Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Records of U.S. Attorneys and Marshals:
Transcripts of Grand Jury Testimony in the Alger Hiss Case
Record Group 118

Dates: 1947-1949.

These transcripts record testimony by seventy-four witnesses before two federal grand juries that met in the Southern District of New York from 1947 to 1949. The grand jury investigation focused on allegations of espionage in behalf of the Soviet Union, conducted by Communist agents in the United States government. As a result of this investigation, Alger Hiss, formerly a high official in the State Department, was indicted for perjury on December 15, 1948. He was convicted on January 21, 1950, and subsequently served more than three years in a federal penitentiary. In 1999, grand jury transcripts in this case were opened for research by court order. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Northeast Region in New York subsequently provided copies of the transcripts to the Truman Library.

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ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: About 2.4 linear feet (approximately 4,800 pages).
Access: Open.
Copyright: Documents prepared by United States Government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interests in documents that do not fall into this category are presumed to remain with the authors of the documents or their heirs.
Processed by: Randy Sowell (2001).

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AGENCY HISTORY

The Records of U.S. Attorneys and Marshals (Record Group 118) in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) include transcripts of the grand jury testimony of seventy-four witnesses relating to the case of Alger Hiss. From July 1947 to May 1949, these witnesses testified before two federal grand juries in the Southern District of New York. The grand juries were investigating Communist espionage and other illegal activities in the United States, with a particular focus upon the actions of alleged Soviet spies in the U.S. government.

The first grand jury completed its work on December 15, 1948, when it indicted Alger Hiss on two counts of perjury. The next day, a second grand jury was sworn in to continue the investigation.

In 1999, the grand jury transcripts were opened for research by court order, and the NARA Northeast Region in New York subsequently provided copies to the Truman Library.

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The transcripts in this collection record the testimony of seventy-four witnesses who appeared before two federal grand juries in the Southern District of New York from July 22, 1947 to May 17, 1949. Most of this transcribed testimony was compiled during the eleven-week period from December 6, 1948 to February 17, 1949. During this period, the grand jury investigation focused upon the case of Alger Hiss, formerly a high official in the State Department during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

The transcripts are arranged chronologically in a single series, the Witness File. As documented in the testimony, the grand jury investigation began as a wide-ranging inquiry into Communist espionage and other illegal activities in the United States, with particular emphasis upon the alleged actions of Soviet spies in such U.S. government agencies as the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Alger Hiss, who had left the State Department in 1947 to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was subpoenaed and appeared before the grand jury on March 16, 1948. Eight days later, Harry Dexter White-formerly a high official in the Treasury Department-also appeared before the grand jury in response to a subpoena. Both Hiss and White denied any involvement with Communism or espionage. The grand jury also heard from Elizabeth Bentley, a confessed ex-Communist spy who implicated a number of people, including White, in her testimony.

On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers-a senior editor with Time magazine and an ex-Communist who had become a dedicated anti-Communist-testified at a public hearing of the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives (HUAC). Chambers accused Hiss of having been a fellow member of the Communist underground during the 1930s. Hiss soon appeared before the Committee, at his own request, to deny Chambers's charges. For the next several months, this sensational controversy was thoroughly exploited in the nation's press. One member of the House Committee-a freshman Republican from California named Richard Nixon-spearheaded an aggressive inquiry by HUAC into the affair. After Hiss sued Chambers for libel, Chambers produced documents containing classified government information that he claimed had been given to him by Hiss during the 1930s for transmittal to Soviet agents. Evidence subsequently indicated that some of the documents had been handwritten by Hiss or typed on his typewriter. Included in this material were several rolls of microfilm that Chambers had briefly hidden in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm, before turning them over to HUAC investigators.

With Communist espionage as well as infiltration of the U.S. government now alleged, the grand jury in New York entered the fray. From December 6 to 15, 1948, Hiss and Chambers testified before the grand jury on almost a daily basis. In seeking to determine which man was telling the truth about their past connections, the grand jury also summoned the wives of Hiss and Chambers, other relatives and acquaintances, and various investigators. Nixon himself appeared before the grand jury on December 13, but declined to turn over the "pumpkin papers" microfilm that Chambers had given to the House Committee. On December 15-the last day of its existence-the grand jury voted to indict Hiss for perjury on two counts. Hiss was accused of testifying falsely to the grand jury when he denied meeting with Chambers after 1936 and denied giving government documents to Chambers.

The next day-December 16, 1948-a new grand jury was sworn in to continue the investigation. Chambers and a number of additional witnesses testified over the next two months, as the grand jury probed various aspects of the Communist spy ring he had described. The grand jury heard from a few more witnesses in April and May of 1949, including Nixon and other members of HUAC. Soon thereafter, Hiss went on trial for perjury. His first trial ended in July 1949, with the jury unable to agree upon a verdict. On January 21, 1950, Hiss was found guilty of perjury at the conclusion of his second trial. He subsequently served three years and eight months in a federal penitentiary.

Throughout the grand jury investigation, which officially bore the name of United States v. John Doe, the government's case was principally presented by Thomas Donegan, a special assistant to the Attorney General who acted as the Justice Department's representative to the grand jury. Of the seventy-four witnesses whose testimony is recorded in these transcripts, most appeared before the grand jury only once or twice. The transcripts record fourteen separate appearances by Whittaker Chambers and ten by Alger Hiss. Other witnesses included Hiss's wife, Priscilla, his brother, Donald, and his stepson, Timothy Hobson, as well as Chambers's wife, Esther. A number of persons accused or suspected of involvement in the Hiss-Chambers spy ring, or in other Soviet espionage activities, also testified before the grand jury, along with FBI agents and HUAC investigators.

It should be emphasized that this is not a complete collection of the testimony before these two grand juries. As indicated in the document entitled "Grand Jury Transcripts Authorized for Release," which can be found in the first folder of the collection, substantial portions of testimony were not released with the other records in 1999, either because the transcripts were missing or because of a court order that the information be withheld.

More information about the Alger Hiss case can be found at the Truman Library in the papers of Allen Weinstein (whose book, Perjury, deals with the case), Dean Acheson, Tom Clark, and Harry S. Truman (Post-Presidential Papers).

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos. Series
1-6 WITNESS FILE, 1947-1949
Transcripts of testimony by witnesses before federal grand juries in the Southern District of New York pertaining to the Alger Hiss case. Arranged in chronological order.

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FOLDER TITLE LIST

Box 1

    WITNESS FILE, 1947-1949
  • Grand Jury Transcripts Authorized for Release
  • Abraham Brothman, July 22, 1947
  • Francis D. O'Brien, July 31, 1947
  • Harry Gold, July 31, 1947
  • Louis Budenz, November 24, 1947
  • Courtland J. Jones, November 25, 1947
  • Julius J. Joseph, November 25, 1947
  • Norman Bursler, December 2, 1947
  • Thomas G. Spencer, December 3, 1947
  • Mary Price, December 3, 1947
  • Lambert G. Zander, January 20, 1948
  • Solomon Adler, January 20, 1948
  • Donald E. Shannon, February 10, 1948
  • Lawrence Spillane, February 10, 1948
  • Edward Grampp, March 16, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, March 16, 1948
  • Francis D. O'Brien, March 23, 1948
  • Harry Dexter White, March 24-25, 1948
  • Helen [Elizabeth] Bentley, March 30, 1948
  • Lement Harris, March 31-April 1, 1948
  • Elizabeth Bentley, April 6, 1948
  • Maurice Josephberg, April 7, 1948
  • Lement Harris, April 7, 1948
  • John H. Reynolds, October 19-20, 1948
Box 2
  • Daniel F. X. Callahan, December 6, 1948
  • William A. Wheeler, December 6, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 6, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 6, 1948
  • Henry H. Collins, December 6, 1948
  • Daniel F. X. Callahan, December 7, 1948
  • Donald T. Appell, December 7, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 7, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 7-8, 1948
  • Nathan L. Levine, December 8, 1948
  • Henry Julian Wadleigh, December 8, 1948
  • Henry H. Collins, December 8, 1948
  • David Carpenter, December 8, 1948
  • Hede Massing, December 8, 1948
  • David Carpenter, December 8, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 8, 1948
  • Francis D. O'Brien, December 9, 1948
  • James P. Martin, December 9, 1948
  • Donald Hiss, December 9, 1948
  • Robert E. Stripling, December 9, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 9, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 9, 1948
  • Lambert G. Zander, December 10, 1948
  • Priscilla Hiss, December 10, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 10, 1948
  • Paul E. Goldsberry, December 10, 1948
  • Samuel J. Pelovitz, December 10, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 10, 1948
  • George L. Pigman, December 11, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 11, 1948
  • William Ward Pigman, December 11, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 11, 1948
  • Henry Julian Wadleigh, December 11, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 13, 1948
Box 3
  • Eleanor Nelson Sorying, December 13, 1948
  • George L. Pigman, December 13, 1948
  • William Ward Pigman, December 13, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 13, 1948
  • Richard Nixon, December 13, 1948
  • Timothy Hobson, December 13, 1948
  • Richard Nixon, December 13, 1948
  • Timothy Hobson, December 13, 1948
  • Courtland J. Jones, December 14, 1948
  • Francis D. O'Brien, December 14, 1948
  • Raymond Feehan, December 14, 1948
  • Esther Chambers, December 14, 1948
  • Adolf A. Berle, December 14, 1948
  • Philip Reno, December 14, 1948
  • Franklin Victor Reno, December 14, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 14-15, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 15, 1948
  • Alger Hiss, December 15, 1948
  • George Silverman, December 15, 1948
  • Introduction by Thomas Donegan, December 17, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 17, 1948
  • George L. Pigman, December 20, 1948
  • William Ward Pigman, December 20, 1948
  • Whittaker Chambers, December 21, 1948
  • William Ward Pigman, December 21, 1948
  • Henry Julian Wadleigh, December 21, 1948
  • Francis Sayre, December 22, 1948
  • George Hewitt, December 22, 1948
Box 4
  • Anna Belle Newcomb, December 22, 1948 and January 3, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 3, 1949
  • Eunice Lincoln, January 4, 1949
  • Max Yergan, January 4, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 4-5, 1949
  • Max Bedacht, January 5, 1949
  • John Kelley, January 6, 1949
  • Edward McShane, January 6, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 6, 1949
  • Max Bedacht, January 11, 1949
  • Elizabeth Inslerman, January 11-12, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 13, 1949
  • Elizabeth Inslerman, January 13, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 18, 1949
  • Whittaker Chambers, January 18, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 18, 1949
  • Elizabeth Inslerman, January 19, 1949
  • Felix Inslerman, January 19, 1949
  • Karl Amatneek, January 19-20, 1949
  • Whittaker Chambers, January 20 and 25, 1949
Box 5
  • Horace Ingram, January 26, 1949
  • Whittaker Chamber, January 26, 1949
  • Alexander Stevens, January 27, 1949
  • Alexander Stevens, February 1, 1949
  • Sam Carr, February 1, 1949
  • Julia Carr, February 1, 1949
  • Hans Inslerman, February 2, 1949
  • Anna Spiegel, February 3, 1949
  • William Spiegel, February 3, 1949
  • Whittaker Chambers, February 3, 1949
  • Max Lieber, February 3 and 8, 1949
  • Harold Glasser, February 8-9, 1949
  • Meyer Schapiro, February 9, 1949
  • Isaac Don Levine, February 10, 1949
  • Whittaker Chambers, February 15, 1949
  • Isadore Miller, February 15, 1949
  • Hede Massing, February 15, 1949
  • Elizabeth Bentley, February 16-17, 1949
  • Dean Ivan Lamb, April 12-13, 1949
  • Robert Stripling, April 13, 1949
Box 6
  • William Edward Crane, April 19, 1949
  • Richard Nixon, May 5, 1949
  • Harold H. Velde, May 6, 1949
  • Karl E. Mundt, May 17, 1949
  • Paul E. Crouch, May 17, 1949

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INDEX OF WITNESSES

  • Adler, Solomon - Jan. 20, 1948.
  • Amatneek, Karl - Jan. 19-20, 1949.
  • Appell, Donald T. - Dec. 7, 1948.

  • Bedacht, Max - Jan. 5, 1949; Jan. 11, 1949.
  • Bentley, Elizabeth - March 30, 1948; April 6, 1948; Feb. 16-17, 1949.
  • Berle, Adolf A. - Dec. 14, 1948.
  • Brothman, Abraham - July 22, 1947.
  • Budenz, Louis - Nov. 24, 1947.
  • Bursler, Norman - Dec. 2, 1947.

  • Callahan, Daniel F. X. - Dec. 6, 1948; Dec. 7, 1948.
  • Carpenter, David - Dec. 8, 1948; Dec. 8, 1948.
  • Carr, Julia - Feb. 1, 1949.
  • Carr, Sam - Feb. 1, 1949.
  • Chambers, Esther - Dec. 14, 1948.
  • Chambers, Whittaker - Dec. 6, 1948; Dec. 7-8, 1948; Dec. 9, 1948; Dec. 10, 1948; Dec. 11, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 15, 1948; Dec. 17, 1948; Dec. 21, 1948; Jan. 18, 1949; Jan. 20 and 25, 1949; Jan. 26, 1949; Feb. 3, 1949; Feb. 15, 1949.
  • Collins, Henry H. - Dec. 6, 1948; Dec. 8, 1948.
  • Crane, William Edward - April 19, 1949.
  • Crouch, Paul - May 17, 1949.

  • Feehan, Raymond - Dec. 14, 1948.

  • Glasser, Harold - Feb. 8-9, 1949.
  • Gold, Harry - July 31, 1947.
  • Goldsberry, Paul E. - Dec. 10, 1948.
  • Grampp, Edward - March 16, 1948.

  • Harris, Lement - March 31-April 1, 1948; April 7, 1948.
  • Hewitt, George - Dec. 22, 1948.
  • Hiss, Alger - March 16, 1948; Dec. 6, 1948; Dec. 7, 1948; Dec. 8, 1948; Dec. 9, 1948; Dec. 10, 1948; Dec. 11, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 14-15, 1948; Dec. 15, 1948.
  • Hiss, Donald - Dec. 9, 1948.
  • Hiss, Priscilla - Dec. 10, 1948.
  • Hobson, Timothy - Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948.

  • Ingram, Horace - Jan. 26, 1949.
  • Inslerman, Elizabeth - Jan. 11-12, 1949; Jan. 13, 1949; Jan. 19, 1949.
  • Inslerman, Felix - Jan. 3, 1949; Jan. 4-5, 1949; Jan. 6, 1949; Jan. 13, 1949; Jan. 18, 1949; Jan. 19, 1949.
  • Inslerman, Hans - Feb. 2, 1949.

  • Jones, Courtland J. - Nov. 25, 1947; Dec. 14, 1948.
  • Joseph, Julius J. - Nov. 25, 1947.
  • Josephberg, Maurice - April 7, 1948.

  • Kelley, John - Jan. 6, 1949.

  • Lamb, Dean Ivan - April 12-13, 1949.
  • Levine, Isaac Don - Feb. 10, 1949.
  • Levine, Nathan L. - Dec. 8, 1948.
  • Lieber, Max - Feb. 3 and 8, 1949.
  • Lincoln, Eunice - Jan. 4, 1949.

  • Martin, James P. - Dec. 9, 1948.
  • Massing, Hede - Dec. 8, 1948; Feb. 15, 1949.
  • McShane, Edward - Jan. 6, 1949.
  • Miller, Isadore - Feb. 15, 1949.
  • Mundt, Karl E. - May 17, 1949.

  • Newcomb, Anna Belle - Dec. 22, 1948 and Jan. 3, 1949.
  • Nixon, Richard - Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948; May 5, 1949.

  • O'Brien, Francis D. - July 31, 1947; March 23, 1948; Dec. 9, 1948; Dec. 14, 1948.

  • Pelovitz, Samuel J. - Dec. 10, 1948.
  • Pigman, George L. - Dec. 11, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 20, 1948.
  • Pigman, William Ward - Dec. 11, 1948; Dec. 13, 1948; Dec. 20, 1948; Dec. 21, 1948.
  • Price, Mary - Dec. 3, 1947.

  • Reno, Franklin Victor - Dec. 14, 1948.
  • Reno, Philip - Dec. 14, 1948.
  • Reynolds, John H. - Oct. 19-20, 1948.

  • Sayre, Francis - Dec. 22, 1948.
  • Schapiro, Meyer - Feb. 9, 1949.
  • Shannon, Donald E. - Feb. 10, 1948.
  • Silverman, George - Dec. 15, 1948.
  • Sorying, Eleanor Nelson - Dec. 13, 1948.
  • Spencer, Thomas G. - Dec. 3, 1947.
  • Spiegel, Anna - Feb. 3, 1949.
  • Spiegel, William - Feb. 3, 1949.
  • Spillane, Lawrence - Feb. 10, 1948.
  • Stevens, Alexander - Jan. 27, 1949; Feb. 1, 1949.
  • Stripling, Robert E. - Dec. 9, 1948; April 13, 1949.

  • Velde, Harold H. - May 6, 1949.

  • Wadleigh, Henry Julian - Dec. 8, 1948; Dec. 11, 1948; Dec. 21, 1948.
  • Wheeler, William A. - Dec. 6, 1948.
  • White, Harry Dexter - March 24-25, 1948.

  • Yergan, Max - Jan. 4, 1949.

  • Zander, Lambert G. - Jan. 20, 1948

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