magazine, August 1952
$7,500 Typewriter I Built For Alger Hiss
MARTIN TYTELL as told to HARRY KURSH
began for me in the latter part of March 1950, less than two
months after Alger Hiss, convicted of perjury, had implied
that he was the victim of a "forgery by typewriter." I was
sitting at my desk behind a jungle of papers and typewriter
parts when a tall, lean young man of about 28 came in. He
carried a bulging brief case by its handle and, standing over
my desk, peered intently at me from behind thick horn-rimmed
identified himself as a member of the Hiss defense staff and
seemed to have trouble expressing what was on his mind. He
stammered for a few moments. "I once read something about
you," he said.
he came right to the point. "Do you believe typewriters can
be duplicated?" he asked.
don't see why not," I replied.
He sat down on a stool near my desk. "Do you think you can
duplicate a typewriter?" His eyes had an anxious look.
never given it any real thought. What have you in mind?"
He sat straight up. Then, looking squarely at me, he said,
"Alger Hiss's attorney, Chester T. Lane, would like to engage
you to assist in proving that two typewriters can be made
to type so much alike that it would be confusing for experts
to distinguish between documents typed on either of them."
had two jury trials," I said. "And he was convicted. How many
trials do you want? It would be a waste of time even to try."
He thanked me for my opinion and left, but only to return
the following day. "I know how you feel about the case," he
said, "but we're not asking you to be pro- or anti- Hiss.
Would you be willing to take the job on as an experiment?"
Actually, my first reaction was that I didn't want to have
anything to do with the controversial Hiss case. I thought
I'd discourage him. I told him I could not guarantee success,
since I had never attempted such a job.
results I come up with," I added, "will become public information.
I don't withhold any of my knowledge from document experts.
If I should fail, it would undoubtedly hurt your case."
probably would," he said, "but we want an intensive scientific
study. We're willing to take a chance on the results, if you're
willing, of course, to take a chance on your reputation."
I thought it was shrewd of him to put it that way. Then I
said emphatically, "But if I do succeed, it will upset the
entire theory of identifying typewritten documents. It might
even set criminals free. It might cast doubt on every conviction
ever obtained based on typewritten evidence. Don't you know
the experts have never even considered the possibility that
typewriters can be forged?"
answer was simple. "That's quite true. The ends of justice,
however, are served only when all known factors concerning
evidence have been exposed and properly considered under law."
Finally I agreed to take the assignment on the condition that
I do it only in my spare time, in my own way, without control
or dictation from any members of the Hiss defense staff, and
purely as a scientific experiment. He agreed to this and said
Chester Lane would draw up the agreement.
columnists around the country have been attempting to explain
how I did the job, some reporting my fee as high as $30,000.
As to how I did the job, not one guessed correctly. As to
how much I got for the job, I can lay that erroneous report
to rest right now.
April 17, 1950, Chester Lane came to my office with a written
agreement, which stated I was to receive $2,500 in advance
to conduct the experiment and that upon the completion of
my work I was to receive another $5,000. That's what I got.
However, the agreement further stated; "It is understood that
you will work solely from [typewritten] samples without access
to or inspection of the machine on which the samples are typed."
it was the Hiss defense staff that had found Woodstock No.
230,099 even though more than two dozen FBI men had turned
Washington, D.C. inside out to find it. Edward McLean, one
of Hiss's attorneys, in April 1949, traced it to a man named
Ira Lockey, a trucker who said he had gotten it from a family
named Marlow in exchange for a house-moving job. I knew this;
and my original impression was that I would simply make castings
of the machine's individual type faces, insert them in a similar
Woodstock model and adjust the entire machine to reproduce
the original. The realization that I would have to work without
the actual machine before me stunned me. I was to work only
with specimens of typing from the so-called Hiss Woodstock.
But that made the challenge all the greater, and I decided
to go ahead.
millions of Americans I had followed accounts of the Alger
Hiss trials, but throughout both of them (the first trial
ended in a hung jury) I was also busy with my chores running
the Tytell Typewriter Company at my two-story Fulton Street
shop in lower Manhattan. It's a quarter-million dollar business
I've built up from scratch over the past fifteen years - buying,
renting, repairing and selling typewriters. I am 39 years
old, but I've been handling typewriters more than half my
lifetime. As a result I have been able to acquire certain
skills that have given me an international reputation, mainly
because I can convert, within twenty-four hours, any standard
American typewriter to type in practically any language you
can name. When I was a GI in the last war, the OSS had me
"discharged" from the Army for three months so that I could
fulfill a top-secret typewriter project. I am consulted regularly
It was typewriter evidence that formed the core of the case
against Alger Hiss. He was convicted officially on two counts
of perjury committed before an espionage hunting federal grand
jury in December 1948. But even a school kid knew that behind
it all lay ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers' spectacular charges
that Hiss had been passing him confidential State Department
data up until the time Chambers deserted the Communist Party
in April 1938. The government charged that forty-two out of
forty-three such documents produced by Chambers had been written
on the same typewriter as a number of notes and letters admittedly
typed in the Hiss home during the same period.
more than 8,000 pages and 2,300,000 words of trial testimony,
Woodstock typewriter model No. 230,099, built around August
1929, sat on the courtroom table in New York's Foley Square.
It was conceded at the time of the trial to have belonged
to the Hisses. Government prosecutor Thomas F. Murphy used
the typewriter to bring his case against Hiss to a flashing
climax. Pointing dramatically to the machine, he told the
jury that if ever there was a charge against Hiss, that typewriter
was "the immutable witness forever against" him. In fact,
Hiss himself practically labeled the typewriter the same way.
the lean and youthful looking ex-State Department official
stood sober-faced before Federal Judge Henry W. Goddard on
January 25, 1950, he was granted permission to make a statement
In a packed courtroom the reporters could be seen leaning
forward intently, pencils poised, for what was expected to
be a dramatic declaration of innocence - or a confession!
But Hiss declared simply: "I am confident that in the
future all the facts will be brought out to show how Whittaker
Chambers was able to commit forgery by typewriter. Thank you,
did Hiss mean? Undoubtedly, he meant that somewhere, somehow,
someone got hold of letters that had actually been typed on
his Woodstock when he owned it. Then these letters were used
to make a machine that would reproduce specimens - or documents
- with the same characteristics of typewriter habits, type-face
design, deviations, and flaws. The experts must have laughed.
of the expert opinion today comes from a handful of professional
men known as the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.
Ramos Feehan, FBI expert on questioned documents, fulfilled
that role for the government's case against Hiss by comparing
the copied State Department documents to letters written by
the Hisses on their Woodstock back in 1937.
easels, charts and photographic blowups, Feehan showed the
jury how the small a, d, e, g, i, 1, o, u, and the
capital A in the evidence had all the earmarks of the
same type faces found in the Hiss letters. That would be upsetting
evidence in any man's court. Feehan's accuracy was not contested
by the defense.
there a chance that identity between typewriter characteristics
could crop up accidentally in two different machines? Possibly.
But such a coincidence is remote, to say the least. This was
effectively demonstrated by a Cornell University mathematics
professor, Virgil Snyder, in a 1911 New York Supreme Court
case, the People vs. Risley.
had been accused of fraudulently altering an affidavit by
typewriter. During the course of the trial, Professor Snyder
testified that the chances of only six type characters appearing
accidentally with identical design and deviations in the same
six type characters of another machine would have to be expressed
as somewhere between one in 3 trillion to 4 trillion - a virtually
impossible accident. FBI expert Feehan was content to point
out ten such similarities in the Hiss trial!
Oddly enough, the Risley trial is the only known case in which
a conviction was obtained because it was shown that Risley
had actually attempted to alter type faces on one machine
to duplicate another. The attempt was made by a typewriter
mechanic in a secondhand typewriter shop but was crude and
readily discovered. The mechanic later testified, though,
that he had been suspicious of Risley's intentions and had
not made as many alterations as he should have. I was setting
out to make the duplication as complete and accurate as I
jobs aren't anything new to me - though this one promised
to be in a class by itself. My customers include professionals
ranging from designers and architects to druggists, chemists,
engineers, astronomers, and a newspaper columnist who writes
on bridge. I design and build keyboards for them in the special
symbols of their respective fields. For musicians I have made
keyboards with musical notes. For a well-known mystery writer
I once designed a keyboard with a variety of crosses and bones,
and an astronomer once left my office with a typewriter containing
a fantastic array of space symbols, such as ringed planets,
comets and stars. A few years ago, I had a man ask me to build
him a typewriter with question marks - nothing but question
marks. On top of that, he wanted each symbol to fall at a
certain level above or below the line. It was probably the
weirdest request I've ever received. I completed the job according
to his specifications, but I never did learn what it was all
one of my most interesting jobs found me a Pfc. in the Army.
I got into the Army in January 1943. A few months later I
was discharged, but not for good. It seems that the U.S. government
had seized a contraband shipment of 100 Siamese typewriters
leaving for ports unknown. Nobody knew what to do with such
a strange catch. They were placed under the custody of the
National City Bank in New York. It was at a time when we ourselves
were experiencing a serious war-bred shortage of typewriters.
Few knew at the time that one of the most urgent needs for
typewriters with foreign-language keyboards was with OSS forces
planted in different countries. Someone suggested that the
Siamese typewriters be converted for this use. But there was
trouble in finding a man for the job. And, with the materials
shortage, there was trouble in finding the appropriate foreign
type and symbols. I already had many of these in my shop.
I stock more than two million type faces, mostly foreign-language
Fortunately, I had once done some unique foreign-language
work for a National City Bank branch manager. When he heard
about the need for converting the typewriters, he passed my
name along, together with the suggestion that I could convert
them for use on several languages at a time.
day in August 1943, while I was assigned as a typewriter repairman
at Fort Jay in New York, a confidential order came through
from the War Production Board in the form of a directive.
It asked my command to release me for a top-secret job. No
one at Fort Jay knew what it was all about; neither did I.
When I was confronted with the problem, I told top Army brass
in Washington that I could make each of the typewriters work
for many languages. I was told to use my own shop, which was
being run by my wife largely for typewriter rentals - still
a good part of my business today - because they did not want
word of the project to leak out. The typewriters had to be
flown overseas, then dropped by parachute to dozens of OSS
order to keep the project under a tight lid, I was actually
discharged from the Army on August 25, 1943, and given a Certificate
of Service to certify that I had "served in the active
Army" in order to keep my draft board from getting too
inquisitive and to keep the cops from picking me up. Once
in mufti, I returned to my shop and sealed off an entire section
of one workroom. I did everything possible to keep my work
secret. But I had to make up some strange stories for a lot
of curious neighbors who, until they read this, never could
figure out why I had been released from the Army after only
a few months of service. I have always been on the tall, round
and broad-shouldered side, so to them I was the healthiest
4-F ever seen under a shock of light brown hair.
three months, I had completed the assignment. The Siamese
keyboard had forty-six type bars. Hence, I was able to do
more with them than I had done with any other machine. I was
able to arrange a keyboard that could be used for seventeen
languages in all, including French, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian,
Turkish, Danish and German. I never did learn just where they
I was "reenlisted," I was returned to Fort Jay. There I was
placed in charge of typewriter repair and given similar responsibility
over 14,000 machines in the New York area - with a crew of
more than a dozen technicians and still a Pfc! Later, I was
made a staff sergeant in time to be discharged as such on
November 26, 1945.
Unquestionably, though, I still consider work on tracing questioned
documents my most exciting and challenging assignments. But
for excitement and challenge, I'd never had anything to compare
with the job I was starting out to do on the Hiss case. This
promised to be the biggest one yet.
To get started, I asked Lane's secretary to get specimens
for me from Woodstock No. 230,099. I asked her for single-spaced
pages of typing with whole lines of capital A's, then whole
lines of small a's and to continue like that until she had
covered every symbol on the machine. Then I asked her to do
the same thing over, except to place capital N's and
H's next to each letter, like NaNaNa, HaHaHa. The N's
and H's act as guides against which other letters can
be properly aligned. The reason is simple.
typewriters carry pica or elite type. Any ten symbols on a
pica machine, including space between letters, fill a horizontal
inch. Six vertical lines of type also cover an inch. On an
elite machine the only difference is that it takes twelve
symbols to fill a horizontal inch. The Hiss Woodstock is a
pica machine. Each of its letters, therefore, fills an imaginary
rectangle of one-tenth of an inch horizontally and one-sixth
of an inch vertically. Any divergence from this alignment
is consequently one of the means by which experts trace typewritten
documents. The letters N and H are neat guides
against which a mechanic can work to make one specimen of
typewriting match another in perfect alignment.
I got the specimens I had asked for, I went to my own morgue
of beat-up typewriters, which I have collected over the years
as a source of parts, and I selected a Woodstock model No.
231,195. It undoubtedly was built in the same year as No.
230,099; if not during the same month. I compared specimens
from both under a magnifying glass and a binocular comparison
microscope. When I first looked at these side by side, I noticed
that my specimens had far fewer inconsistencies than those
taken from the Hiss machine. The latter appeared alien to
the Woodstock. In fact, this led me to remark facetiously
to a member of Lane's staff that I was making a forgery of
making a forgery, however, you have to be concerned with more
than differences in type-face defects and design. To prevent
detection by the experts, you have to create the same regular
or irregular alignment pattern that may show up in specimens
of the machine you are forging. You'd also have to get the
same regularity of shading. For instance, since it's almost
impossible to get each type face to print uniformly by striking
dead center, as it should, magnification by experts will show
up a regular pattern of certain letters darker or lighter
on one side.
major task was to get all the type-face defects and characteristics
of the Hiss machine engraved into other Woodstock type faces.
Since forgery was never my line, I decided to enlist the services
of a topnotch hand engraver. Every expert engraver I visited
in New York refused the job when I told him it was in connection
with an assignment from the Hiss legal defense. I was finally
able to locate a retired engraver in a small New Jersey town.
Interested by the experimental nature of the job, he consented
to take on the assignment. I brought an old Woodstock with
me and taught him how to remove type.
I gave him some photographic blowups of typing from the Hiss
machine and asked him, as a test, to duplicate any two type
faces in the blowups. A few days later I returned to pick
up what he had done. He said it was a slow, tedious job, but
not difficult. That evening I examined the results of his
work under the microscope. His success was amazing. I knew
from then on all that had to be done was for me to give him
enough type on which he could copy the exact characteristics
of the Hiss-machine type faces. I would then solder the forged
type faces onto my Woodstock type bars - the slender metal
fingers which fly up to strike the paper. This would be followed
by the mechanical adjustments.
I knew that the end results of my work would have to be scrutinized
by an outstanding document examiner. His job would be to examine
my specimens against the Hiss specimens and, with his fresh
and expert eyes, detect flaws that might escape me. I also
wanted other opinions about the possibility of accomplishing
what I had set out to do. All document examiners I had visited
refused a professional assignment to assist me. Instead, they
I went to see Albert D. Osborn, a heavyset balding man of
about 50, whose father, the late Albert S. Osborn, is considered
the founder of scientific questioned-document examination.
He greeted me cordially but formally in his Woolworth Building
office. He told me that he had heard some disquieting news
that I was doing "something illegal." That surprised me. But
I was really shocked when he added that it would get me into
a lot of trouble.
seems that word had got around. Like others I had visited,
he declined to take on the assignment, on the ground that
success in my task would not serve the ends of justice. It
was my old argument thrown right back at me,
anything," I told him, "I am undertaking a purely scientific
experiment. Any knowledge we can gain from it would help,
not hinder, justice. If there is something we don't know about
questioned typewritten documents, now is as good a time as
any to find out."
I left his office, I was considerably upset. Here was the
man who had testified in the famous trial of Bruno Hauptmann,
later executed for kidnaping and murdering the Lindbergh baby.
Here was the man who first introduced ultraviolet light to
document examination. Was I really doing something wrong,
and in the end, perhaps, making a fool of myself?
went to my bookshelf that night and pulled out "Questioned
Document Problems" by Albert S. Osborn, which I consider
the most authoritative book in its field. I had read it many
times before. I was up all night reading it again. This time
I was struck by this statement toward the end of the book:
"The scientific spirit seeks the truth at all hazards
and gradually unlocks the great secrets and brings about
the desirable reforms." (my italics). It was enough
to convince me that if anyone's conception of the scientific
attitude was wrong it was not mine.
It was then, too, I decided that I would not submit my typewriter
unless it came out as nearly perfect as possible, not in just
matching the ten letters FBI expert Feehan had chosen to use
as comparisons in his testimony at the Hiss trial, but perfect
in every conceivable variation of all eighty-four type faces.
It was this decision that led me on a hunt for type that was
to take me as far as Detroit and Chicago.
I was not content to find type of the same design. I wanted
type which had practically no wear, so that I could get every
single defect of the Hiss machine's type faces engraved onto
the type faces of my forgery.
taking my own Woodstock morgue apart, I went to a former Woodstock
company branch office in New York. With a magnifying glass
I checked every type face they had in stock. It took several
days. I bought more than 500 type faces and took them home,
soldered them onto type bars, put them in my machine and struck
off specimens. Over a period of about two weeks, during which
I compared each of my specimens against the standards, I finally
selected a handful for my New Jersey engraver to work on.
It was during the month of June and he was busy doing work
all day on wedding gifts. At night he worked for me.
weeks later, I got a call from New Jersey, a call that was
to set all my plans back more than a year. My engraver had
come down with tuberculosis and had to enter a sanatorium.
I went back to pick up all my type and tools and began looking
for a new engraver. After weeks of futile searching, I was
given the name of a first-rate engraver not far from my own
I wanted to see if he would do the job if it were for something
entirely different. So I took along some samples of Hindi
type and told him these had to be adjusted, otherwise in a
Hindi typewriter they would have different meanings. He said
he could do it easily and asked me to come back with the rest
of my samples. But when I returned, of course, I had only
Woodstock type with me. Then I told him it was in connection
with my Hiss-case assignment. He blew up in my face.
you lay in a gutter with lice, you get lousy," he exploded.
"I don't want any trouble. Take your damned type and get the
hell out of here." I argued, but it only made him more violent.
told my wife, Pearl, about this experience. Tears came to
her eyes. She pleaded with me to drop the assignment. "We
have two children," she sobbed. "We took years to
build up our business, we're begging for trouble." Her
voice rose to a pitch near hysteria.
doing nothing wrong," I found myself shouting back.
she cried, "but why should we be pioneers? We're bucking public
opinion. Everyone you've seen is against you. They predict
trouble. They threaten trouble. Don't you realize it might
I had pacified her, I reasoned. I told her that yielding to
fear was a poor excuse for canceling a business obligation.
This was as much a part of my business as renting a machine.
I said, "I'd rather a thousand times that my children
be proud of parents who refused to be beaten to their knees
than of parents who ran a successful business.
I added firmly, "we may lose a few narrow-minded customers
but as long as we do honest work we'll gain others. We're
doing nothing criminal. Nobody can put us out of business."
argued for weeks. Finally, she agreed to my views and I told
her that I would do the engraving myself, though I knew my
own engraving skill was such that I would probably drag the
assignment out for more than a year. I knew, too, that I would
probably ruin ten pieces of type for every one I would succeed
in engraving properly.
began a mad merry-go-round hunt for old Woodstocks from which
I could remove more type. My wife got on the telephone and
called just about every typewriter dealer in New York. I examined
thousands of Woodstocks with serial numbers close to 230,099
and took home whatever pieces of type I felt were good enough
to work on.
the engraving process called for the use of three tools: diamond-tipped
chisels for cutting into the hard steel type faces, a triangular
India stone for rubbing down chisel marks, and a superfine
dental buffing tool to finish surfaces.
From nearly 2,000 pieces of type I had collected, I succeeded
in sorting out and duplicating twenty-five to match the Hiss
specimens. I would need seventeen more. Another intensive
search around New York failed to yield the kind of type I
Meanwhile, I used what I had already completed and ran off
a few specimens. Together with a member of the Hiss defense
staff, I went to Chicago and Detroit to continue the hunt.
These were major business areas close to Woodstock, Illinois,
the town from which the company originally got its name. It
was recently bought out by the R. C. Allen Company.
the same time, I decided to submit my forged specimens to
a document expert in Chicago. Choosing a name at random from
the classified telephone directory, I went to the office of
D. W. Schwartz at 10 South LaSalle Street. I gave him my specimens
and the Hiss machine specimens. He examined them all.
you tell me how many machines were involved in typing these?"
came from one machine," was his answer.
I was elated. Little more than half my goal was accomplished
and already I was able to stump an expert! The Chicago and
Detroit hunt yielded another ten type faces into which I was
able to engrave successfully all the necessary characteristics
of the Hiss specimens. But I was still short seven.
On a hunch, I made a return trip to the Brownsville Typewriter
Company in Brooklyn. It was like falling into an abandoned
mine of Woodstocks. They often buy old typewriters from junk
peddlers, and they had taken in a bunch of old Woodstocks
since my last visit. I rented all the old Woodstocks I wanted
from them on the condition that any type I removed I would
replace with another. This maneuver got me enough type to
finish the job.
From that point on I had to work on mechanical adjustments
almost exclusively. After all the letters were aligned, I
had to adjust the typewriter so that the spacing between lines
was exactly like the Hiss machine to within a thousandth of
an inch. Most people know that the typewriter spacing handle,
attached to the carriage and to a ratchet at the end of the
roller, can be set on most typewriters for single, double
or triple spacing. The hard-rubber roller itself, however,
plays an important although microscopic part in spacing. The
manner in which it is ground and the hardness of the rubber
used will make fractional differences between hues, which
experts can detect through magnification, although to the
naked eye six lines of typing on any typewriter will still
apparently cover one vertical inch. On an old machine, as
the rubber wears down, variations of the spaces between lines
become more apparent. Experts can detect and measure these
variations by placing a special transparent ruler over specimens
I went to the Ames Supply Company in New York, a firm known
to the trade for its specialization in recovering old rollers
through grinding. I had them grind about thirty different
rollers for me - with deviations from the standard thickness
ranging from a thousandth to one two-thousandth of an inch
and in five different rubber densities. I put these in my
machine and on each copied a page of typescript from the Hiss
machine. None was good enough. I went back to Ames and borrowed
a tool called the Ames Densimeter, which was designed originally
by that company to eliminate human error in gauging roller
densities. Only about twelve of these delicate instruments
are in existence. It looks like a small watch with a sweep
second hand and a needlelike plunger sticking out from its
rim. The plunger is inserted into the rubber and the hand
moves around. Where it stops you get a density reading. From
the rollers I had, I chose two which were closest in matching
spacing on the Hiss specimens. I got a density reading on
each roller. Between these I struck an average and got the
company to grind just such a roller for me.
worked perfectly. But another major defect had to be copied
from the Hiss specimens. This was a tendency of the Hiss machine
to "creep," that is, to crowd letters toward the right-hand
edge of the paper. This I knew was caused by a defect in the
Hiss machine escapement. There's no one part in a typewriter
by that name. It's a combination of parts in the back of and
under the machine which control the typewriter's spacing from
one letter to the next. Through trial and error I made enough
escapement adjustment to match perfectly the same creep in
the Hiss specimens.
this time I had achieved what I felt was a successful forgery.
But I was too close to the machine. My eyes had become stale.
Emotionally, I had come to regard it almost as if it were
a third child in my family. Every time I moved it, I was fearful
of dropping it.
more we made the rounds for the assistance of another expert.
One, J. H. Haring in New York, who had been consulted in the
case by the defense lawyers before the first Hiss trial, was
willing to discuss the possibility of further employment in
the case. But he finally decided to refuse to work with us,
on the ground that if he were to take part in our experiment
he would be helping to make a machine to deceive his brother
experts, and he thought that would be unethical!
the search for an expert continued, though sporadically, it
was decided that I ought to remove my forged typewriter to
a safe place. On December 28, 1950, after strapping a .38
caliber revolver around my waist, I left my office with a
friend in a new Cadillac sedan. I was not being theatrical.
During the time I had been working on the machine many strange
things had been taking place.
Once, in early June, a girl from Lane's office met me in the
street in front of my shop. She was returning some samples
of specimens I had taken off the forgery job. I put the samples
in my outer coat pocket, went upstairs and, as was my custom,
hung the coat in a small outer room at the head of the stairway
leading to my shop. The stairs go straight up two flights
from the street. A few minutes after I sat down at my desk,
I heard footsteps running up. This happens all day long, and
I looked for a customer to walk in. But no one came in, and
I heard footsteps running down very fast. I walked out to
look around. I looked in the outer room. My coat was gone.
number of suspicious incidents around my home cropped up.
A telephone repairman got by the maid to take care of some
complaints - but I had never made any complaints. A mysterious
inquisitor tried dating my neighbor's maid after asking her
if she could tell him all she knew about the Tytells and their
I finally reported everything to the police. They suggested
that these were the techniques of clever burglars. After that
I hid the machine I was working on and scattered several other
similar machines around the house in an effort to confuse
any attempt at stealing my "third child."
I deposited the machine in a Marine Midland Bank vault, I
went back to my office and Lane gave me a check for $5,000.
I signed a note giving him complete title to the machine.
I agreed, however, to continue any work found necessary by
any document expert willing to check me on what I had done.
A New England colleague finally put Lane in touch with Elizabeth
McCarthy of Boston. A tall, dynamic woman in her forties,
with the vigor and charm of an Ethel Barrymore, Miss McCarthy
is probably the only woman questioned-document expert in this
country. She is used regularly by the Massachusetts State
Police and the Boston police. For sixteen years, despite her
own standing as a lawyer, she has done little more than work
on thousands of questioned documents, and has been giving
expert testimony in courts around the nation at least twice
a week. She has been responsible for the discovery of direct
clues in some of the nation's most spectacular document mysteries,
and she has testified in many criminal cases.
She agreed readily to taking an assignment on the case. But
there were many long delays, one for a period of six months,
before Miss McCarthy, a busy woman herself, and I settled
down to a close examination of all the typewritten specimens
in my home. When we had decided that there were still some
minor flaws in my work, I decided to re-engrave new type faces.
This called for a new hunt for Woodstock type. It was late
in 1951. After weeks of meticulous searching, I came across
a small Woodstock branch store in a dingy section of Newark,
made arrangements for a special appointment with the store
manager on a Saturday morning and drove out there with my
wife early in January 1952. I explained to the manager what
I was after, but told him nothing about its connection with
the Hiss case. He led me to the basement through a trap door
a little to the right of the store's center. From under an
old wooden table in a neatly kept room, he hauled out a battered
wooden crate used for packing typewriters for export. There
were about 1,200 type bars in the box. They were kept in sets.
I chose four sets and went over to a workbench light to examine
them closely, though without benefit of a magnifying glass.
He looked at me suspiciously. I also examined several old
Woodstock machines. On several I found just what I was looking
for. I arranged to rent the machines overnight.
might remove some of the type bars," I said. "But I'll replace
any I do take."
all right," he said.
just as I began gathering the machines upstairs to load in
my Plymouth suburban, he leaned casually against one wall
and said haltingly, "Say, Tytell, do you know who you remind
wife answered, "No, tell me."
remind me of the FBI," he said. I ignored that, but he continued
talking - to my wife. He put his hand to his head.
what was that case they were working on?" He paused, then
blurted, "Oh, I remember. The Alger Hiss case. When we had
our office down on Halsey Street a couple of FBI men came
into the office and they went through everything. Right in
that office they found what they were looking for."
I pursued the subject no further. All I wanted was some type.
And I had my type.
On the afternoon of January 24, 1952, I dictated my affidavit
to Lane's secretary, attesting to the fact that the machine
in Lane's possession was fabricated by me.
During my last weekend working with Miss McCarthy, however,
we had a final set of specimens made. These were made under
a variety of conditions on the forged typewriter and on the
Hiss machine. In sum, it was a formula designed to put document
experts to the supreme scientific test. This formula is now
a sealed code in a bank vault. It reveals just which specimens
were typed on the forged machine, how they were typed and
under what conditions.
An example, perhaps, of how I think the experts will be stunned
can be seen in a letter Mr. Lane received only a few days
before I filed my affidavit. Dated January 14, 1952, it came
from Donald Doud, a prominent Detroit questioned-document
subscribe to the theory that typewriter 230,099 was a manufactured
machine," he wrote, "one would have to assume that
some individual had specimens of letters written on the machine
that Alger Hiss used, and possessed the ability, knowledge
and skill to discover all the type-face defects apparent in
these documents and then in some manner proceed to have these
defects incorporated in typewriter 230,099. To me this is
an almost impossible task. I don't think the expert in Boston
(Miss McCarthy) could do it, nor could anyone else..."
enough, he had outlined generally just the way such a forgery
would have to be done; he doubted only that it could be done.
Of course, I never saw Woodstock No. 230,099, but my Woodstock
is No. 231,195. If any expert thinks he can tell the difference
between typing from my forgery and typing from 230,099, his
conclusions will be judged impartially - by the sealed code.
One expert has already tried. She is Mrs. Evelyn S. Ehrlich,
who for more than ten years was employed by Harvard University's
Fogg Museum of Art to detect deceptive print and typography.
She was asked to apply her unique skills in comparing the
Hiss-Tytell specimens. But she was told definitely that two
machines were involved. Using a microscope with a magnification
of thirty, more than six times the magnification I had used,
she declared in a sworn statement that "an amazingly
faithful reproduction of the so-called Hiss machine had been
fabricated in almost every respect."
for subtle details," she continued, "I found that microscopic
variations on one machine had been duplicated on the other
so faithfully that I might not have believed it possible if
I had not been informed that two machines were involved."
So far as I know, this story reveals for the first time how
forgery by typewriter can be committed. The experts may now
come down on my neck, saying that I have disclosed secrets
which might encourage others to commit typewriter forgery
and get away with it. I have searched my conscience long and
hard, but I cannot agree with them. It would be the same as
if someone were to say that newspapers should not print the
details of crimes because it only gives criminals and potential
criminals encouragement. So long as there are good detectives,
criminals can be outwitted. As far as I am concerned, I stand
solidly with Miss McCarthy when, in her affidavit, she said
that the "profession of document examiners, as well as the
public at large, were entitled to learn whether any such experiment
could be successfully conducted, since, if it could, general
knowledge of the fact would be essential as a means of preventing
numbers of forgeries which might otherwise be successfully
I had filed my affidavit, my telephone did not stop ringing
for days. Practically every news agency, radio and television
correspondent wanted a statement from me. Some made fancy
offers to demonstrate my work on television. All had many,
many questions. At the request of Chester T. Lane, however,
lest I disclose the details of my work in such a way that
might antagonize the courts, I refused to answer any questions.
Some of the typical questions appeared in a feature article
by Bert Andrews, prizewinning veteran Washington correspondent
for the New York Herald Tribune. In a lengthy article
on the typewriter last January 27, he asked:
long has the work on the typewriter gone on? Since the time
of [Hiss's] sentencing? Or even before that?
was the 'manufacturing' done?"
much did it cost?
why - that is, from personal sympathy for Mr. Hiss, or from
scientific interest to see whether it could be done?
facts, he said, were important to any student of the Hiss
case. The next week he followed up with another article, saying
he had done some research, and attempted to describe how I
might have done the job.
I think this story gives all the answers.