Abraham Zapruder was born on this day in 1905. A Russian immigrant and dressmaker, he became a part of history when he captured John F. Kennedy’s assassination on film. He used a Bell & Howard 414 PD Zoomatic Director Series Camera, pictured in the header. It was loaded with 8 mm Kodachrome film.
Zapruder’s 26.6 seconds of film is probably one of the most watched and analyzed pieces of film in existence, since it was part of the JFK assassination record. Conspiracy theorists love to pour over each frame and point out exactly why their theory about the assassination is right.
Zapruder’s film had a complicated path. The day of the assassination, the film was developed and copied, and two copies were given to the secret service. The footage and its copyright was sold to Life magazine a few days later for $150,000. As a condition of the sale, Zapruder specified that the frame where the bullet hits Kennedy in the head (frame 313) would not be printed. Zapruder donated $25,000 to the widow of police officer J.D. Tippet, who was also killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after Oswald killed Kennedy.
Abraham himself died in 1970. In 1975, as part of a settlement due to a lawsuit brought by the Zapruder family after the film aired on ABC, Time sold the footage back to them for $1.
In 1978, the Zapruder family gave the film itself to the National Records and Archives Administration for preservation purposes. They maintained the copyright. Eventually, the government paid the Zapruder heirs $16 million in 1999 for the film (but not the copyright). In December 1999, the Zapruder family donated the film’s copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum, in the Texas School Book Depository building (where Lee Harvey Oswald was positioned when he assassinated JFK).
I decided not to embed the film itself here for obvious reasons, but you can find it easily (in several versions) on Youtube and elsewhere. Here’s frame 238, before the shots were fired: