Inside the Kennedy Auction

02/15/2013 at 02:00 PM EST

John F. Kennedy auction - see the rare mementos
John F. Kennedy
Hank Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty
In 1946 congressional candidate John Kennedy knocked on the door of local political operative Dave Powers to ask for his help getting the neighborhood vote. And so began their lifelong friendship.

Few were closer to Kennedy than Powers, who became the President's special assistant – and also, says Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer, a discreet "procurer" of women. (In her 2012 book, Kennedy mistress Mimi Alford credits Powers with arranging their trysts.) "His whole job," says Leamer, "was to protect the President's image."

Powers, later curator of the JFK Library, remained close with the family until his death in 1998. Last year, when his children packed up his house in Arlington, Mass., they discovered boxes of rarely seen pictures and artifacts. The trove will go on sale Feb. 17 at John McInnis Auctioneers (mcinnisauctions.com).

"It's the most personal archive," marvels appraiser Dan Meader. "Thousands of items, and each one tells a story."

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