Chambers Before HUAC
Whittaker Chambers’ August 7 Testimony Before HUAC (Annotated Version)
Mr. NIXON Mr. Chambers, you are aware of the fact that Mr. Alger Hiss appeared before this committee, before the Un-American Activities Committee, in public session and swore that the testimony which had been given by you under oath before this committee was false. The committee is now interested in questioning you further concerning your alleged acquaintanceship with Mr. Alger Hiss so that we can determine what course of action should be followed in this matter in the future.
Mr. Hiss in his testimony was asked on several occasions whether or not he had ever known or knew a man by the name of Whittaker Chambers. In each instance he categorically said “No.”
At what period did you know Mr. Hiss? What time?
Mr. CHAMBERS I knew Mr. Hiss, roughly, between the years 1935 to 1937.
Later in 1948, Chambers produced copies of State Department documents which he said he had received from Hiss.The documents were dated into April 1938. This contradicted his testimony on August 7 and his previous statements to the FBI which said he had left the Communist Party in 1937.
Mr. NIXON Do you know him as Mr. Alger Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Did you happen to see Mr. Hiss’s pictures in the newspapers as a result of these recent hearings?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; I did.
Mr. NIXON Was that the man you knew as Alger Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; that is the man.
Mr. NIXON You are certain of that?
Mr. CHAMBERS I am completely certain.
Mr. NIXON During the time that you knew Mr. Hiss, did he know you as Whittaker Chambers?
Mr. CHAMBERS No, he did not.
This supports Hiss’s statement that he didn’t know Chambers as Whittaker Chambers.
Mr. NIXON By what name did he know you?
Mr. CHAMBERS He knew me by the party name of Carl.
During the libel suit depositions that November and subsequently at trial, Chambers conceded he may have used the name “George Crosley.” He was aware the defense had found Samuel Roth, a New York publisher, who, in an affidavit, said Chambers had submitted some poems under name George Crosley.
Mr. NIXON Did he ever question the fact that he did not know your last name?
Mr. CHAMBERS Not to me.
Mr. NIXON Why not?
Mr. CHAMBERS Because in the underground Communist Party the principle of organization is that functionaries and heads of the group, in other words, shall not be known by their right names but by pseudonyms or party names.
Mr. NIXON Were you a party functionary?
Mr. CHAMBERS I was a functionary.
Mr. NIXON This entire group with which you worked in Washington did not know you by your real name?
Mr. CHAMBERS No member of that group knew me by my real name.
Mr. NIXON All knew you as Carl?
Mr. CHAMBERS That is right.
Mr. NIXON No member of that group ever inquired of you as to your real name?
Mr. CHAMBERS To have questioned me would have been a breach of party discipline, Communist Party discipline.
Mr. NIXON I understood you to say that Mr. Hiss was a member of the party.
Mr. CHAMBERS Mr. Hiss was a member of the Communist Party.
No documentary information has ever come to light demonstrating that Hiss was a member of the Communist Party. In fact, Hiss’s views often were diametrically opposed to those of the Soviet Union.
Mr. NIXON How do you know that?
Mr. CHAMBERS I was told by Mr. Peters.
Mr. NIXON You were told that by Mr. Peters?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON On what facts did Mr. Peters give you?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mr. Peters was the head of the entire underground, as far as I know.
Mr. NIXON The entire underground of the Communist Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS Of the Communist Party in the United States.
Jozsef Peter (also known as Peters) responds to this charge in an excerpt from his memoir.
Mr. NIXON Do you have any other evidence, any factual evidence to bear out your claim that Mr. Hiss was a member of the Communist Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS Nothing beyond the fact that he submitted himself for the 2 or 3 years that I knew him as a dedicated and disciplined Communist.
Two months later, Chambers gave this same sworn testimony to a federal grand jury. The next month, he repeated his story in Hiss’s libel suit depositions. But later that same month, Chambers dramatically changed his story, producing government documents he now said were given to him by Hiss.
Mr. NIXON Did you obtain his party dues from him?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes, I did.
Mr. NIXON Over what period of time?
Mr. CHAMBERS Two or three years, as long as I knew him.
Mr. NIXON Party dues from him and his wife?
Mr. CHAMBERS I assume his wife’s dues were there; I understood it to be.
Mr. NIXON You understood it to be?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mr. Hiss would simply give me an envelope containing party dues which I transferred to Peters. I didn’t handle the money.
Mr. NIXON How often?
Mr. CHAMBERS Once a month.
Mr. NIXON What did he say?
Mr. CHAMBERS That was one point. It wasn’t necessary to say anything. At first he said, “Here are my dues.”
Mr. NIXON And once a month over a period of 2 years, approximately, he gave you an envelope which contained the dues?
Mr. CHAMBERS That is right.
Mr. NIXON What did you do with that envelope?
Mr. CHAMBERS I gave it to Peters.
Mr. NIXON In New York?
Mr. CHAMBERS Or Washington.
Mr. NIXON This envelope contained dues of Hiss and other members of the group?
Mr. CHAMBERS Only Hiss.
Mr. NIXON You collected dues from the other members of the group individually?
Mr. CHAMBERS All dues were collected individually.
Mr. NIXON I see. So this money could not have been money from anybody but Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS Only from Hiss.
Mr. NIXON Couldn’t he have been giving you dues for his wife and not for himself?
Mr. CHAMBERS I suppose it is possible, but that was certainly not the understanding.
Mr. NIXON The understanding was it was his dues?
Mr. CHAMBERS The understanding was it was his dues. Not only that, but he was rather pious about paying his dues promptly.
On August 3, Chambers said Henry Collins was the treasurer of the group to which Hiss belonged, and that Collins collected the dues for everyone in the group and then handed the money to Chambers. On August 25, Chambers would testify before HUAC that he took dues from Hiss “on at least three occasions.” Hiss’s bank accounts were examined by the FBI; they found no indication of money being regularly withdrawn.
Mr. NIXON Is there any other circumstance which would substantiate your allegation that he was a member of the Party? You have indicated he paid dues. You indicated that Mr. Peters, the head of the Communist underground, informed you he was a member of the Party before you met him the first time.
Mr. CHAMBERS I must also interpolate there that all Communists in the group in which I originally knew him accepted him as a member of the Communist Party.
Two years later, Lee Pressman, who had acknowledged being a member of the group, denied that Hiss belonged to it.
Mr. NIXON Referred to him as a member of the Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS That doesn’t come up in conversation, but this was a Communist group.
Mr. NIXON Could this have possibly been an intellectual study group?
Mr. CHAMBERS It was in nowise an intellectual study group. Its primary function was not that of an intellectual study group. I certainly supplied some of that intellectual study business, which was part of my function, but its function was to infiltrate the government in the interest of the Communist Party.
Mr. NIXON At that time, incidentally, Mr. Hiss and the other members of this group who were government employees, did not have party cards?
Mr. CHAMBERS No members of that group to my knowledge ever had party cards, nor do I think members of any such group have party cards.
Mr. NIXON The reason is….
Mr. CHAMBERS The reason is security, concealment.
Mr. NIXON In other words, people who are in the Communist underground are in fact instructed to deny the fact that they are members of the Communist Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS I was told by Peters that party registration was kept in Moscow and in some secret file in the United States.
Mr. NIXON Did Mr. Hiss have any children?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mr. Hiss had no children of his own.
Mr. NIXON Were there any children living in his home?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mrs. Hiss had a son.
Mr. NIXON Do you know the son’s name?
Mr. CHAMBERS Timothy Hobson.
Mr. NIXON Approximately how old was he at the time you knew him?
Mr. CHAMBERS It seems to me he was about 10 years old.
Mr. NIXON What did you call him?
Mr. CHAMBERS Timmie.
Mr. NIXON Did Mr. Hiss call him Timmie also?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think so.
Mr. NIXON Did he have any other nickname?
Mr. CHAMBERS Not that I recall. He is the son, to the best of my knowledge, of Thayer Hobson, who I think is a member of the publishing house of William Morrow here in New York.
Mr. NIXON What name did Mrs. Hiss use in addressing Mr. Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS Usually “Hilly.”
Mr. NIXON. “Hilly”?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Quite often?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON In your presence?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Not “Alger”?
Mr. CHAMBERS Not “Alger.”
Mr. NIXON What nickname, if any, did Mr. Hiss use in addressing his wife?
Mr. CHAMBERS More often “Dilly,” but sometimes “Pross.” Her name was Priscilla. They were commonly referred to as “Hilly” and “Dilly.”
Mr. NIXON They were commonly referred to as “Hilly” and “Dilly”?
Mr. CHAMBERS By other members of the group.
Mr. NIXON You don’t mean to indicate that was simply the nicknames used by the Communist group?
Mr. CHAMBERS This was a family matter.
According to Hiss, Priscilla did occasionally refer to him as “Hill” or “Hilly” but she never was called “Dilly” by Hiss or anyone else. None of Hiss’s friends ever remembered calling him “Hill” or “Hilly.”
Mr. NIXON In other words, other friends and acquaintances of theirs would possibly have used these names? Did you ever spend any time in Hiss’s home?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Did you stay overnight?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; I stayed overnight for a number of days.
Mr. NIXON You mean from time to time?
Mr. CHAMBERS From time to time.
Mr. NIXON Did you ever stay longer than one day?
Mr. CHAMBERS I have stayed there as long as a week.
Mr. NIXON A week one time. What would you be doing during that time?
Mr. CHAMBERS Most of the time reading.
Mr. NIXON What arrangements were made for taking care of your lodging at that time? Were you there as a guest?
Mr. CHAMBERS I made that a kind of informal headquarters.
Mr. NIXON I understand that, but what was the financial arrangement?
Mr. CHAMBERS There was no financial arrangement.
Mr. NIXON You were a guest?
Mr. CHAMBERS Part of the Communist pattern.
Mr. NIXON Did the Hisses have a cook? Do you recall a maid?
Mr. CHAMBERS As nearly as I can remember, they had a maid who came in to clean and a cook who came to cook. I can’t remember they had a maid there all the time or not. It seems to me in one or two of the houses they did. In one of the houses they had a rather elderly Negro maid whom Mr. Hiss used to drive home in the evening.
The Hisses never had a maid and a cook at the same time. Neither of their maids during the 1930s, Cleide Catlett or Martha Pope, were elderly. Hiss didn’t make it a practice to drive them home. Pope lived too far away and Catlett lived nearby and didn’t need a ride. The FBI later interviewed the Hisses’ maids and they supported Hiss’s account.
Mr. NIXON You don’t recall the names of the maids?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; I don’t.
Mr. NIXON Did the Hisses have any pets?
Mr. CHAMBERS They had, I believe, a cocker spaniel. I have a bad memory for dogs, but as nearly as I can remember, it was a cocker spaniel.
Mr. NIXON Do you remember the dog’s name?
Mr. CHAMBERS No. I remember they used to take it up to some kennel. I think out Wisconsin Avenue.
Mr. NIXON They took it to board it there?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes. They made one or two vacation trips to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Mr. NIXON They made some vacation trips to the Eastern Shore of Maryland?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes, and at those times the dog was kept at the kennel.
In late 1936, the Hisses – by then living in a small 30th Street house – acquired a second and very lively dog. The one dog that Chambers remembers was not taken to a kennel during vacations but was sent to camp with Tim Hobson. Hiss remembered taking frequent Eastern Shore trips.
Mr. NIXON You stated the Hisses had several different houses when you knew them? Could you describe any of one of those houses to us?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think so. It seems to me when I first knew him he was living on 28th Street in an apartment house. There were two almost identical apartment houses. It seems to me that is a dead-end street and this was right at the dead end and certainly it is on the right-hand side as you go up. It also seems to me that apartment was on the top floor. Now, what was it like inside, the furniture? I can’t remember.
Mr. MANDEL What was Mr. Hiss’s library devoted to?
Mr. CHAMBERS Very nondescript, as I recall.
At the end of 1936, Hiss received a prized volume he enjoyed showing off: a facsimile of a notebook kept by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (for whom Hiss worked as a secretary), listing all the books he had read. If the Hiss-Chambers relationship had continued into 1937, as Chambers maintained, Chambers would have known about this book.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall what floor the apartment was on?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think it was on the top floor.
Mr. NIXON The fourth?
Mr. CHAMBERS It was a walk-up. I think the fourth.
Mr. NIXON It could have been the third, of course?
Mr. CHAMBERS It might have been.
Mr. NIXON But you think it was the top, as well as you can recall?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think it was the top.
Mr. NIXON Understand, I am not trying to hold you to absolute accuracy.
Mr. CHAMBERS I am trying to recall.
Chambers seems vague about a place that allegedly served as his “informal headquarters.”
Mr. NIXON Was there any special dish they served?
Mr. CHAMBERS No. I think you get here something else. Hiss is a man of great simplicity and a great gentleness and sweetness of character, and they lived with extreme simplicity. I had the impression that the furniture in that house was kind of pulled together from here or there, maybe got it from their mother or something like that, nothing lavish about it whatsoever, quite simple. Their food was much the same pattern, and they cared nothing about food. It was not a primary interest in their lives.
According to Hiss, Chambers stayed in his house for a couple of days. Chambers did not mention the large Queen Anne mirror that was a gift to Hiss from the Holmes estate. It arrived two days after the one Chambers’ stay and was the subject of much admiration from Hiss’s friends.
Mr MANDEL Did Mr. Hiss have any hobbies?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; he did. They both had the same hobby – amateur ornithologists, bird observers. They used to get up early in the morning and go to Glen Echo, out the canal, to observe birds. I recall once they saw, to their great excitement, a prothonotary warbler.
Mr. MCDOWELL A very rare specimen?
Mr. CHAMBERS I never saw one. I am also fond of birds.
Mr. NIXON Did they have a car?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; they did. When I first knew them they had a car. Again I am reasonably sure – I am almost certain – it was a Ford and that it was a roadster. It was black and it was very dilapidated. There is no question about that.
I remember very clearly that it had hand-windshield wipers. I remember that because I drove it one rainy day and had to work those windshield wipers by hand.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall any other car?
Mr. CHAMBERS It seems to me in 1936, probably, he got a new Plymouth.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall its type?
Mr. CHAMBERS It was a sedan, a two-seated car.
Mr. MANDEL. What did he do with the old car?
Mr. CHAMBERS The Communist Party had in Washington a service station – that is, the man in charge or owner of this station was a Communist – or it may have been a car lot.
Mr. NIXON But the owner was a Communist?
Mr. CHAMBERS The owner was a Communist. I never knew who this was or where it was. It was against all the rules of underground organization for Hiss to do anything with his old car but trade it in, and this investigation has proved how right communists are in such matters, but Hiss insisted that he wanted that car turned over to the open party so it could be of use to some poor organizer in the West or somewhere.
Much against my better judgement and much against Peters’ better judgement, he finally got us to permit him to do this thing. Peters knew where this lot was and he either took Hiss there, or he gave Hiss the address and Hiss went there, and to the best of my recollection of his description of that happening, he left the car there and simply went away and the man in charge of the station took care of the rest of it for him. I should think the records of that transfer would be traceable.
The car was in fact turned over to the Cherner Motor Company, the largest Ford agency in Washington. Its owner was never alleged to have been a Communist. According to the transfer records, the car was eventually sold to a man named William Rosen for under $30, which bolstered Hiss’s testimony that the car was virtually worthless. Rosen refused to talk about his background at trial, but he did say that he never knew Hiss or J. Peters; although he had once been a member of the Communist Party, he had been expelled in 1929; and he wasn’t in Washington at the time the car was said to have been transferred to him. An examination of the title transer by HUAC revealed that his signature had been forged.
Mr. NIXON Where was that?
Mr. CHAMBERS In Washington, D.C., I believe; certainly somewhere in the district.
Mr. NIXON You don’t know where?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; never asked.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall any other cars besides those two?
Mr. CHAMBERS No, I think he had the Plymouth when I broke with the whole business.
Mr. NIXON You don’t recall any other hobbies he had?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t think he had any other hobbies.
Mr. NIXON Did they have a piano?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t believe so. I am reasonably sure they did not.
When the Hisses lived on P Street, they had an old upright piano. When they moved to 30th Street, during the time Chambers claimed to be a frequent visitor, the Hisses had a new spinet piano which occupied a large portion of their rather small living room.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall any particular pieces of furniture that they had?
Mr. CHAMBERS The only thing I recall was a small leather cigarette box, leather-covered cigarette box, with gold tooling on it. It seems to me that box was red leather.
Mr. NIXON Red leather cigarette box with gold tooling?
Mr. CHAMBERS That is right.
According to Hiss, they had cigarette boxes in their apartment but not one matching that description.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall any particular pieces of bedroom furniture they had?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall possibly what the silver pattern was, if any? Was it sterling?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t recall.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall what kind of chinaware they used?
Mr. CHAMBERS No. I have begun thinking over these things and none of that stands out.
Mr. NIXON What kind of cocktail glasses did they have?
Mr. CHAMBERS We never drank cocktails.
Mr. NIXON Did they drink?
Mr. CHAMBERS They did not drink. They didn’t drink with me. For one thing, I was strictly forbidden by the Communist Party to taste liquor at any time.
The Hisses were not teetotalers. Hiss would often offer guests a drink or have a drink with friends.
Mr. NIXON And you didn’t drink?
Mr. CHAMBERS I never drank.
Mr. NIXON As far as you know, they never drank, at least with you?
Mr. CHAMBERS He gave cocktail parties in Government service.
Mr. NIXON Could you describe Mr. Hiss’s physical appearance for us?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mr. Hiss, I should think, is about 5 feet 8 or 9, slender. His eyes are wide apart and blue or gray.
Mr. NIXON Sort of a blue-gray?
Mr. CHAMBERS Blueish gray, you could say. In his walk, if you watch him from behind, there is a slight mince sometime.
Mr. NIXON A slight mince?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mince. Anybody could observe.
Hiss was over six feet tall with sharply blue eyes. No one else noticed a mince to his walk.
Mr. NIXON Does Mrs. Hiss have any physical characteristics?
Mr. CHAMBERS Mrs. Hiss is a short, highly nervous little woman. I don’t, as a matter of fact, recall the color of her eyes, but she has a habit of blushing red when she is excited or angry, fiery red.
Mr. MANDEL A picture of Hiss shows his hand cupped to his ear.
Mr. CHAMBERS He is deaf in one ear.
Mr. NIXON Mr. Hiss is deaf in one ear?
Mr. HÉBERT Which ear?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t know. My voice is pitched very low and it is difficult for me to talk and make myself understood.
After learning of Chambers’ testimony, Hiss visited an audiologist for hearing tests, which certified that his hearing in both ears was excellent.
Mr. NIXON Did he wear glasses at the time?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think he wore glasses only for reading.
Mr. NIXON Did he tell you how he became deaf in one ear?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t recall that he did. The only thing I remember he told me was as a small boy he used to take a little wagon – he was a Baltimore boy – and walk up to Druid Hill Park, which was at that time way beyond the civilized center of the city, and fill up bottles with spring water and bring them back and sell it.
Mr. NIXON Do you remember any physical characteristics of the boy?
Mr. CHAMBERS Timmie?
Mr. NIXON Yes.
Mr. CHAMBERS Timmie was a puny little boy, also rather nervous.
Mr. NIXON This is Mrs. Hiss’s son?
As a young boy, Tim Hobson was actually large for his age.
Mr. CHAMBERS Mrs. Hiss’ son by Thayer Hobson, who I think is one of the Hobson cousins, a cousin of Thornton Wilder. It is possible I could be mistaken about that.
Hobson was not related to Thornton Wilder.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall anything else about the boy? Do you recall where he went to school?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; I do. I don’t know the name of the school he was attending then, but they told me that Thayer Hobson was paying for his son’s education, but they were diverting a large part of that money to the Communist Party.
Mr. NIXON Hiss told you that?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes, sir.
Mr. NIXON Did he say how much he was paying?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; I don’t know how much he was paying.
Mr. NIXON Did he name the Communist Party as the recipient?
Mr. CHAMBERS Certainly.
Mr. NIXON He might not have said simply “the party”? Could it have been the Democratic Party or Socialist Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. HÉBERT Hobson was paying for the boy’s education?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; and they took him out of a more expensive school and put him in a less expensive school expressly for that purpose. That is my recollection.
Mr. NIXON When would that have occurred?
Mr. CHAMBERS Probably about 1936.
Mr. NIXON Did they change in the middle of the year?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t recall. He was a slightly effeminate child. I think there was some worry about him.
Chambers’ testimony about Hobson’s education was contradicted by Tim Hobson’s father, Thayer Hobson.
Mr. STRIPLING Do you remember anything about his hands?
Mr. CHAMBERS Whose?
Mr. STRIPLING Alger Hiss’s.
Mr. CHAMBERS He had rather long delicate fingers. I don’t remember anything special.
Mr. MANDEL How is it he never wrote anything publicly?
Mr. CHAMBERS Well, he came into the underground like so many communists did – this was a new stage in the history of American communists.
Mr. MANDEL He was never in the open Communist Party?
Mr. CHAMBERS He was never in the open Communist Party, came in as an underground Communist.
Mr. HÉBERT Did he have any brothers or sisters besides Donald?
Mr. CHAMBERS He had one sister, I believe, living with her mother in Baltimore.
Hiss’s sister lived in Texas.
Mr. HÉBERT Did he ever talk about her?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; once or twice, and mentioned his mother. He once drove me past their house, which as I recall, was on or near Linden Street.
Hiss’s mother, whose name and address on Linden Avenue was in the Baltimore phone book, was not living at home during the three-year period from 1934 to 1937 (the years that Chambers said he knew Hiss).
Mr. HÉBERT What did the sister do?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t think she did anything besides live with her mother. Whether he had any more than that I don’t know.
Mr. HÉBERT You know he referred to at least one sister?
Mr. CHAMBERS He did.
Mr. HÉBERT Do you recall her name?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. HÉBERT And you don’t recall what the sister did?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; I don’t think she did anything.
Mr. HÉBERT Did it ever come up in conversation that the sister was interested in athletics?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Hébert, a Louisianian, may have known something about Hiss’s sister, who was familiar to the southern community as the head of the women’s department of physical education at the University of Texas.
Mr. HÉBERT Was he interested in athletics?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think he played tennis, but I am not certain.
Mr. HÉBERT With the sister now – it is very important – you don’t recall the sister?
Mr. CHAMBERS We merely brushed that subject.
Mr. NIXON You never met the sister?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; nor never met the mother. My impression was his relations with his mother were affectionate but not too happy. She was, perhaps, domineering. I simply pulled this out of the air in the conversation.
Mr. STRIPLING Did he go to church?
Mr. CHAMBERS He was forbidden to go to church.
Mr. STRIPLING Do you know whether he was a member of a church?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t know.
Hiss was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church. When the family lived on P Street, they attended Christ Church in Georgetown. Tim Hobson sang in the church choir.
Mr. STRIPLING Do you know if his wife was a member of a church?
Mr. CHAMBERS She came from a Quaker family. Her maiden name was Priscilla Fansler before she was married. She came from the Great Valley near Paoli, Pa.
Priscilla Hiss’s parents were Presbyterians. She was born in Evanston, Illinois. The family moved to Pennsylvania when she was 10. She never lived in Paoli, but did live in the vicinity for a short time.
Mr. NIXON Did she tell you anything about her family?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; but she once showed me, while we were driving beyond Paoli, the road down which their farm lay.
Mr. NIXON You drove with them?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
The homestead was not a farm and was situated directly on the Lincoln Highway. Chambers was not questioned about the circumstances of this trip, which he never mentioned again in any testimony.
Mr. NIXON Did you ever go on a trip with them other than by automobile?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. NIXON Did you stay overnight on any of these trips?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
In later testimony, Chambers said he took an overnight trip with the Hisses to Peterborough, New Hampshire. Defense witnesses Lucy Elliott Davis and J. Kellogg-Smith were able to demonstrate that the trip never took place.
Mr. HÉBERT Did she ever refer to her first husband?
Mr. CHAMBERS I hope he will never hear this. She referred to him almost with hatred.
Mr. HÉBERT What did she call him, what name?
Mr. CHAMBERS Probably Thayer.
Mr. NIXON You don’t recall?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. NIXON When did you meet Donald Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS Probably within the same week in which I met Alger Hiss.
Mr. NIXON Did you ever stay at Donald Hiss’s home?
Mr. CHAMBERS No, my relation with Donald Hiss was much less close. I can make that point now, if you will permit. My relationship with Alger Hiss quickly transcended our formal relationship. We became close friends.
Mr. NIXON Donald Hiss – what relation did you have with him?
Mr. CHAMBERS A purely formal one.
Mr. NIXON He knew you as Carl?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Did you collect dues from him?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Did you meet his wife?
Mr. CHAMBERS I think I met her once, not very often.
Mr. NIXON Where did you collect the dues from him, at his home?
Mr. CHAMBERS Probably in Alger’s house. He frequently came there.
Mr. NIXON He came there to see you?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes.
Mr. NIXON Do you recall anything significant about Donald Hiss, as to personal characteristics, hobbies?
Mr. CHAMBERS No. Something else is involved there, too. Donald Hiss was married, I think, to a daughter of Mr. Cotton, who was in the State Department. She was not a Communist, and everybody was worried about her.
Donald Hiss’s father-in-law was named Jones. His daughter was an infant when Jones died.
Mr. NIXON Getting back to Alger Hiss for the moment, do you recall any pictures on the wall that they might have owned at the time?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; I am afraid I don’t.
Mr. NIXON Donald Hiss – do you know any other characteristics about him, can you recall any?
Mr. CHAMBERS Except I can give you the general impression. He was much less intelligent than Alger. Much less sensitive than his brother. I had the impression he was interested in the social climate and the Communist Party was interested in having him climb. I believe he was fairly friendly with James Roosevelt.
Mr. NIXON Did you have any conversations with him you can recall that were out of the ordinary?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; one I think I can recall. He was working in the Labor Department, I believe in the Immigration section, and it was the plan of the Communist Party to have him go to California, get himself sent by the government to California, to work in the Bridges case.
At that moment he had an opportunity to go into the State Department as, I think, legal adviser to the Philippine section, which had just been set up.
It was the opinion of the party that he should do that and not the Bridges matter. It was his opinion that he should continue in the Bridges matter and there was a fairly sharp exchange, but he submitted to discipline and went to the State Department.
Donald Hiss sweepingly denied Chambers’ stories about him.
Mr. NIXON Did you make an affidavit concerning Mr. Alger Hiss?
Mr. CHAMBERS I made a signed statement. I should think it was about 1945. Before that I had reported these facts at least two years before to the FBI, and nine years ago to Mr. Berle, and mentioned Hiss’s name.
Mr. NIXON Nine years ago; are you certain you did mention his name to Berle?
Mr. CHAMBERS I certainly mentioned Hiss’s name to Berle. I was there with Berle precisely because – may we go off the record?
Mr. NIXON Off the record. (Discussion off the record.)
The Berle being discussed was Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle.
Mr. NIXON Have you seen Hiss since 1938?
Mr. CHAMBERS No; since the time I went to his house and tried to break him away. I have never seen him since.
Mr. NIXON Would you be willing to submit to a lie-detector test on this testimony?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; if necessary.
Mr. NIXON You have that much confidence?
Mr. CHAMBERS I am telling the truth.
Chambers never took a lie-detector test.
Mr. NIXON Thank you. I have no further questions.
Mr. HÉBERT I am interested in the houses he lived in. He said several houses. How many houses? Start from the beginning.
Mr. CHAMBERS As well as I can remember, when I first saw him he was living on 28th Street and when I went to see Mr. Berle it struck me as strange, because Mr. Berle was living in Stimson’s House on Woodley Road near 28th Street. From there I am not absolutely certain the order of the houses but it seems to me he moved to a house in Georgetown – that I know; he moved to house in Georgetown – but it seems it was on the corner of P Street, but again I can’t be absolutely certain of the streets.
Mr. HÉBERT It was on a corner?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; and as I recall, he had to go up steps to get to it.
The P Street house was not located on a corner.
Mr. MANDEL How many rooms were there in that house?
Mr. CHAMBERS I don’t know offhand, but I have the impression it was a three-story house. I also think it had a kind of a porch and a back where people sat.
Then if I have got the order of the houses right, he moved to a house on an up-and-down street that would cross the lettered streets, probably just around the corner from the other house and very near to his brother Donald.
Mr. HÉBERT Still in Georgetown?
Mr. CHAMBERS Still in Georgetown. I have forgotten the reason for his moving. That was a smaller house and, as I recall, if the dining room was below the level of the ground, one of those basement dining rooms; that it had a small yard in back.
I think he was there when I broke with the Communist Party.
The reasons for his moving, as Hiss’s friends knew, was the collapse of the heating system of the house on P Street and Hiss’s case of pneumonia. Chambers’ description fits that of a typical Georgetown house, but he offers no specific information about the interior of the Hiss house. Before the move to 30th Street, the Hisses spent several weeks in a local hotel.
Mr. HÉBERT. Three houses?
Mr. CHAMBERS But I went to see him in the house he later moved to, which was on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.
Mr. HÉBERT Three houses in Georgetown?
Mr. CHAMBERS One on 28th Street.
Mr. HÉBERT The last time you saw him, when you attempted to persuade him to break away from the party…
Mr. CHAMBERS That was beyond Wisconsin Avenue.
Mr. HÉBERT Did you ever see their bedroom; the furniture?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; but I don’t remember the furniture.
Mr. HÉBERT. Did they have twin beds or single beds?
Mr. CHAMBERS I am almost certain they did not have twin beds.
Mr. HÉBERT In any of the four houses?
Mr. CHAMBERS I can’t be sure about the last one, but I am reasonably sure they did not have twin beds before that.
Mr. HÉBERT That little boy, Timmie – can you recall the name of the school that he went to?
Mr. CHAMBERS No.
Mr. HÉBERT But you recall that he changed schools?
Mr. CHAMBERS Yes; as nearly as I can remember, they told me they had shifted him from one school to another because there was a saving and they could contribute it to the party.
Mr. HÉBERT What year?
Mr. CHAMBERS Probably 1936.
Mr. HÉBERT Or 1937, but probably ’36?
Mr. CHAMBERS It is possible.
Mr. HÉBERT We can check the year.
Mr. CHAMBERS The school was somewhere in Georgetown. He came back and forth every day.
That year, Tim Hobson went to a school in the countryside outside of Bethesda, Maryland, a long distance from Georgetown. According to Chambers, he and the Hisses were still friends in 1937. Chambers, however, never recalled that in 1937 Tim Hobson was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He was bedridden for weeks and in a cast for months. At one point it was feared that he would lose his leg.
Mr. NIXON It is there anything further? If not, thank you very much, Mr. CHAMBERS.
The hearing is adjourned.