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Billy Whiskers Book

Book cover with illustration of a goat butting a fence on blue background with title Billy Whiskers' Kids

John Fitzgerald Kennedy NHS Museum Collection (JOFI 838)

Rose Kennedy selected this book, Billy Whiskers' Kids, to be prominently displayed in the recreated nursery of her Beals Street home.

This book was one of a series of stories featuring a goat named Billy Whiskers, who was of a mischievous and slightly irascible nature. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy is recorded as having said that the Billy Whiskers stories were greatly enjoyed by her young sons. Inside this volume she wrote "One of Jack's favorite books. Grandma Fitzgerald used to bring one of the series when she came to see him." Apparently Mrs. Kennedy was not so fond of the books herself, referring to the illustrations as "crude" and "harsh", but they remained in the Kennedy house because she knew "the boys adored the stories and delighted in the whole series, pictures and all." This particular book was published in 1903, but was probably obtained in the late 1960s, during Mrs. Kennedy's effort to refurnish the Beals St. house as a museum and memorial to her son Jack.

black and white photograph of woman wearing elaborate hat and jacket with large fur collar
Frances Trego Montgomery

The Billy Whiskers stories were written by Frances Trego Montgomery. Mrs. Montgomery wrote many children's books, including The Wonderful Electric Elephant, one of the earliest children's stories to be classified as science fiction. In a 1902 interview with The Bookseller magazine, she described her method of coming up with stories as "to invite a group of children to my house for an hour in the evening, that between dinner and their bed-time, to whom I have 'spun yarns' that have not infrequently been continued from sitting to sitting for weeks together." She authored about twenty-five different Billy Whiskers books, and died at sea in 1925 aboard the SS Franconia near Hong Kong while on an around-the-world cruise.