The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss
Language of Materials
The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss (dated 2001-2004) contains 42 interviews with individuals acquainted with Alger Hiss. Alger Hiss was a State Department official who was accused of Soviet espionage, and was eventually convicted of perjury in 1950. Interviews in the collection were recorded between 2001 and 2004 as part of an oral history project created by The Nation Institute following Hiss's death in 1996, and feature individuals who spent time with Hiss later in his life. Interviewees discuss their personal relationships with Hiss between the 1970s and 1990s, and focus on impressions of him during those years. Several interviewees were among a group of young volunteers who read books to Hiss when he began to lose his eyesight. Many interviews focus on how the interviewees' personal relationships with Hiss shaped their views about the charges against him.
The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss was created by The Nation Institute with funding from the Isabel Johnson Hiss Fund. The project was initiated shortly after Alger Hiss's death in 1996 to record his friends' and family's memories about him.
Alger Hiss (1904-1996) was a State Department official who served in the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and was involved in the establishment of the United Nations. In 1948 Hiss was named as a communist by Whittaker Chambers in a hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Hiss was called before HUAC to testify and later filed a defamation lawsuit against Chambers. During the trial process Chambers produced evidence that Hiss had been involved in espionage, and in 1950 Hiss was sentenced to three years in prison for perjury.
Interviews in this collection are arranged in alphabetical order by interviewee last name. Physical transcripts do not follow the intellectual arrangement, and are grouped in booklets in roughly chronological order.
Scope and Contents
The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss (dated 2001-2004) consists of 41 interviews with individuals acquainted with Alger Hiss. Interviews were conducted between 2001 and 2004 and largely feature individuals who were close with Hiss later in his life. Several of the individuals featured were life-long friends, but others featured are younger individuals who were recruited to read for Hiss as his sight began to fail him in his old age. Interviews focus primarily on the subjects' personal relationships with Hiss, their perceptions of him as a person, his intellectual and literary interests, and his family life. They also feature discussions about Alger Hiss's trials and the continued analysis of the evidence against him. These discussions address topics including Whittaker Chambers's accusations, evidence introduced during the trials, the 1996 release of the Venona papers, Allen Weinstein's book Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, and Russian historian Dimitri Volkogonov.
A large portion of the interviews were conducted by Albert Rubin, who was the first historian working on the Alger Hiss Oral History Project. Other interviews were conducted by oral historian Jeff Kisseloff and Hiss's attorney Ellyn Polshek, both of whom continued the project after Rubin retired in 2002. Interviews are recorded on audio cassette with accompanying physical or electronic transcripts. The interview with Victor Chapin does not have an audio recording and is only available in a transcript.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
This collection is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use materials in the collection in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).
Identification of item, date; The Nation Institute Oral History Collection on Alger Hiss; TAM 709; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Margot Witty, executive editor of The Alger Hiss Story website, in 2016. The accession number associated with this gift is 2016.050.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, email@example.com, 212-998-2596, with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.
Born-Digital Access Policies and Procedures
Advance notice is required for the use of computer records. Original physical digital media is restricted. Born-digital materials have not been transferred and may not be available to researchers. Researchers may request access copies. To request that material be transferred, or if you are unsure if material has been transferred, please contact Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-998-2596, with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.
During processing it was determined that an interview featuring Julius Kobyakov was not created as part of this collection. This interview has been separated and added to an unprocessed collection.
About this Guide
At the time of processing, oral history interviews were arranged in alphabetical order, and brief descriptions were created for each interview. Physical transcripts, which were originally grouped in booklets by the donor, have been maintained in their original order.
Duplicate transcripts both in paper and electronic formats were removed from the collection. Additionally, tapes were originally accompanied by notes listing the names of individuals mentioned in each interview. These notes were discarded because they were deemed to contain insufficient contextual or descriptive information.