name came up during the House Un-American Activities
Committee hearings in August 1948, when Whittaker
Chambers claimed that Alger Hiss gave his 1928
Ford to a service station in Washington D.C.
that was owned by a member of the Communist
Party. Chambers said that Hiss wanted the car
to be used by a loyal Party worker. In subsequent
testimony, Hiss claimed he had been unsuccessfully
trying to get rid of the car, which he said
was virtually worthless, when he gave it to
Chambers as part of a deal to sublet an apartment
to Chambers in 1935.
support Chambers' story, committee investigators
turned up motor vehicle records which showed
that Hiss had not purchased a new car to replace
the Ford until September 1935, several months
after Hiss had sublet his apartment to Chambers.
That meant, they said, that Hiss would have
left himself without a car if he had given the
Ford to Chambers when he said he did. When Hiss
refused to change his story, saying he did not
have access to records which could sharpen his
memory, committee members were openly scornful.
records turned up by the committee showed that
Hiss had transferred the car's title to the
Cherner Motor Company in Washington on July
23, 1936. That same day, according to the title,
the car was transferred to a man named William
Rosen and a chattel mortgage of $25 was placed
on the car (supporting Hiss's testimony that
the car was worth very little).
to Chambers' story, the Cherner Motor Company
was not a service station, but rather the largest
Ford agency in Washington. Subsequent investigations
by the defense revealed that the company did
not record the sale in its customary fashion,
and records relating to the transfer of the
car to Rosen were missing.
Rosen was located, he said he had been expelled
from the Party in 1929. He was subpoenaed to
testify for the prosecution at the second Hiss
trial. Claiming Fifth Amendement protections,
he refused to answer most questions put to him.
He did say, however, that he had never met Alger
Hiss or J. Peters. He also said he was not in
Washington when the transfer was made. An examination
of the signature on the back of the transfer
revealed it was not Rosen's.