The spies among us

Pumpkin Papers: Carroll County farm that's a footnote in espionage history will be preserved.

November 07, 1999

THE CARROLL County farm that held the famous Pumpkin Papers of Cold War espionage history is destined to remain a farm. The three owners of pieces of the Whittaker Chambers farm near Westminster are moving to have nearly 350 acres placed in permanent agricultural preservation easements.

It's a curious reminder of the high-profile Alger Hiss spy case a half-century ago, at the height of Cold War paranoia. The so-called Pumpkin Papers led to the conviction of Hiss for perjury and thrust Richard M. Nixon into national political prominence.

As a freshman congressman, Nixon was given rolls of microfilm documents incriminating Hiss as a Soviet spy. He presented them to a grand jury investigating Hiss and the publicity vaulted Nixon to the Senate and then the vice presidency in 1952.

The farm, now owned by Chambers' son and daughter and by state Sen. George W. Della Jr., was designated a national historic landmark by the Interior Department in 1988. Protecting it through permanent agricultural preservation will add assurances that it won't be disturbed.

Hiss and Chambers, both deceased, spent much of their lives fighting to uphold their opposing claims in the affair; scores of champions for each side have continued the battle. The significance of the event has faded for much of the nation, but the Pumpkin Papers farm remains an enduring footnote to Cold War history.

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