the FBI Knew And Hid
The Nation, June 26, 1976
WASHINGTON 7, NY 2, AND CHICAGO 1 FROM PHILA. 5-17-49 DIRECTOR
AND SACS URGENT ...CONCERNING WOODSTOCK TYPEWRITER SERIAL
FIVE N TWO THREE NAUGHT NAUGHT NINE NINE, ALLEGEDLY THE TYPEWRITER
FORMERLY OWNED BY THE HISS FAMILY, IT IS DESIRED TO POINT
OUT... THAT THE DEFINITE POSSIBILITY EXISTS THIS TYPEWRITER
IS NOT THE ONE RECEIVED BY PRISCILLA HISS FROM HER FATHER
Woodstock typewriter has been the focus of doubts about the
Hiss case ever since the trials in 1949-50. The second jury
convicted Hiss on the premise that his wife had typed copies
of State Department documents at home on the Hiss family Woodstock.
Everyone appeared to think that Woodstock model 5N serial
number 230099, the typewriter on exhibit in the courtroom,
was that same typewriter. But soon after the verdict, evidence
that the typewriter was suspect - not the Hisses' machine,
and possibly even a machine planted or fabricated to frame
Hiss - began to surface.
FBI has just disclosed that it had evidence, even before the
Hiss perjury trials began, that Woodstock No. 230099 was not
the Hiss family typewriter. Had this evidence been disclosed
before the trials, it might well have severed a vital link
in the Government's case against Hiss, by discrediting the
opinion of "expert" document examiners that the
incriminating papers had been typed on the same machine used
for typing some old Hiss family letters.
flies are now being obtained under the amended Freedom of
Information Act. The files released to date are voluminous
but incomplete, and litigation to obtain withheld and deleted
material is continuing. Nevertheless, what is already available
about the typewriter is sufficiently clear, and its prior
withholding by the FBI significant enough, to warrant this
importance of the typewriter in the case can be briefly sketched.
In August 1948, an ex-Communist named Whittaker Chambers appeared
before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and
accused Alger Hiss, a former State Department employee, and
other former Government employees of-having been Communists
who tried to influence Government policy in the 1930s, but,
not of having engaged in espionage. Hiss sued Chambers for
libel. On November 17, 1948, during pretrial depositions of
Chambers in the libel suit in Baltimore, Chambers produced
typewritten copies of various State Department papers bearing
dates in the first four months of 1938.
claimed that Hiss's wife, Priscilla, had typed the copies
at home from State Department papers brought home overnight
by Hiss. Chambers stated that he collected the typed copies
at the Hisses' house and delivered them to a photographer
to be microfilmed, and that he then delivered the microfilms
to a Russian agent. Chambers said variously that he had previously
refrained from mentioning espionage in order to shield his
erstwhile friend Hiss; that he had forgotten the papers, forgotten
he had put them by, thought he had destroyed them, did not
believe they still existed or were of much importance; and
that, if he produced no tangible evidence, he saw that he
might well lose the libel suit and be indicted for perjury.
and his libel-suit lawyers immediately requested that the
typewritten copies produced by Chambers (referred to as "Baltimore
Documents") be turned over to the Department of Justice
for an investigation to determine Chambers's true source for
the underlying State Department papers of which the Baltimore
Documents were copies, summaries, and extracts. Hiss and his
lawyers retained only photostats of the Baltimore Documents.
the next few weeks, a grand jury that was investigating possible
espionage resumed hearing testimony from Hiss, Chambers, and
others. On December 15, 1948, the grand jury indicted Hiss
for perjury in denying that he had turned over State Department
documents, or copies thereof, to Chambers in early 1938. (Prosecution
for espionage was barred by the Statute of Limitations.)
crux of the evidence against Hiss was Chambers's testimony
and the typewritten Baltimore Documents. Whatever typewriter
the Hisses had owned in early 1938 they no longer had in 1948.
However, letters typed in the Hiss household during the period
from January 1933 to May 1937 (the "Hiss Standards")
were found. Document examiners at the FBI and also for the
defense expressed their opinions that the Hiss Standards and
all but one of the Baltimore Documents had been typed on the
same machine, which they recognized from the typeface style
to be an old Woodstock.
Hiss had been given an old Woodstock by her father, but had
disposed of it, probably In 1937 or 1938. The exact date of
disposition was important. If Priscilla Hiss had still possessed
the typewriter throughout the dates on the Baltimore Documents
(January 5 through April 1, 1938), then it was at least possible
for the Baltimore Documents to have been typed by her at home
as Chambers claimed. (It would not have proved Chambers's
story, since he or someone else could have "borrowed"
the typewriter during that period to type the Baltimore Documents,
or could have obtained the machine for that purpose at some
later date, after Priscilla Hiss had disposed of it - or,
as we shall see, could have forged the Baltimore Documents
on another machine.) But if she had disposed of the typewriter
before the dates on the Baltimore Documents and never again
had the machine in her possession, then those documents could
not possibly have been typed on it in the Hiss home as Chambers
the Hiss Woodstock could be traced, the exact date of its
disposition might be pinned down. The FBI, HUAC, and the defense
all tried to find the old machine. What the FBI found in December
1948 is now revealed, at least in part in FBI reports made
that month at Philadelphia (December 17 and 23), Milwaukee
(December 21), and Chicago (December 23):
Woodstock given to Priscilla Hiss by her father, Thomas Fansler,
had been bought when Fansler formed an insurance business
partnership in Philadelphia with Harry Martin In the spring
or summer of 1927. The FBI interviewed Martin, who remembered
buying a new Woodstock at the inception of the partnership
from Thomas Grady, a Woodstock salesman in Philadelphia. The
FBI found Grady, who recalled selling a Woodstock to Martin
about 1927, at the inception of the partnership. Grady ceased
to work for the Woodstock Typewriter Company on December 3,
1927. Secretaries who worked for the partnership were also
interviewed, and their recollections, while somewhat confused
and uncertain, tended to confirm that the Fansler-Martin partnership
had a Woodstock in 1927. No one recalled any subsequent trade-in
of the Woodstock or that there was more than one Woodstock
in the Fansler-Martin office.
FBI then obtained from the Woodstock company a factory record
listing the approximate serial numbers used at the beginning
of each year 1925 through 1931, as follows:
trade-in manual for use by typewriter dealers listed approximately
the same data, with minor changes such as commencing the year
1928 with the serial number 177,000 instead of 177,100.
FBI thus concluded In December 1948 as follows:
view of the fact that THOMAS GRADY, the salesman who sold
the new Woodstock typewriter to the FANSLER-MARTIN partnership,
resigned on December 3, 1927, it would appear, therefore,
that the serial number of the typewriter sold to FANSLER-MARTIN
would be less than 177,000.
Armed with the list of serial numbers by years, more than
ninety FBI agents combed the country for old Woodstocks. Whenever
they found one in or near the pertinent serial range, they
also tried to ascertain the date of its purchase, since they
had a date - December 3, 1927 - on or before which the Fansler-Martln
machine must have been purchased. What they found shows a
time gap of at least half a year from date of manufacture
to date of purchase. Thus, Woodstock No. 169,653, manufactured
in 1927, according to Woodstock records, was purchased In
July 1928. Woodstock No. 188,729E, manufactured in 1928, was
purchased "probably in the Summer of 1929"; and
the FBI agent added in his report, "Inasmuch as the machine
appears to have been manufactured subsequent to January 1,
1928, no further investigation was conducted concerning this
machine." A considerably longer gap appears for Woodstock
No. 210,524, manufactured in 1929 and "purchased approximately
in 1932" (to which the FBI agent added, "Inasmuch
as the serial number of this machine indicates manufacture
subsequent to 1927, no further inquiry was made concerning
photographs of the pertinent model, which was unchanged throughout
the three years 1926, 1927, and 1928, were sought by the FBI.
J. Edgar Hoover himself specified serial numbers for those
years in a memorandum he sent to SAC [Special Agent in Charge],
Washington Field dated February 17, 1949, the first sentence
of which reads:
are requested to obtain a photograph of a Woodstock typewriter
which comes within the pertinent serial range, that is, 145,000
- 204,500 which was manufactured around the time that the
Hiss Woodstock machine was made and show this photograph to
the maids, baby sitters and other persons who have admitted
seeing an upright machine in the Hiss residence.
FBI was unsuccessful in its search for the old Woodstock,
as far as can be determined from the files released to date.1
defense had relatively meager resources to devote to the search.
However, in April 1949, just six weeks before the first trial
began, defense attorneys found Woodstock No. 230,099. They
believed it to be the Hiss family Woodstock because it appeared
to be traceable all the way back, through many hands, to the
family of a maid who had worked for the Hisses in the 1930s
and to whose sons the Hisses had given their Woodstock.
the finding of Woodstock No. 230,099 by the defense attorneys
was entirely a surprise to the FBI, that investigative bureau
had been upstaged by a few rank amateurs. Moreover, a crucial
detail was cause for adding consternation to chagrin: The
serial number of the newly found machine was too high for
the Woodstock the FBI had been looking for - a machine purchased
by the Fansler-Martin partnership even before No. 230,099
was manufactured, according to the FBI's evidence.
must have been a bureaucrat's nightmare. On the one hand,
if Woodstock No. 230,099 were the Hiss family machine, the
FBI had muffed its investigation. The bureau would lose face,
and someone would have to take the blame. On the other hand,
if the FBI's investigation and evidence were correct, then
the defense attorneys had somehow been led into error in identifying
Woodstock No. 230,099 as the Hiss family machine. Worse, any
document examiner who might give an opinion that Woodstock
No. 230,099 was the same machine that the Hiss Standards had
been typed on would be discredited if the fact that it was
not the Hiss machine were to come to light.
the FBI files recently released, we see the FBI diligently
rechecking its evidence for accuracy. The files also suggest
maneuvering by FBI agents to escape blame. First is an FBI
agent's 3-page defense addressed to his chief, justifying
in detail why the agent had looked for typewriters only with
serial numbers substantially lower than 230,099. This is the
teletype excerpted at the beginning of this article. It was
sent by FBI agent Boardman of the Philadelphia office to J.
Edgar Hoover on May 17, 1949, just two weeks before the first
trial began. Boardman reminds Hoover that THE INVESTIGATION
TO DATE HAS ESTABLISHED THAT THE FANSLER-MARTIN PARTNERSHIP
PURCHASED A WOODSTOCK TYPEWRITER IN NINETEEN TWENTY-SEVEN.
Boardman then carefully recites the substantiating interviews
with Martin and Woodstock salesman Grady and the factory serial
number list WHICH MAKES IT APPARENT THAT TWO THREE NAUGHT
NAUGHT NINE NINE WOULD HAVE BEEN MANUFACTURED IN TWENTY-NINE.
It therefore could not have been the Woodstock purchased by
Fansler-Martin in 1927, and therefore could not have been
the Hiss family machine.
After making his own defense, Boardman then tries shifting
the onus to the FBI laboratory in Washington:
REPORT DATED DEC. THIRTY, FORTY-EIGHT SETS OUT THAT CONSIDERATION
SHOULD BE GIVEN TO OBTAINING SPECIMENS FROM MACHINES HAVING
SERIAL NUMBERS LOWER THAN TWO HUNDRED FOUR THOUSAND.
Boardman raises the possibility that the FBI had been led
astray by wrong figures supplied by the Chicago office of
WOODSTOCK NUMBER TWO THREE NAUGHT NAUGHT NINE NINE SHOULD
ACTUALLY DEVELOP TO BE THE FORMER FANSLER-MARTIN TYPEWRITER,
THEN RECORDS OF FACTORY AND TRADE MANUAL WOULD APPEAR TO BE
INACCURATE. CHICAGO OFFICE SHOULD IMMEDIATELY ATTEMPT TO DETERMINE
DEGREE OF ACCURACY WHICH CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO INFO SET FORTH
IN REREP SA ANDERSON CONCERNING QUOTE APPROXIMATE SERIAL NUMBERS
UNQUOTE AND WHAT OFFICIAL OF WOODSTOCK CAN TESTIFY TO THIS
DEGREE OF ACCURACY....
Chicago office responded with a memorandum to the DIRECTOR,
FBI, dated May 20, 1949, confirming and elaborating as follows
on the evidence previously gathered by the Chicago office:
Joseph Schmitt, Vice President In Charge of Production, Woodstock
Typewriter Company, Woodstock, Illinois, has furnished a list
Indicating the various serial numbers being used at the times
technical changes were made In Woodstock typewriters. Mr.
Schmitt stated that this list is accurate and that Traffic
Manager Harold Kroull could testify as to its accuracy. The
list is as follows:
||1/2" ribbon on Long Carriages
||New Style Action
||Die Cast Base
||Die Cast Topplate
||Nickel Carriage Ends
new list was consistent with the factory record and trade-in
manual that the FBI had obtained before Woodstock No. 230,099
burst upon the scene. From Schmitt's list, it appears that
Woodstock No. 230,099 would have been manufactured between
March 1929, when serial number 220,000 was used, and August
1930, when serial number 265,000 was used.
Milwaukee office of the FBI reinterviewed Woodstock salesman
Grady "concerning the Woodstock typewriter he sold to
HARRY MARTIN and his partner FANSLER in Philadelphia in the
year 1927." The Milwaukee office reported to J. Edgar
Hoover on June 7, 1949:
was pointed out to him [Grady] that the typewriter produced
by Hiss [No. 2300991 according to company records, was manufactured
in the year 1929 and was a Model 5N. He stated that he could
not have sold this typewriter as he sold no typewriters subsequent
to leaving the employ of Woodstock in December 1927.
The FBI did more than just reinvestigate its previous evidence
pointing to a 1927 Woodstock. The emergence of Woodstock No.
230,099 furnished a new clue In the specific serial number,
which, if it could be traced through sales records, might
lead to the name of the purchaser and the date of purchase.
The FBI searched, and this is what It says it found:
record of the sale of a typewriter bearing serial 230,099
has ever been located; however, sale of a machine with serial
230,098, one digit lower than the machine in question, has
been located, it occurring in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania on
September 21, 1932.
the machine in question was also sold in 1932, It was sold
to someone other than Fansler-Martin, since that partnership
was terminated in 1930 and Fansler retired then or in early
FBI's finding quoted above, concerning the machine one digit
lower, appears In a 9-page memorandum dated June 8, 1949,
setting forth "an analysis of the information developed
since December 10, 1948, which concerns the Woodstock Typewriter."
The memorandum marshals the information in a bid to show that
perhaps the Fansler-Martin partnership did not buy its Woodstock
until 1929, thus opening up the possibility that the machine
it bought was No. 230099 after all. Three paragraphs dealing
with various typing specimens are wrapped up in this final
this is not by any means conclusive, there are at least indications
that the Woodstock Typewriter in question was purchased on
or shortly before July 8, 1929.
But even that date would not encompass Woodstock No. 230,099.
Joseph Schmitt, the Woodstock factory manager, was later to
say that No. 230,099 would have been manufactured In August
or September of 1929. Thus it was not even in existence to
have been purchased by the Fansler-Martin partnership on July
the defense attorneys had found Woodstock No. 230,099, they
had retained a document examiner to compare specimens of its
typing with the Hiss Standards. He expressed the opinion that
Woodstock No. 230,099 was the machine on which the Hiss Standards
had been typed.
now learn that FBI document examiners did likewise. On October
21, 1949 in the period between the two trials, Special Agent
John S. McCool took twenty-one specimens from Woodstock No.
230,099. An FBI laboratory report dated October 27, 1949,
on those specimens ("K746 Twenty-one pages of typewritten
specimens obtained from a Woodstock Typewriter, Serial #N230099")
gives the RESULTS OF EXAMINATION:
was concluded that the typewriter with Serial #N230,099, which
was used to type the specimens designated above as K746, was
the typewriter that was used to type the evidence listed below:
[The. evidence listed is the Hiss Standards and Baltimore
If Woodstock No. 230,099 wan not the hiss family machine,
as the FBI's other evidence indicated it was not, then the
Hiss Standards were not typed on it. Therefore, the document
examiners were necessarily wrong, demonstrably unable to tell
which papers were typed on what machine.2
Consistent with the FBI's other evidence that Woodstock No.
230,099 was not the Hiss machine is the fact that its operating
condition when Special Agent McCool took the twenty-one specimens
from it in 1949 was far better than seems credible for the
Hiss family Woodstock in the normal course of events. When
the Hisses disposed of their Woodstock about a dozen years
earlier, it was then "in poor condition...pretty much
of a wreck.... The keys stuck, hooked together, and the ribbon
didn't work properly." Subsequent possessors testified
that the keys stuck, the spacing was bad, the carriage or
roller was broken, and the ribbon failed to move; that the
typewriter was left outdoors in the rain; and finally that
it was unusable and in such bad condition that it could not
Special Agent McCool, however, found Woodstock No. 230,099
quite otherwise when he typed the twenty-one specimens on
it in October 1949, shortly before the second trial began.
According to an FBI report made at New York on November 4,
1949, and just recently released:
was noted, in obtaining these specimens, that the typewriter
itself was in very good condition. No difficulty was experienced
in obtaining these specimens and none of the letters appeared
to stick or to be Impaired to any degree. It was noted, however,
that the carriage return bar on this machine was loose which
necessitated manually turning the platen in order to type
from one line to the next.
the second trial, Special Agent McCool demonstrated the good
condition of Woodstock No. 230,099 by typing a copy of one
of the Baltimore Documents on it in the presence of the jury.
the defense attorneys found Woodstock No. 230,099, they knew
too little about its operating condition over the years to
be skeptical of it; they knew nothing of the FBI's evidence
that the serial number was too high for the Fansler-Martin
(Hiss) machine; and they had no suspicion that professional
document examiners might be wrong in attributing two sets
of papers to the same typewriter. The defense attorneys brought
Woodstock No. 230,099 into court as the Hiss family Woodstock
Several defense witnesses testified that they recognized the
machine and that the Hisses had given it away in connection
with a household move on December 29, 1937, before the dates
on the Baltimore Documents. But the precise date of disposition
still could not be established so long after the event.
Government, knowing that the defense would introduce the machine
as the Hiss Woodstock, faced the tactical problem of how to
cope with it. The ingenious solution worked out by the prosecution
was to walk the tightrope of appearing to accept the machine
as the Hiss Woodstock, but without putting any witness on
the stand to testify to that effect under oath.
In the courtroom, Woodstock No. 230,099 was used effectively
by the prosecutor, Thomas Murphy, in his summation to the
jury at the second trial. Pointing dramatically to the typewriter,
he said: "They [the Baltimore Documents] were typed on
that machine (Indicating). Our man said it was."
In fact, their man said no such thing. Their man was Ramos
C. Feehan, an FBI agent assigned to the FBI laboratory as
a document examiner. Feehan testified only that, in his opinion,
the Baltimore Documents and the Hiss Standards had been typed
on the same machine. He did not identify Woodstock No. 230,099
as that machine. He never mentioned the FBI laboratory's identification
of Woodstock No. 230,099 as the machine on which both sets
of papers had been typed.
Murphy's misstatement to the jury at the second trial was,
of course, only a lawyer's argument, not testimony; nor was
it made under oath. But the judge himself was apparently misled,
for he charged the Jury that identification of Woodstock No.
230,099 was part of the Government's case:
is the contention of the Government that this [Woodstock No.
230,0993 is the typewriter upon which Baltimore Exhibits 5
to 47 (with the exception of Exhibit 10) were typed. This
is not contested by the defense, but the defense claims that
this typewriter was given away when the Hisses moved to the
Volta Place house at the end of December 1937.
it was that the old Woodstock became "the key ‘witness'
in the case", as Nixon called it In Six Crises. That
it was also a false witness, according to the FBI's evidence,
was not then suspected by the defense. There is no doubt that
the old Woodstock in the courtroom did the defendant no good.
On January 21, 1950, the jury at the second trial convicted
Hiss in effect of having brought State Department documents
home for his wife to copy on Woodstock No. 230,099.
his sentencing. Hiss again denied the charges made against
him and expressed confidence "that in the future the
full facts of how Whittaker Chambers was able to carry out
forgery by typewriter will be disclosed." Hiss and his
attorneys had surmised that Chambers, perhaps with the help
of confederates, had somehow gotten hold of the old Hiss Woodstock
and typed the Baltimore Documents on it, copying from State
Department documents that Chambers had obtained from other
State Department employees, such as Julian Wadleigh, who admitted
supplying Chambers with such documents. Such forgery could
have been done in 1938 (the Baltimore Documents were dated
January 5 through April 1, 1938) or at any time thereafter
up to November 17, 1948, when Chambers produced the Baltimore
Documents in the libel suit. He could certainly have known
of the old Woodstock, since he had been a house guest of the
Hisses for several days in the mid-1930s, when the Hiss Standards
had been typed on it (January 1933-May 1937).
was sentenced to five years in prison. While he was serving
his sentence, his attorneys began to learn about other possibilities
of "forgery by typewriter".
the two trials, the defense had accepted its experts' advice
"that it would be absolutely impossible to make a typewriter
that would duplicate the work of another so completely that
no one could tell the difference between them." The theory
was endorsed by Nixon In Six Crises:
typewriter has one characteristic in common with a fingerprint:
every one is different, and It is impossible to make an exact
duplicate unless the same machine is used.
theory happens to be false. Unknown to the defense, military
intelligence operatives In World War II, a decade before the
trials, "could reproduce faultlessly the imprint of any
typewriter on earth." Forgers from the United States
worked In Canada at a location "chosen In part because
it could be reached easily by FBI agents"; J. Edgar Hoover
himself visited the establishment. One job in which the FBI
collaborated called for rebuilding "with all the imperfections
. . . [a] typewriter that precisely duplicated the machine
In Rome"; It produced "a letter so perfectly forged
by matching the imperfections of typewriter keys... that it
caused the removal of certain key pro-Nazis in South America."3
defense attorneys were entirely unaware that such typewriter
forgeries could be, and had been, successfully performed.
Nonetheless, convinced that some kind of forgery must have
been perpetrated on their client, they decided on their own
to see if a typewriter could be duplicated closely enough
to fool the experts. The typewriter they chose to try to duplicate
was Woodstock No. 230,099, since the question was whether
an old Woodstock, not some other make, could be duplicated.
In 1950, they sent a representative to the Woodstock factory
to obtain type of the same style as was soldered to the type
bars of Woodstock No. 230,099. But the factory manager, Joseph
Schmitt, told the defense representative that the type style
requested could not have been the original type for a machine
with the serial number 230,099. The reason, said Schmitt,
was that the type style requested had been discontinued at
the end of 1928, whereas a typewriter bearing serial number
230,099 would have been manufactured in August or September
of 1929. This would suggest, of course, that Woodstock No.
230,099 was a combination of pre-1929 type soldered into a
1929 body. Such a combination could have been fabricated to
frame Hiss, or could conceivably have resulted from a legitimate
repair or rebuilding job by a typewriter dealer.
major difficulty in the defense experiment to fabricate a
duplicative Woodstock typewriter was to find enough type of
the same old style found on Woodstock No. 230,099. That was
finally done, however, and the typewriter engineer retained
by the defense was able to complete his assignment.
investigators also obtained Woodstock serial number lists
by years and some of the other evidence that the FBI had secured
even before the first trial. As had the bureau, the defense
attorneys concluded that Woodstock No. 230,099 was manufactured
too late to be the Fansler-Martin (Hiss) machine.
post-conviction Investigations by the defense apparently interested
the FBI: The bureau took the trouble to keep them under close
January 24, 1952, Hiss's attorneys filed a motion for a new
trial based on their then newly discovered evidence. As part
of their motion, they challenged the Government's "expert"
document examiners to distinguish specimens typed on Woodstock
No. 230,099 from specimens "forged" on the defense's
experimental fabricated typewriter.
Government did not accept the challenge - or, If it did, it
kept the results to itself. The lawyer for the Government
ridiculed the very Idea of fabricating "a miraculous
duplicate typewriter" such as the defense had just fabricated.
The FBI did not come forward with Its World War II knowledge
of such fabrications.
did the FBI even then divulge to the defense attorneys or
the Judge that the FBI had itself found evidence, before the
first trial, that Woodstock No. 230,099 was manufactured too
late to be the Fansler-Martin (Hiss) machine. The defense
attorneys had just discovered some of the same evidence and
were seeking to develop It at a new trial. The Government
lawyer belittled the defense motion as "frivolous...
[Supposedly based on newly discovered evidence, in reality
it is predicated on sheer speculation."
in case the judge might have been interested In the evidence
about the typewriter, the Government also argued that it was
irrelevant. The reason it was irrelevant, said the Government,
was that the FBI document examiner at the trials had testified
only that the Hiss Standards and the Baltimore Documents had
been typed on the same machine, without identifying which
machine it was or saying anything at all about Woodstock No.
230,099. The Government thus stated to the Judge:
even assuming for purposes of argument that the trial exhibit
[Woodstock No. 230,099 was a fabricated machine and not the
Hiss machine, the soundness and completeness of the Government's
evidence [that the Hiss Standards and the Baltimore Documents
had been typed on the same machine is [sic] not affected one
the contrary, the soundness and completeness of the Government's
evidence are vitally affected if Woodstock No. 230,099 was
not the Hiss machine, because the Government document examiners
had concluded that it was the machine on which the Hiss Standards
had been typed. But they could not have been typed on it if
it was not the Hiss machine. That fact, by proving the document
examiners wrong and the "unique typewriter" theory
fallible, would by the same token have impeached the soundness
of the Government document examiner's testimony that the Hiss
Standards and the Baltimore Documents had been typed on the
it not for the FBI's suppression of its evidence that Woodstock
No. 230,099 was not the Hiss machine, this vital point would
have come out at the trials, if indeed it would not have prevented
or aborted the indictment itself. Now that the defense had
found some of the same evidence, the Government was urging
the court not to consider it. The court denied the defense
motion for a new trial.
Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion, and the
defense petitioned the Supreme Court to take the case. This
time, the Government conceded that "the Government accepted
the typewriter in evidence [Woodstock No. 230,099] as the
one which also produced the ‘Baltimore' documents." But
then the Government again disclaimed the typewriter as irrelevant:
Government rested its case upon the evidence that the "Baltimore"
documents and the Hiss standards were typed on a single typewriter,
without identifying the machine.
it is precisely that crucial Government evidence that is vulnerable
If Woodstock No. 230,099 was not the Hiss machine. Once again,
however, the Government presented an erroneous conclusion,
this time to the Supreme Court:
in order to have any value, petitioner's [newly' discovered]
evidence had to show that the Baltimore documents were forged,
even if he could show that No. 230,099 was not his machine.
is not true that Hiss's new evidence, to have any value, must
"show that the Baltimore documents were forged."
The burden in these criminal trials was on the Government
to pin the Baltimore Documents on the defendant beyond a reasonable
doubt, and Hiss's new evidence (like the FBI's then still
withheld old evidence) could have raised that reasonable doubt
by discrediting the Government document examiner's opinion,
thus presenting the possibility of forgery without necessarily
going all the way to show it. And If Hiss "could show
that No. 230,099 was not his machine", that alone would
have Impeached the reliability of the Government document
examiner's testimony and raised the possibility of forgery.
No. 230,099 would be irrelevant only If It were in fact the
Hiss machine. In that case, It would add nothing (except drama)
to FBI document examiner Feehan's testimony that the Hiss
Standards and the Baltimore Documents had been typed on the
same machine. (Feehan's testimony did not purport to prove
who typed the Baltimore Documents or when they were typed.
On those questions, the Government's case depended solely
on the word of Whittaker Chambers.) But because Woodstock
No. 23009* becomes highly relevant if it was not the Hiss
machine, and since the defense found evidence to that effect
after the conviction, the defense sought to reopen the case.
Supreme Court declined to review the motion for a new trial.
Hiss case, like a myth, provokes strong reactions based on
emotional and political inclinations.
HUAC bearings and the two trials were sensational and passionate
events, scarcely conducive to objective fact-finding. When
the first trial ended in a hung jury, 8 to 4 for conviction,
jurors who had voted to convict used the words "blockhead",
"dope", and "Communist sympathizer" in
speaking of jurors who had voted to acquit. The latter received
anonymous threats of death and advice to "go to Russia".
HUAC's most publicized member, Richard Nixon, who Chambers
said "made the Hiss Case possible", was reported
to have "indicated" that members of the hung jury
might be subpoenaed to appear before HUAC; and Nixon joined
with other Congressmen in calling for an investigation looking
to impeachment of the judge who had presided at the first
trial. The two Supreme Court Justices, Frankfurter and Reed,
who had testified as character witnesses for Hiss at the first
trial were vilified In the press and in Congress, where bills
were introduced to prohibit Supreme Court Justices from being
subpoenaed to testify as character witnesses.
second trial was presided over by a different judge, and no
Supreme Court Justices were called to testify.
months after Hiss was convicted, Nixon put into the Congressional
Record an article from the American Weekly entitled "How
the FBI Trapped Hiss". The article is based on material
furnished by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and by prosecutor
Thomas Murphy, and It recounts some of the super-sleuthing
and clever trial tactics that brought down their quarry.
twenty-six years later, there emerges a different version
of how the FBI trapped Hiss: by suppressing the evidence vital
to his defense.
Richard Nixon wrote in his "Six Crises" (Doubleday,
1962) that the FBI found the typewriter two days before Hiss
December 13  FBI agents found the typewriter.
December , the critical last day [of the Grand Jury's term,
and the day they indicted Hiss, an expert from the FBI typed
exact copies on the old Woodstock machine and had them flown
up to New York as exhibits for the members of the Grand Jury
to see to see....The evidence was unanswerable. (P. 60.)
it was pointed out to Nixon that the defense, not the FBI,
was supposed to have found the old Woodstock, Nixon promptly
disavowed that part of his book as "a researcher's error,"
and changed the passage in subsequent editions. Whether or
not it was a researchers error, it and the other known assertions
that the FBI or HUAC found the typewriter, and Newsweek's
identification of the typewriter as "an aged Woodstock,
No. 200194 (July 24,1961, p. 20, col. 2). remain unexplained
and provocative challenges to the authenticity of Woodstock
No. 230,099 and the candor of the Government.
The FBI laboratory reports that I have seen are self evidently
incomplete: a few conclusions labeled "Results of Examination"
without supporting data or methodology, and containing deletions
and references to documents not furnished. Some pages are
illegible and have been returned to the FBI with requests
for clearer copies. An important example is an FBI laboratory
report dated May 23, 1949 (one week before the beginning of
the first trial), on typing specimen "K740 An Application
for Federal Employment dated July 26, 1947 bearing the name
[deleted]." The report refers to a Bureau wire and letter
dated May 20, 1949, but not furnished. The report concludes,
if I correctly read the unclear copy, "that the machine
which was used to type [the Baltimore Documents] was the same
machine which typed K740..." Fortunately, in this instance,
FBI memorandums dated May 24, June 5, and November 3, 1949,
confirm that reading and identify K740 as executed by a Mr.
James McQueen, one of the many people to whom possession of
Woodstock No. 230,099 was traced.
complete FBI laboratory reports, if they resemble the defense's
pretrial document examiners' report, would inspire little
confidence. It requires no "expert" to see that
the defenses pretrial reports are seriously deficient in methodology,
thoroughness, accuracy, and plain common sense. The FBI document
examiner who testified at the trials presented even flimsier
support for his opinion that the Hiss Standards and the Baltimore
Documents had been typed on the same machine (see Werchen
& Cook, "New Light on the Hiss Case," The Nation,
May 28, 1973, esp. pp. 683-84). There is also other evidence
from type and typing specimens not dealt with in the reports
available to date, that Woodstock No. 230,099 is not the machine
on which the Baltimore Documents were typed.
important matters warrant full investigation and analysis,
particularly when (if ever) the withheld FBI material becomes
W. Stevenson, "A Man Called Intrepid" (Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1976), pp. 187, 189, 190, 268, 269, eighteenth
unnumbered photograph page following p. 230. The defense first
learned of these typewriter forgeries with the publication
of H. Montgomery Hyde, "Room 3603," (Farrar, Straus,
to the Typewriter