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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 10823135

Alger Hiss papers


The Alger Hiss Papers, 1911-1999 consists of personal and professional correspondence, documents from Hiss’s time working in the State Department, personal records, notebooks, manuscript notes, newspaper clippings and photographs. The bulk of the collection is the personal correspondence between Hiss and his family and friends after he was released from prison.


  • Creation: 1911-1999

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


21 boxes (1 oversized)

The Alger Hiss Papers primarily cover the time after Hiss was released from prison until his death (1954-1996). The majority of the collection consists of personal correspondence between Hiss and his family, friends, and supporters. Major correspondents include Beatrice Gwynn, Margaret Halsey , Agnese Lockwood, Charles Miller, Hannah Quinn, Frank Ray, William Rodgers, Arnold Weissberger, and Meyer Zeligs. In total, these letters represent communications with over 600 individuals.

Hiss’s time working in the State Department, 1933-1947, is represented with a small collection of professional correspondence, and a larger collection of documents relating to projects involving Hiss. Work on trade agreements and petroleum issues dominate the collection. Additionally, there are documents relating to the U. S. Maritime Commission, American-Philippines relations, and tax.

The remainder of the collection includes Hiss’s personal notes and records, and a large collection of newspaper clippings pertaining to Hiss. Also, there is a small collection of photographs, containing images of Hiss, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and a few others. All original photographs have been transferred to the Art Collection. Finally, there is one box of oversized items, consisting primarily of posters advertising speaking engagements.

Historical/Biographical Information

  • November 11, 1904Alger Hiss born.
  • 1926B.A. Johns Hopkins University
  • June 1929J.D. Harvard Law School
  • 1929-30Secretary for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • December 1929Married Priscilla Fansler Hobson; children: Anthony Hiss
  • May 1933Began work for U.S. government in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration
  • September 1936 Joined the Department of State, office of Francis B. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State
  • Spring 1944Joined State Department Office of Special Political Affairs
  • April 25-June 26, 1945Secretary General of San Francisco Conference for United Nations
  • August 3, 1948Accused by Whittaker Chambers before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in public session
  • December 15, 1948Indicted for perjury by New York Grand Jury
  • May 31-July 9, 1949First Trial
  • November 17, 1949-January 21, 1950Second Trial
  • January 25, 1950 Sentenced to five years in prison
  • March 22, 1951 Began prison term, most of which was served at Federal Penitentiary, Lewisburg, PA
  • November 27, 1954Released from prison
  • 1957-1959Employed by Feathercombs, Inc.
  • 1959Separation from Priscilla Hiss
  • February1960Employed by Davison-Bluth, Inc.
  • 1975Readmitted to Massachusetts Bar Association
  • 1986Married Isabel Johnson
  • November 15, 1996 Died.

  1. Yalta: Modern AmericanMyth, 1955
  2. In the Court of Public Opinion, 1957
  3. Recollections of a Life, 1988

Series List

Within each series and/or subseries individual items or folders are identified by box and folder number. For example, the number 5-12 corresponds to box 5, folder 12.

  1. Series I: Correspondence TheCorrespondence Series is broken into two subseries below.
  2. ___ Subseries A: PersonalThe personalcorrespondence covers the time period of 1959-1998, and is arrangedalphabetically by correspondent.
  3. ___Subseries B: Professional Theprofessional correspondence, which is arranged first by topic withinthe scope of Hiss’s work with the federal government, and thenchronologically, covers the time period 1934-1943.
  4. Series II: Government Documents Thisseries is broken into subseries according to major projects Hissworked on while at the Department of State. These documents are notin original order, but have been arranged by an archivist. Items arearranged chronologically within each subseries.
  5. ___Subseries A: Commission/Collision Convention. This subseries covers the time period 1911-1938. Thedocuments are arranged chronologically.
  6. ___Subseries B: Privacy/Contempt.Thissubseries covers the time period 1933-1936. The documents arearranged chronologically.
  7. ___Subseries C: Trade Agreements.Thissubseries covers the time period 1934-1940. The documents arearranged chronologically.
  8. ___Subseries D: Philippines.This subseriescovers the time period 1935-1944. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  9. ___Subseries E: Tax.This subseries coversthe time period of 1936. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  10. ___Subseries F: Petroleum.This subseriescovers the time period 1942-1943. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  11. ___Subseries G: China.This subseries coversthe time period 1942-1943. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  12. ___Subseries H: Air Shipments.This subseriescovers the time period 1942-1943. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  13. ___Subseries I: Cases.The documents in thissubseries were not dated, and are arranged according to a presumedchronological progression by the archivist.
  14. ___Subseries J: League of Nations. Thedocuments in this subseries were not dated, and are arrangedaccording to a presumed chronological progression by thearchivist.
  15. ___Subseries K: Speeches.This subseriescovers the time period 1937-1938. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  16. ___Subseries L: Miscellaneous.This subseriescovers the time period 1935-1937. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  17. ___Subseries M: Notes.The documents in thissubseries were not dated, and are arbitrarily arranged.
  18. Series III: Personal Notes/Notebooks and Records

    This series contains the personal notebooks, address books,business cards and other items from Hiss’s personal life from1946-1996. The documents are arranged chronologically.

  19. Series IV: Manuscripts and Manuscript Notes

    The majority of the items in this series are not dated. The seriescontains Hiss’s handwritten notes either on books and articles heread, or for books and articles he wrote.

  20. Series V: Publications and Speeches
  21. ___Subseries A: Speeches.Speeches given byHiss and other documents relating to his speaking engagements fromthe time period 1967-1996. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  22. ___Subseries B: Publications by AH.Thissubseries contains documents relating to publications written by Hissfrom the time period of 1957-1986. The documents are arrangedchronologically.
  23. ___Subseries C: Clippings.This subseriescontains a large collection of newspaper and magazine clippingscollected by Hiss, most of them reporting on developments in hiscase. There are also obituaries of friends and family members, alongwith book reviews of various books about Hiss and his trial. Theseclippings span the time period of 1950-1999, and are arrangedchronologically.
  24. Series VI: Miscellaneous

    This seriescontains various documents either collected by Hiss or sent to him.Most of the documents in this series are undated.

  25. Series VII: Photographs

    (Transferred toArt Collection)

    This series contains twelvephotographs, a few of which are of Hiss, in addition to a few ofJustice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The photographs are arrangedchronologically.

  26. Series VIII: Oversized

    This seriescontains five oversized items. Three are posters for Hiss speakingengagements, which are not dated.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Papers of Alger Hiss were presented to Harvard Law School as a gift under his terms, dated February 22, 1996. These papers were received by the Law School in September 2003, via John Lowenthal and Tony Hiss.

General note

  1. Gwynn, Beatrice
  2. Halsey, Margaret
  3. Hiss, Alger
  4. Hiss,Tony
  5. Hiss, Priscilla
  6. Hiss, Isabel
  7. Lockwood, Agnese
  8. Miller, Charles
  9. Quinn,Hannah
  10. Ray, Frank
  11. Rodgers, William
  12. Weissberger, Arnold
  13. Zeligs, Meyer

Processing Information

Margaret Peachy, August 2007

Alger Hiss. Papers, 1911-1999
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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