s body to the new casket, the funeral home eventually placed the original bloodstained casket in storage.