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September 2013—John F. Kennedy, future US senator and president, entered Harvard in 1936 as a member of the Class of 1940. He earned a spot on the freshman football squad, as a starter, and on the freshman swim team. He lost the class president election (to James D. Lightbody, Jr.), but was elected chair of the Smoker Committee, which was responsible for organizing Freshman Smokers, parties held by the Freshman Union Committee.
The Freshman Smoker JFK helped plan, which was held in May 1937 in Memorial Hall, featured Boston sportswriter Neil O’Hara as toastmaster and appearances by Dizzy Dean and Frankie Frisch of the St. Louis Cardinals, Six Lucky Boys, a tumbling act and the Dancing Rhythmettes. The night’s headliner was Gertrude Niesen, a popular New York City singer. The party also promised free food, tobacco and ginger ale.
JFK’s Smoker was sponsored in part by the Mayflower Doughnut Shop, the Good Humor Ice Cream Co., the Canada Dry Ginger Ale Co. and two tobacco companies—American Tobacco and Brown and Williamson Tobacco—which donated tobacco and cigarettes.