Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel today designated as a national historic landmark the Maryland farm where the “pumpkin papers” that led to the conviction of Alger Hiss were hidden.
Whittaker Chambers, the late owner of the farm and the man who secreted the stolen State Department documents in a hollowed-out pumpkin, was “an historical figure of transcendent importance in the nation’s history,” Hodel said.
In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank promoting conservative causes, Hodel noted that the Advisory Board of the National Park Service on April 26 had opposed landmark status on the grounds that 50 years had not passed since the significant events in question, the discovery of the papers in 1948 by a young congressman named Richard M. Nixon.
“I appreciate that the board disagrees, but I do not choose to follow its advice in this instance,” said Hodel, who nominated as a landmark the 220-acre farm at Westminster, Md., about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore, now owned and worked by Chambers’ son, John.
The pumpkin papers were key evidence in the conviction of Hiss, a former State Department official, of perjury before Congress in his denial that he had been a spy.