Abraham Zapruder

Last updated
Abraham Zapruder
Born(1905-05-15)May 15, 1905
DiedAugust 30, 1970(1970-08-30) (aged 65)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeEmanu-El Cemetery
OccupationDress manufacturer
Known forFilming home movie of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy
Lillian Sapovnik(m. 1933–1970)

Abraham Zapruder (May 15, 1905 – August 30, 1970) was a Ukrainian-born American clothing manufacturer who witnessed the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. He unexpectedly captured the shooting in a home movie while filming the presidential limousine and motorcade as it traveled through Dealey Plaza.

Assassination of John F. Kennedy 1963 murder of the US President

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was riding with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife Nellie when he was fatally shot by former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald firing in ambush from a nearby building. Governor Connally was seriously wounded in the attack. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy was pronounced dead about thirty minutes after the shooting; Connally recovered from his injuries.

Dallas City in Texas, United States

Dallas is a city in the U.S. state of Texas. With an estimated 2017 population of 1,341,075, it is the ninth most-populous city in the U.S. and third in Texas after Houston and San Antonio. Dallas is the main core of the largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States and the largest inland metropolitan area in the U.S. that lacks any navigable link to the sea. It is the most populous city in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country at 7.3 million people as of 2017. Dallas is the seat of Dallas County. Sections of the city extend into Collin, Denton, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.



Zapruder was born into a Russian Jewish family in the city of Kovel, the Russian Empire (now Ukraine), the son of Israel Zapruder. [1] He received only four years of formal education in Russia. In 1920, amid the turmoil of the Russian Civil War, his family emigrated to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. [2] Studying English at night, he found work as a clothing pattern maker in Manhattan's garment district. In 1933, he married Lillian Sapovnik (1913–1993), with whom he had two children. [3] Zapruder was a Freemason and an Inspector-General (33rd degree) of the Scottish Rite. [4]

Jews in Russia have historically constituted a large religious diaspora; the vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest population of Jews in the world. Within these territories the primarily Ashkenazi Jewish communities of many different areas flourished and developed many of modern Judaism's most distinctive theological and cultural traditions, while also facing periods of anti-Semitic discriminatory policies and persecutions. The largest group among Russian Jews are Ashkenazi Jews, but the community also includes a significant proportion of other non-Ashkenazi Diasporan Jewish groups, such as Mountain Jews, Sephardic Jews, Crimean Karaites, Krymchaks, Bukharan Jews, and Georgian Jews.

Kovel City of regional significance in Volyn Oblast, Ukraine

Kovel is a town in Volyn Oblast (province), in northwestern Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of Kovel Raion (district), the town itself is designated as a town of oblast significance and is not part of the raion. Population: 69,342 (2015 est.)

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

In 1941, Zapruder moved to Dallas, Texas, to work for Nardis, a local sportswear company. In 1949 he co-founded Jennifer Juniors, Inc., producing the Chalet and Jennifer Juniors brands of dresses. [5] [6] From the summer of 1953 to April 1954, Zapruder worked at Nardis side by side with Jeanne LeGon. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [lower-alpha 1] His Jennifer Juniors offices were on the fourth floor of the Dal-Tex Building, [15] across the street from the Texas School Book Depository. [16]

Dal-Tex Building

The Dal-Tex Building is a seven-story office building located at 501 Elm Street in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas. The building is located on the northeast corner of Elm and North Houston Streets, across the street from the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza, the scene of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The Dal-Tex Building, sometimes called the Dallas-Textiles Building, the Dal-Tex Market Building, or the Dal-Tex Mart Building, was a center of the textile business in Dallas.

Texas School Book Depository

The Texas School Book Depository, now known as the Dallas County Administration Building, is a seven-floor building facing Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The building is most notable as the vantage point of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Employee Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy from a sixth floor window on the building's southeastern corner. The structure is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, located at 411 Elm Street on the northwest corner of Elm and North Houston Streets, at the western end of downtown Dallas.

Witness to Kennedy assassination

Filming of assassination

Abraham Zapruder's camera, in the collection of the US National Archives Zaprudercamera.jpg
Abraham Zapruder's camera, in the collection of the US National Archives

At the time of the assassination, Zapruder was an admirer of President Kennedy and considered himself a Democrat. Zapruder had originally planned to film the motorcade carrying President Kennedy through downtown Dallas on November 22, but decided not to film the event as it had been raining that morning. When he arrived at work that morning without his camera, Zapruder's assistant insisted that he retrieve it from home before going to Dealey Plaza because the weather had cleared. [17]

Zapruder's movie camera was an 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Model 414 PDtop of the line when it was purchased in 1962. Zapruder had planned to film the motorcade from his office window but decided to choose a more optimal spot in Dealey Plaza where the motorcade would be passing. [18] He chose to film on top of a 4-foot (1.2 m) concrete abutment which extends from a retaining wall that was part of the John Neely Bryan concrete pergola on the grassy knoll north of Elm Street, in Dealey Plaza. [19] Zapruder's secretary, Marilyn Sitzman, offered to assist Zapruder as he suffered from vertigo and was apprehensive about standing on the abutment alone. [18] While Sitzman stood behind Zapruder and held his coat to steady him, he began filming the presidential motorcade as it turned from Houston Street onto Elm Street in front of the Book Depository. Zapruder's film captured 26.6 seconds of the traveling motorcade carrying President Kennedy on 486 frames of Kodak Kodachrome II safety film. Zapruder's film captured the fatal head shot that struck President Kennedy as his limousine passed almost directly in front of Zapruder and Sitzman's position, 65 feet (20 m) from the center of Elm Street. [20]

John Neely Bryan American businessman and lawyer

John Neely Bryan was a Presbyterian farmer, lawyer, and tradesman in the United States and founder of the city of Dallas, Texas.

Pergola outdoor garden feature forming a shaded walkway

A pergola is an outdoor garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice, often upon which woody vines are trained. The origin of the word is the Late Latin pergula, referring to a projecting eave. As a type of gazebo, it may also be an extension of a building or serve as protection for an open terrace or a link between pavilions. They are different from green tunnels, with a green tunnel being a type of road under a canopy of trees.

Marilyn Sitzman was an American receptionist and a witness to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. She was with her boss, Abraham Zapruder, as he made the Zapruder film, the most studied record of the assassination.

Zapruder would later recall that he immediately knew that President Kennedy's wound was fatal as he saw the president's head "...explode like a firecracker." [17] [21] Walking back to his office amid the confusion following the shots, Zapruder encountered The Dallas Morning News reporter Harry McCormick, who was standing near Zapruder and noticed he was filming the motorcade. McCormick was acquainted with Agent Forrest Sorrels of the Secret Service's Dallas office and offered to bring Sorrels to Zapruder's office. [22] [23] Zapruder agreed and returned to his office. McCormick later found Sorrels outside the Sheriff's office at Main and Houston, and together they went to Zapruder's office.

<i>The Dallas Morning News</i> daily newspaper serving Dallas, Texas, USA

The Dallas Morning News is a daily newspaper serving the Dallas–Fort Worth area of Texas, with an average of 271,900 daily subscribers. It was founded on October 1, 1885, by Alfred Horatio Belo as a satellite publication of the Galveston Daily News, of Galveston, Texas.

United States Secret Service secret service

The United States Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security charged with conducting criminal investigations and protecting the nation's leaders. Until 2003, the Secret Service was part of the Department of the Treasury, as the agency was originally founded to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of US currency.

Zapruder agreed to give the film to Sorrels on the condition it would be used only for investigation of the assassination. The three then took the film to the television station WFAA to be developed. After it was realized that WFAA was unable to develop Zapruder's footage, film was taken to Eastman Kodak's Dallas processing plant where it was immediately developed later that afternoon. As the Kodachrome process requires different equipment for duplication than for simple development, Zapruder's film was not developed until around 6:30 p.m. The original developed film was taken to the Jamieson Film Company, where three additional copies were exposed; these were returned to Kodak around 8 p.m. for processing. Zapruder kept the original, plus one copy, and gave the other two copies to Sorrels, who sent them to Secret Service headquarters in Washington.

Television interview

While at WFAA, Zapruder described on live television the assassination of President Kennedy:

; Jay Watson (WFAA, Dallas)
[...] May I have your name please, sir?
Abraham Zapruder
My name is Abraham Zapruder.
Mister, ZAP-puh-dah?
ZAP-pru-der, yes, sir.
ZAP-pru-dah, and would you tell us your story please, sir? [24] [ infringing link? ]
I got out in, uh, about a half-hour earlier to get a good spot to shoot some pictures. And I found a spot, one of these concrete blocks they have down near that park, near the underpass. And I got on top there, there was another girl from my office, she was right behind me. And as I was shooting, as the President was coming down from Houston Street making his turn, it was about a half-way down there, I heard a shot, and he slumped to the side, like this. Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up [places fingers of right hand to right side of head in a narrow cone, over his right ear], all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting. That's about all, I'm just sick, I can't...
I think that pretty well expresses the entire feelings of the whole world.
Terrible, terrible.
You have the film in your camera, we'll try to get...
Yes, I brought it on the studio, now.
We'll try to get that processed and have it as soon as possible. [25]

Sale of rights

Late that evening, Zapruder was contacted at home by Richard Stolley, an editor at Life magazine (and first editor of the future People magazine). They arranged to meet the following morning to view the film, after which Zapruder sold the print rights to Life for $50,000. Stolley was representing Time/Life on behalf of Publisher Charles Douglas Jackson.

The following day (November 24), Life purchased all rights to the film for a total of $150,000 (approximately $1,201,000 today). [26] [27]

The night after the assassination, Zapruder said that he had a nightmare in which he saw a booth in Times Square advertising "See the President's head explode!" [28] He determined that, while he was willing to make money from the film, he did not want the public to see the full horror of what he had seen. Therefore, a condition of the sale to Life was that frame 313, showing the fatal shot, would be withheld. [29] Although he made a profit from selling the film, he asked that the amount he was paid not be publicly disclosed. He later donated $25,000 (about $200,000 today) of the money he was paid to the widow of Officer J. D. Tippit, a Dallas police officer who was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after President Kennedy was killed. [17] [30] [31]

In 1975, Time, Inc. (which owned Life magazine) sold the film back to the Zapruder family for $1. In 1978, the Zapruders allowed the film to be stored at the National Archives and Records Administration where it remains. In 1999, the Zapruders donated the copyright of the film to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. [17]


In his testimony to the Warren Commission, Zapruder was asked for his impression regarding the direction of the shots:

LIEBELER: Did you form any opinion about the direction from which the shots came by the sound, or were you just upset by the thing you had seen?
ZAPRUDER: No, there was too much reverberation. There was an echo which gave me a sound all over. In other words that square is kind of—it had a sound all over.

Zapruder added that he had assumed the shots came from behind him because the President's head went backwards from the fatal shot, and also that the wound on the side of the President's head was facing that direction. He also said he believed it because police officers ran to the area behind him. [32]

He broke down and wept as he recalled the assassination, [33] and did so again at the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw. [34]


Zapruder died of stomach cancer in Dallas on August 30, 1970, [35] and is buried in the Emanu-El Cemetery in Dallas. [36]

Notable others who claimed to have taken pictures or films of the event

The following individuals were not interviewed by the Warren Commission.


  1. Towards the end of June 1959 until 1973, she was the fourth wife of George S. De Mohrenschildt. [7] [9] [12] From the summer of 1962 and prior to their leaving for Haiti in June 1963, Jeanne and George De Mohrenschildt befriended an immigrant from the Soviet Union, Marina Oswald and her husband Lee Harvey Oswald. George De Mohrenschildt said that there were only 25 or 30 families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from either Russia or the Soviet Union in the early 1960's and that these families were close. [7] [13] [9] [14]

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  1. Ruane, Michael E. (21 November 2013). "As he filmed, Abraham Zapruder knew instantly that President Kennedy was dead". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  2. Passenger list, S.S. Rotterdam, Port of New York, July 12, 1920, sheet 73, lines 4–7. Zapruder's father Israel had emigrated in advance of the rest of the family.
  3. Richard B. Trask, National Nightmare on Six Feet of Film (Yeoman Press, 2005), p. 18. ISBN   0-9638595-4-4.
  4. "Abraham Zapruder". Freemasonry.bcy.ca. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  5. Betty Temple Howell, Southwest Styles: CASUAL OR DRESSY Keep It Smart! The Christian Science Monitor , Oct 26, 1953 Women Today Pg. 10, (1148 words) Forecast for spring from the Dallas Fashion Market emphasizes the importance of fabric in achieving the soft, fluid look… and different age groups by Chalet. of Texas, a firm just four years old in the Dallas market.
  6. "Archived Document". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
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  15. Testimony of Abraham Zapruder, Clay Shaw Trial Transcripts, page 7 of 101, AARC the assassination archives and research center.
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  18. 1 2 Vågnes, Øyvind (2012). Zaprudered: The Kennedy Assassination Film in Visual Culture. University of Texas Press. p. 4. ISBN   0-292-74258-4.
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  20. Bugliosi 2008 p.453
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  25. Transcript of WFAA's interview with Zapruder, from the Sixth Floor Museum. Retrieved 2008-10-28. Archived December 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. The Inflation Calculator Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine ., using the Consumer Price Index.
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  28. Richard Stolley, "What Happened Next... ," Esquire, November 1973, pp. 134–135.
  29. The Warren Commission Report reproduced frame 313 in 1964, and Life magazine eventually did as well, in its issue of October 2, 1964, p. 45.
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  33. Testimony of Abraham Zapruder, Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, vol. 7, p. 571.
  34. Testimony of Abraham Zapruder, State of Louisiana v. Clay Shaw, February 13, 1969, p. 2.
  35. "A. Zapruder Dies; Took JFK Films", The Dallas Morning News , August 31, 1970.
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