Written By: Ben Cosgrove

In stark, revealing contrast to the glamorous, effortless Kennedy of popular myth, John F. Kennedy on the stump was a tough, savvy campaigner. Well aware that much of the country distrusted almost everything about him—his Massachusetts-liberal politics, his Boston accent, his Roman Catholicism—he set about winning over skeptics by employing the very gifts that generated such suspicion in those who knew little about him. He charmed. He cajoled. At times (in back-room negotiations with other pols) he browbeat and he bullied.

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And on November 8, 1960, John Kennedy was elected president of the United States, defeating Richard Nixon in one of the closest national elections of the 20th century. At 43, Kennedy was (and remains) the youngest person elected to the office, and it was largely this quality in the man and his family—an engaging, youthful dynamism—that captured the imagination of millions across the country and, ultimately, the world.

As Kennedy and his team ran a heady, propulsive campaign unlike any America had seen, LIFE’s best photographers (Paul Schutzer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Silk and others) were there, chronicling the grind of never-ending public appearances and the quieter moments JFK spent with advisers, with Jackie and rarest of all alone, with his own thoughts.

Here, LIFE.com presents photographs—none of which ran in LIFE magazine—chronicling an enigmatic, intensely ambitious man making history.

John F. Kennedy discusses strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.

John F. Kennedy discussed strategy during his presidential campaign, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Scene from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.

Scene from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Scene in West Virginia from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy, West Virginia, 1960

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

JFK fans, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, 1960.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Scene in West Virginia from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy spoke in West Virginia during his 1960 presidential campaign.

Hank Walker/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Scene from John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

A JFK and LBJ supporter in Mount Clemens, Michigan, October 1960.

A JFK and LBJ supporter in Mount Clemens, Michigan, October 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy and unidentified boy, 1960.

John F. Kennedy and unidentified boy, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy in Grand Prairie, Texas, September, 1960.

John F. Kennedy spoke in Grand Prairie, Texas, September, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960.

Walter Sanders/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Richard Nixon, telephone booth, 1960.

Richard Nixon, telephone booth, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, Texas, 1960.

John F. Kennedy campaign, Texas, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy braves an autumn chill while campaigning in an open car at night in Illinois, 1960.

John F. Kennedy braved an autumn chill while campaigning in an open car at night in Illinois, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Jackie Kennedy, 1960.

Jackie Kennedy, 1960.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John and Jackie Kennedy, Massachusetts, 1960.

John and Jackie Kennedy, Massachusetts, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy during his campaign for president, 1960.

John F. Kennedy during his campaign for president, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

On a drive through Illinois, Paul Schutzer turns his camera on his colleagues in the press, 1960.

On a drive through Illinois, Paul Schutzer turned his camera on his colleagues in the press, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy on the stump, October, 1960.

John F. Kennedy on the stump, October, 1960.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy gazes out on New York Harbor from a ferry, October 1960.

John F. Kennedy gazes out on New York Harbor from a ferry, October 1960.

Paul Schutzer Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy, 1960.

John F. Kennedy, 1960

Stan Wayman/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy campaign, 1960.

John F. Kennedy, 1960 campaign

Walter Sanders/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The day after an election in which he bested Nixon by a miniscule 113,000 votes out of more than 68 million ballots cast, president-elect Kennedy gave a brief victory speech at the Hyannis Armory, Nov. 1960.

The day after an election in which he bested Nixon, president-elect Kennedy gave a brief victory speech at the Hyannis Armory, Nov. 1960.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

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