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Cold War Research Guide: Alger Hiss Collections

Tamiment's Cold War Archival Collections

Alger Hiss Collections

Alger Hiss (1904-1996) Alger Hiss was a State Department official, who in 1948 was accused of transmitting government secrets to the Soviet Union. During the New Deal period he worked as an attorney at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, in the Solicitor General's Office at the Justice Department, as Assistant Secretary of State and in other positions in the State Department, and as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Yalta conference in 1945. He served as Secretary General of the United Nations Conference in San Francisco in April 1945. In 1947 he left government service to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Hiss's public career ended abruptly in 1948 when Time managing editor Whittaker Chambers, a former underground Communist Party operative testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), charged him with being both a Communist and a spy. Hiss voluntarily testified before HUAC, and, after a Grand Jury proceeding, was indicted on charges of perjury. Hiss's first trial ended in a hung jury on July 7, 1949. On January 21, 1950, he was convicted in a second trial. He was sentenced to five years in prison and served 44 months in Lewisberg Penitentiary.

The Tamiment Library’s Alger Hiss (1904-1996) collections include Hiss family papers, his legal defense files, as well as collections from long-time Hiss associates. The Debevoise & Plimpton Records on Alger Hiss (dated 1938-1980) contain files from the legal firm's representation of Alger Hiss in his 1949 perjury trials and his 1979 coram nobis petition to overturn his conviction. A select group of materials from the Debevoise & Plimpton Records are being digitized and will be available online in 2018.

In addition to the original archival materials that are housed at NYU, both the Alger Hiss Defense Collection for the Harvard Law School Library and the Hiss Papers are available through Microfilm.

Future projects will microfilm the Alger Hiss correspondence in the records of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Alger Hiss files in the United Nations Archives.

Alger Hiss Collections

  • Debevoise & Plimpton Records on Alger Hiss​ (TAM.674)
    The Debevoise & Plimpton Records on Alger Hiss (dated 1938-1980) contain files from the
    legal firm's representation of Alger Hiss in his 1949 perjury trials and his 1979 coram nobis petition to overturn his conviction. The collection consists of materials from Hiss's 1949 trials and includes attorney correspondence, interviews with character witnesses, trial transcripts, notes, copies of evidence, and legal documents filed during the trials.​

  • Stephen Salant Research Files on Alger Hiss​ (TAM.705)
    The Stephen Salant Research Files on Alger Hiss contain research materials and drafts related to Stephen Salant's writings on the Alger Hiss trials. Stephen W. Salant is an American economist who has done extensive research on the trials of Alger Hiss. Salant's research focuses primarily on the Hiss family typewriter and 5 Kodak film reels, which were known during the trials as the "Pumpkin Papers."

  • Agnese Nelms Haury Papers (TAM.163)
    Agnese N. Haury (1923-2014) was a researcher, editor, author and philanthropist who worked in and supported the work of others in a wide range of fields, including archaeology, anthropology, international affairs, Latin American studies, human rights and the arts. She met Alger Hiss in the 1940s when he was president of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and she was working in the Publications Department of the Endowment. They were to become close associates and, from the time of Hiss's trials of the late 1940s and early 50s, she worked strenuously in the cause of his defense. 

  • Alger Hiss Family Papers (TAM.314)
    The collection contains letters that Hiss wrote from his time in prison (1951-1954), materials pertaining to the Hiss Case, including government reports and newspaper clippings, the Crimea Conference Scrapbook containing mimeographed bulletins, other documents pertaining to the Conference, memoranda, and photographs.

  • Judith Papachristou Research Files on Alger Hiss (TAM.615)
    The collection contains transcripts of interviews conducted by The Nation Institute, and by Albert Ruben, reprints, unpublished writings by Judith Papachristou and others on the Hiss Case, transcriptions from Alger Hiss's notebooks (1984), and a copy of a 1962 letter to Alger Hiss from William Marbury.

  • The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss (TAM.709)
    The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss contains 42 interviews with individuals acquainted with Alger Hiss. Interviews in the collection were recorded between 2001 and 2004 as part of an oral history project created by The Nation Institute following Hiss's death in 1996, and feature individuals who spent time with Hiss later in his life.

  • John Lowenthal Papers (TAM.190)
    John Lowenthal (1925-2003) was an attorney and filmmaker. While in law school Lowenthal had a brief stint as a volunteer assistant to the defense during Alger Hiss's two perjury trials in 1949 and 1950. In the 1970s, after the release of suppressed FBI documents about the case, Lowenthal, by then a Rutgers University law professor, published an analysis of what this new evidence revealed. Several years later, Lowenthal took a leave from Rutgers to make "The Trials of Alger Hiss," a feature-length documentary film about the case. The John Lowenthal Papers consists primarily of materials gathered for Lowenthal's film, "The Trials of Alger Hiss" (1981).

  • Victor Rabinowitz Papers (TAM.123)
    Victor Rabinowitz (1911- 2007) had a long and distinguished career as an attorney specializing in civil liberties cases, international law, labor law and U.S. constitutional law. He was a partner in the firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard 
    and Krinsky and argued cases at many levels in New York City and New York, as well as appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U. S. Supreme Court. Rabinowitz represented Alger Hiss in his efforts to obtain government documents relevant to re-opening his case.

  • United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco 
    (Scanned from United Nations Archives - Coming Soon)

Hours & Location

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Hours: 10:00am - 5:00pm (Mon - Fri)

Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

To search other Cold War Collections in the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, visit the search portal for Tamiment collections.​

For further information and tips on how to perform searches, please consult the Tamiment Research Guide.

Special Collections Research Account

All researchers wishing to use archival collections and researchers unaffiliated with NYU wishing to use the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives must register to use the collections, which entails registering a Special Collections Research Account (SCRA) and showing a valid photo ID when they arrive at Tamiment. 

For more information consult the SCRA FAQ.