The Possessions of Lee Harvey Oswald

“You’ve seen the world, and all you’ve seen is nothing; and everything, as well, that you have said and heard is nothing. You’ve sprinted everywhere between here and the horizon; it is nothing. And all the possessions you’ve treasured up at home are nothing.”

― Omar Khayyam, Quatrains – Ballades

At the time of his arrest, Lee Oswald was a man of few possessions. He owned nothing of enormous value. He did not own a home or an automobile. He possessed very few books and several small trinkets. In his adult life, he did not even seemingly have a bed of his own to sleep upon. He had lived the life of a nomad since he was a small child and carried his meager treasures with him in duffel bags and boxes wherever he went. However, his possessions were important because a person’s property tells their life story. These objects served as a reminder to Oswald of where he had been and what his life meant to him. They also open many windows into his mysterious existence for researchers wishing to collect and interpret any small scraps or clues about his eventful life.

After returning home from the Soviet Union with his wife, Marina, and daughter, June, in June of 1962, until his arrest in November of 1963, Lee Oswald changed residences approximately ten times. He had stayed with relatives, slept in a YMCA, and rented several apartments, either with his family or alone. One of these stops was a brief stay in the spring of 1963 with his aunt and uncle in New Orleans, Lillian and Charles “Dutz” Murret. The investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination (The Warren Commission) took a very keen interest in what Oswald carried with him and how he did so because of their inquiry concerning any weapons Oswald may have owned at the time. Oswald traveled by bus from Fort Worth, alone, carrying with him a wide array of containers which required storage at the bus station. When he arrived at the Murret home, he was humbly dressed in a sport shirt and tattered pair of pants, carrying a brown cloth bag. 1 His uncle drove him to the bus station and they loaded his belongings into the Murrets’ automobile and stored his possessions in their garage. In her Warren Commission testimony, Lillian recalled: “Well, I saw a duffel bag out there, and I saw ordinary cardboard boxes with things in them, and I don’t know what was in anything… I think some of the boxes must have contained baby clothes and things like that, and in fact, I was wondering how in the world he got all of that stuff on the bus. I never did ask him, but he really had a load of stuff with him. It was all there at the bus station though.” She continued: “There were just some boxes and duffelbags and bundles that I saw, and I do know one time he was back there when I was back there (in the garage) and he pulled out a Russian cap that they wear in Russia, and boots, you know, these leather Russian boots, but that’s all I saw.” The cap and the boots eventually made their way to Lee’s brother, Robert, who turned them over to authorities, along with several other items owned by Lee.

The woman who drove Oswald to the bus station before leaving for New Orleans, Ruth Paine, also provided a storehouse for the Oswalds’ belongings during late 1963. Ruth Paine was an Irving, Texas housewife who had come to befriend the Lee Oswald Family, especially Marina, towards whom she felt some affection. Marina had stayed with Paine and her children (Paine had separated from her husband, Michael) from late April to early May of 1963, while Lee was in New Orleans arranging housing, and Ruth drove Marina to New Orleans to reunite with her husband. On September 23, Paine picked up Marina and June and Lee left for Mexico City four days later. According to Paine, Lee Oswald returned to the Paine residence on October 4 with no luggage.2 How the Oswald Family possessions returned to the Paine household is unclear. However, it is quite clear that Lee stored much of his property in their garage, including, reportedly, the rifle that forever linked him to history.

During this period, Oswald rented a room in a boarding house at 1026 North Beckley in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas; although, on weekends, he would make visits to the Paine residence at 2515 West 5th, Irving. By 12:30 PM, on November 22, the time and day of the assassination, Oswald had stored away at these two addresses almost all of his worldly possessions, and, on that date, these objects would be collected and scrutinized. In all, over 400 items were gathered to be used as evidence in the case against their owner. Some of that material was quite mundane: a bottle opener, tins of medication, a sewing kit, a postage stamp collection, and a chess set. Some items did not seem quite so innocent, such as a pistol holster, knives, and a trove of photographic equipment almost worthy of a James Bond novel. Oswald also, indeed, owned two of 007’s tales. Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me had a place in his book collection, as did numerous pieces of communist literature, history books, and maps. His correspondence conveys a story, too, as he tried to repair his reputation, tarnished by his attempted defection to the Soviet Union. Lee Harvey Oswald’s possessions tell us about a man who led a short yet eventful life, a man whose personal feelings and interests have become obscured by the enormous shadow he casts over 20th century history.

Please click on the links below to continue.

  1. The search at 2515 West 5th, Irving, Texas (The Paine Home)
  2. The search at 1026 North Beckley, Dallas, Texas  (Oswald’s Boarding Room)
  3. Evidence gathered from different locations
  4. Photographic equipment owned by Oswald
  5. Oswald’s correspondence
  6. Oswald’s clothing
  7. Oswald’s identification documents
  8. Mystery items
  9. Conclusion

 


1  Warren Commission, Testimony of Lillian Murret

2  Warren Commission, Testimony of Ruth Paine

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