Matusow Papers I

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains official documents (some in published versions), court-reports, notes, press-cuttings, tape recordings and films, which illustrate Matusow's career as professional witness, anti-Communist journalist and political campaigner. The collection also contains a small number of printed books which throw light on the political background in the United States in the early 1950s. Ad. 1 comprises papers and video tapes relating to Matusow's appearance in the BBC Timewatch programmes, The Un-Americans, made in 1991-92.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harvey Marshall Matusow (1926-2002) was born in the Bronx, New York, where his father owned a cigar store. He dropped out of high school, to serve in the US Army in Europe during the Second World War. Joining the Communist Party in 1946, for several years he was an active member in New York. During 1950, until his expulsion from the party, he supplied information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the party's activities. Early in 1951 he volunteered to give evidence for the Government in actions being brought against various alleged communists or communist organizations. From this time until the autumn of 1954 he acted as an official witness in cases heard before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, the Ohio Un-American Affairs Commission, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, the State Industrial Commission of Texas, the Subversive Activities Control Board, etc. During this time he testified against Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Owen Lattimore, Clinton E. Jencks, against the Communist Party of the USA, the Labor Youth League, the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and against several labour unions.

During 1952 he worked for the magazine Counterattack, and was involved in investigating the entertainment business in New York and Hollywood and in gathering information used in compiling blacklists of allegedly communist artists. Through contact with Senator Joseph McCarthy, he played a vigorous part in the presidential election campaign of 1952 : he spoke for Senator McCarthy in Wisconsin and in support of other Republican candidates in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Washington State. In these activities Matusow made many contacts among those most active in combating the influence of communists in the United States.

In February 1955, having admitted giving false evidence before a federal court against Clinton E. Jencks, an organizer of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Matusow was brought before the U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas. Charged with perjury, he was convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The trial of Matusow and the almost simultaneous publication of his account of his career of testimony, False Witness, stimulated in the press and among the public a discussion of the Government's use of paid witnesses. His appeal against conviction at El Paso upheld, Matusow was arraigned before a Grand Jury in New York. Charged with perjury in the case of the USA. v. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and others, Matusow was convicted before the U.S. District Court of New York and sentenced to serve five years in prison.

This part of the Matusow Papers concerns Matusow's activities down to his imprisonment. See SxMs 23, Matusow Papers II, for later activities. That part also includes: material documenting Matusow's further involvement with Senator McCarthy, both in the 1952 Presidential election campaign (as pro-Republican speaker) and as assistant in a project to undermine public trust in the New York Times; and his prison correspondence.

Conditions Governing Access

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Harvey Matusow in June 1968. Matusow was adamant his papers were housed in an institution outside the United States. As he explained in an interview with The Times (10 June 1968): 'I didn't believe my papers would be treated objectively in America. Like Nazism and Hitler to the Germans now, they are all too involved. They can't see McCarthy in perspective. It's all 'Good Guy, Bad Guy'.'

Ad.1: Gift of BBC Timewatch, November 1992

Note

Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Some items in this collection are photocopies of original documents which are in copyright. The Keep is able to supply copies of them, only with the written permission of the copyright owner or representative.

Related Material

See SxMs 23, Matusow Papers II, for later activities. That part also includes: material documenting Matusow's further involvement with Senator McCarthy, both in the 1952 Presidential election campaign (as pro-Republican speaker) and as assistant in a project to undermine public trust in the New York Times; and his prison correspondence.

Bibliography

See Harvey Matusow, False Witness (New York: Cameron&Kahn, 1955).