Mary Moorman and Her Polaroids

Josiah Thompson

In a second essay, Costella turns his attention to the famous Moorman photo. His principal claim is that the famous Moorman photo "was in the hands of the authorities for 27 hours before going out on the AP wire." (270) Hence, "there was clearly a 27-hour window in which .. [it] could have been worked on before going out on the AP wire." (274) To prove his point, Costella reproduces a copy of an FBI report written on December 12, 1963 which reports that Moorman sold her photo to AP and that an AP wirephoto "has a Dallas dateline of 23 November, and a wirephoto code that translates to 'AP wirephoto Saturday 3:55 PM.'" (270)

It's true that this FBI report states mistakenly that Moorman had a contract with AP. It may very well be that AP ran a wirephoto of Moorman at 3:55 PM on November 23rd. But all of this is quite beside the point.

According to Mary Moorman, she never sold any rights to AP nor even had contact with them. She sold only non-exclusive reproduction rights to UPI and there is an extant UPI agreement to prove it. To this day, she owns the photograph.

The UPI wire service photo came from a copy of Moorman's photo obtained by the Dallas Times-Herald early on the afternoon of November 22nd. Jim Featherston of the Dallas Times-Herald had the film copied within an hour of the shooting. As a wirephoto, it ran on the UPI wire later in the day and appeared in several West Coast special newspaper editions on the evening of November 22nd.

But this was not the first appearance of her famous photo. Moorman was interviewed on camera at about 1:00 PM that Friday and her photo was shown in close-up during the interview. That film of that interview with its close-up photo was sent to Fort Worth for processing at the NBC affiliate and broadcast by NBC at 3:16 PM Central time. Many tapes of the actual broadcast exist and several researchers own copies of it. A transcript of the broadcast interview can be found on page 25 of There Was A President (NY: Random House, 1966) which states that "the Polaroid snap-shot appears on camera."

Due to his massive ignorance of the written record, Costella makes obvious mistakes. But Costella is an Australian high school teacher. Fetzer, the editor of the volume, prides himself on his purported knowledge of everything connected with the case. Yet Fetzer displays equal ignorance in praising Costella. for initiating "a new dimension in JFK research" by dispelling "the myth that the Moorman was published immediately after the assassination." (259) All either Fetzer or Costella had to do was to ask Jack White, who, in a separate essay on the Moorman photo, pointed out that it had been "copied that afternoon" by the press and "circulated worldwide by wirephoto services and published within hours." (243)