Abraham Zapruder was born in Russia in 1905 and didn’t move to the United States, until his family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1920.
Zapruder worked his way up in the fashion industry and co-founded Chalet and Jennifer Juniors in Dallas and his office was located in the Dal-Tex building in Dealey Plaza.
He had no plans of taking his movie camera, to film the motorcade with President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, but his secretary Lillian Rogers talked him into driving the 14 mile trip home to pick up his camera. If he had left his movie camera at home he would have been just another spectator that day, but having his camera made him an integral part of the events of that day.
It is amazing that Zapruder picked the precise best spot, to record the assassination of President Kennedy. He took the film of the assassination, which won’t be shown here because the film is very disturbing. The 18 second film was almost certainly the most important evidence, when determining the sequence of the shots.
The movie camera was a 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Model 414 PD. Zapruder had his receptionist call the police, since he knew the film contained some very important footage. He later would reportedly sell a copy of the film, to Life Magazine for $150,000. He donated $25,000 of that money to the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed less than an hour after the assassination.
This is an interview Zapruder participated in on WFAA TV in Dallas, which was shown on the evening of the assassination:
JAY WATSON (Station WFAA Dallas): […] And would you tell us your story please, sir?
ABRAHAM ZAPRUDER: 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… WATSON: I think that pretty well expresses the entire feelings of the whole world. ZAPRUDER: Terrible, terrible. WATSON: You have the film in your camera, we’ll try to get… ZAPRUDER: Yes, I brought it on the studio, now. WATSON: We’ll try to get that processed and have it as soon as possible.
November 22, 1963 was the last time that Zapruder owned or used a camera, probably due to him seeing President Kennedy assassinated through the lens.
Zapruder’s testimony before the Warren Commission:
His appearance before the Warren Commission, since he had to relive what he had seen that 22nd day of November in 1963 was very trying. He lost his composure when recalling the events of that day before the commission.
Abraham Zapruder set up his movie camera, in hopes of filming the motorcade of President John. F. Kennedy. But what he saw in his lens was the brutal assassination of President Kennedy. He may have taken the most important home movie ever made.
It was less than seven years, after the assassination when Abraham Zapruder succumbed to cancer on August 30, 1970 at the age of 65.