The Trials of Alger Hiss: A Chronology
April 1, 1901
Whittaker Chambers is born in Philadelphia.
November 11, 1904
Alger Hiss is born in Baltimore.
Whittaker Chambers joins the Communist Party.  He soon begins work on the staff of The Daily Worker.
September 1926
Hiss begins study at Harvard Law School, where he proves to be an exceptional student.
September 1929
Hiss begins work as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
December 11, 1929
Alger and Priscilla Hiss wed.
April 15, 1931
Whittaker and Esther Chambers wed.
Chambers joins the Communist underground in the spring.  Meanwhile, working in a New York law firm, Hiss becomes "radicalized."  Priscilla Hiss is an active member of the American Labor Associates.
Chambers begins a series of secret homosexual relationships, which will continue until 1938.  Chambers is told to consider J. Peters as his primary Communist contact in the U. S.  Peters introduces Chambers to Harold Ware, the head of a Communist underground cell in Washington.  Hiss, meanwhile, takes a job on the legal staff of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
Chambers begins work in Washington as an organizer among Communists in the city and as a conduit for stolen documents.  He will continue to play this role until he leaves the party in 1938.  Alger Hiss, according to Chambers and others, becomes a member of Ware's underground cell, a sort of Marxist study group. In August or September, Hiss meets Chambers (then using the name "Carl") and begins paying Communist Party dues. "On loan" from the AAA, Hiss takes a job with the Nye Committee, with oversight responsibility for militarily-sensitive industries.
The Agricultural Adjustment Administration, where Hiss worked as a lawyer, is purged of "radicals," including Hiss's boss, Jerome Frank, and Lee Pressman, a member of Hiss's underground Communist group.  Hiss, however, is not fired.  Hiss gives (or loans) his apartment to Chambers in the early summer.  Evidence strongly suggests that during this year Hiss recruited others to engage in espionage.
Hiss and Chambers develop a close friendship, according to Chambers.  They travel together, have dinners together, and Hiss transfers his 1929 Ford to Chambers.  In the fall of 1936, Hiss leaves a job at the Justice Department to take a new job as assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis Sayre.  Hiss contended later that his relationship with Chambers ended in 1936, a point strongly disputed by Chambers.  Chambers testifies later that he begin receiving secret State Department document from Hiss in early 1937.
December 1938
Chambers decides to defect from the Communist Party.  He visits Hiss, his "closest friend" in the Communist Party, and unsuccessfully attempts to persuade him also to leave the party [testimony of Chambers]. He takes a job as a writer for Time magazine.
Hiss becomes a personal aide to Stanley Hornbeck, the State Department's advisor on Far Eastern Affairs.
May 1942
The FBI interviews Chambers about his past Communist contacts.  Fearing possible prosecution, he does not mention any espionage activities, but identifies Alger Hiss, among others, as Communists.  The FBI fails to adequately follow up on his tips.
May 1944
Hiss joins the State Department's Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs, a policy-making office that concentrated on postwar planning for international organization. (He will later become director of the Office.) Hiss's responsibilities will take him to Yalta with President Roosevelt.  He will also work on United Nations strategy.
The FBI again interviews Chambers (now editor of Foreign News at Time) about his Communist past.  In November, based on new information from additional sources, the FBI taps Hiss's phones and begins to watch him closely.
March 25, 1946
Hiss meets with a top aide to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and denies any association with the Communist Party.
March 30, 1946
Soviet intelligence cable is sent that seems to identify Hiss ("ALES") as a Soviet agent.
February 1, 1947
Alger Hiss leaves the State Department and begins his new job as president of the Carnegie Endowment.
June 2, 1947
After interrogation by two FBI agents, Hiss signs a statement describing his recollection of various alleged Communists.  In his signed statement, Hiss states that he is "not acquainted with an individual by the name of Whittaker Chambers."
August 3, 1948
Whittaker Chambers testifies before an executive session of the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Chambers identifies Hiss as a member of an underground Communist group in the late 1930s.  Chambers says that he tried to convince Hiss to join in his break from the party, but that Hiss "absolutely refused."  In response, Hiss sends a telegram to the Chairman Thomas saying "I do not know Mr. Chambers and, so far as I am aware, have never laid eyes on him." 
August 5, 1948
President Truman, at a press conference, calls the HUAC probe "a red herring."  Alger Hiss appears before HUAC.  He confidently denies "unqualifiedly" the charges made two days earlier by Chambers.  After the hearing, Congressman Richard Nixon is appointed head of a subcommittee that will privately question Chambers further about Hiss.
August 7, 1948
Nixon's subcommittee questions Chambers in New York City.  Chambers describes in greater detail his contacts with Hiss between 1934 and 1938.  Chambers reveals that he stayed in Hiss's home for as long as a week and was given an old Ford automobile by him in 1936.  He also provides details that will later increase suspicion of Hiss, such a morning when the Hiss's traveled to Glen Echo to see a prothonotary warbler.  At the conclusion of the hearing, Chambers says he is willing to submit to a lie detector test. 
August 16, 1948
Hiss again appears before HUAC, meeting in executive session.  Hiss testifies that he remembers a man, not named Whittaker Chambers or "Carl" (an underground name Chambers said he used), "who spent time in my house."  He asks the Committee to let him "see Chambers face to face and see if he can possibly be this individual" that he knew as "George Crosley" in the mid-1930s.  Hiss testifies that he let Crosley have his old, nearly worthless, Ford when he bought a new automobile.  Asked about his hobbies, Hiss falls into a trap when he describes his excitement in observing a prothonotary warbler.
August 17, 1948
At 2:00 A.M., Nixon leaves instructions to arrange a confrontation between Chambers and Hiss that very afternoon.  Both Chambers and Hiss are instructed to appear at the Commodore Hotel in New York City.  Hiss says Chambers is "probably" the man he knew as Crosley.  He asks Chambers to open his mouth, remembering Crosley as having bad teeth.  After some time, Hiss says he is "now perfectly prepared to identify this man as George Crosley."  Hiss is questioned aggressively, and the session ends acrimoniously.
August 24, 1948
In a one-man executive session, Nixon questions witnesses about the 1929 Ford Hiss gave to Chambers.  Evidence shows the car was transferred in 1936, not 1935 as Hiss had said.  The same day, Hiss writes a statement calling Chambers a "self-confessed liar, spy, and traitor."
August 25, 1948
Hiss and Chambers dramatically confront each other in a televised HUAC hearing.  Hiss is questioned closely about his apartment lease to Chambers and his gift of a car.
August 27, 1948
The Baltimore News-Post publishes a story reporting that Chambers purchased a Maryland farmhouse in 1937, and that one year earlier Alger and Priscilla Hiss has signed a bill of sale to buy the same property.  Nixon's subcommittee quizzes Chambers about the farm.  He describes driving out to look at the property with Hiss in the 1929 Ford.  The Committee publishes an "interim report" on their probe.  The report describes the testimony of Hiss as "vague and evasive."
September 28, 1948
Hiss files a slander suit against Chambers alleging that his accusation, made on Meet the Press, that Hiss was a communist was false.  Hiss's attorneys soon begin trying to dig up information damaging to Chambers's credibility, including evidence of mental instability and homosexuality, as well as his past activities for the Communist Party.
October 14, 1948
Chambers tells a grand jury (presumably incorrectly) that he could not name anyone who engaged in espionage (the handing over of secret documents) against the United States.  Chambers explained later that he was trying to "shield" Hiss.
November 5, 1948
In a deposition taken by Hiss's attorneys, Chambers indicates for the first time that Hiss gave him access to secret State Department documents.
November 14, 1948
Chambers pulls a large envelope out of the dumbwaiter shaft of a relative's home.  The envelope contains typed and handwritten documents (in Hiss's hand) and developed and undeveloped film.  The evidence, if genuine, proves Hiss saw Chambers as late as 1938 and that he engaged in espionage.
November 17, 1948
Chambers surprises Hiss's attorney in his deposition by turning over to him a bundle of typed State Department documents from January to April, 1938.  The documents are later (with one exception) determined to have been typed on a Woodstock typewriter--specifically, Woodstock #N230099 owned by the Hisses.
December 1, 1948
Nixon interviews Chambers concerning the nature of the documents given to him by Hiss.  Chambers is vague, but describes them as "a real bombshell."
December 2, 1948
Chambers, accompanied by HUAC investigators, removes cans of undeveloped film allegedly given to him by Hiss from a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm.
December 15, 1948
Alger Hiss testifies before a grand jury.  In testimony that will later form the basis for the perjury prosecution against him, Hiss says that (1) he never gave any documents to Whittaker Chambers and (2) that he never saw or conversed with Chambers after January 1, 1937.
April 1949
The Woodstock typewriter used to type "the Pumpkin Papers" is located.  More than 300 FBI agents are now at work on the Hiss probe.
May 31, 1949
The first trial of Alger Hiss for perjury begins before Judge Samuel Kaufman in New York.
July 7, 1949
The jury deadlocks in the Hiss trial.  Eight jurors favor conviction, four vote for acquittal.
November 17, 1949
The second trial of Alger Hiss begins before Judge Henry Godard.
January 21, 1950
After deliberating less than 24 hours, the jury finds Hiss guilty on two counts of perjury.
January 25, 1950
Hiss is sentenced to five years in prison.
June 1950
War breaks out in Korea.  Joseph McCarthy is in the early stages of his rise to power.
December 7, 1950
The Court of Appeals affirms Hiss's conviction.
March 12, 1951
Voting 4 to 2, the Supreme Court rejects Hiss's petition for a writ of certiorari.  (Three members of the Court disqualify themselves because of conflicts.)
March 22, 1951
Hiss begins serving his five-year term at the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
In the 1952 elections, Republicans blame Hiss and the Democrats for betraying the national interest at Yalta and the first U. N conference.  Republican vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon makes the Hiss case a centerpoint of his campaign, attacking Adlai Stevenson for being soft on Hiss and Communism.  The Eisenhower/Nixon ticket wins election handily.  Whittaker Chambers publishes his account of the Hiss affair, Witness.
Hiss is freed from prison after serving three years and eight months.
Hiss publishes his version of his case, In the Court of Public Opinion.
July 9, 1961
Whittaker Chambers dies of a heart attack.
Richard Nixon publishes his book, Six Crisis, which opens with a long chapter on the Hiss case.  The chapter is criticized for its many inaccuracies.
Hiss's old nemesis, Richard Nixon, is elected president of the United States.
During the midst of the Watergate cover-up, Nixon (according to White House tapes) makes repeated references to the Hiss case.
Hiss's supporters allege that Nixon and HUAC may have forged key documents used to convict Hiss.  Hiss continues to lecture quite frequently about his case on college campuses and elsewhere.  The FBI releases about 30,000 pages of documents pertaining to the Hiss case.
Hiss files a petition (a writ of coram nobis) seeking to overturn his 1950 conviction.  Allen Weinstein publishes his comprehensive analysis of the Hiss case, Perjury.
Hiss's petition seeking the overturning of his conviction is rejected by District Judge Richard Owen.
President Ronald Reagan posthumously awards Whittaker Chambers the Medal of Freedom.
Dmitri Volkogonov, a Soviet military adviser and historian, says he could find no evidence that Alger Hiss ever served as a spy for the Communists.  Scholars of Soviet history are quick to criticize Volkogonov's announcement, arguing that he didn't look for evidence in the right places.  Volkogonov retracts his statement.
April 1994
Richard Nixon dies.
VENONA documents (intercepted Soviet intelligence communications) show that an agent called "ALES" (which appears to be a name given to Hiss) had been working in the Communist underground since 1935.  In the cables, ALES is also reported to have gone from Yalta to Moscow (as Hiss did in 1945).
November 15, 1996
Alger Hiss dies in New York City at the age of ninety-two.

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