What do a pumpkin patch, a spy, and a future president have in common?

The Pumpkin Papers

“Alger Hiss was a highly regarded adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On Aug. 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a senior editor at Time magazine, told the House Un-American Activities Committee that Hiss had given him State Department secrets as a Communist underground member in Washington a decade earlier.

whittaker-chambers

Whittaker Chambers, 1948

Chambers claimed that he, in turn, passed the documents to the Soviet Union. Hiss denied everything, saying Chambers was just a casual acquaintance.

Chambers took investigators to his Maryland farm and produced a hollow pumpkin. Inside, they found microfilmed State Department documents – documents Chambers said he received from Hiss.

pumpkin-papers-alger-hiss

The hollowed-out pumpkin at Chambers’s farm that contained two rolls of undeveloped film. Chambers led House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigators to the pumpkin on December 2, 1948.

He also handed over typewritten copies of government documents. In the course of the trial, prosecutors produced an old typewriter once owned by Hiss and his wife; they said the typewriter was used to copy the documents, and alleged Priscilla Hiss had done the typing.

alger-hiss

Alger Hiss testifying

There was no trial for spying because the statute of limitations had expired on espionage. Hiss’ first jury deadlocked on perjury charges. At a second trial in 1950, Hiss was found guilty of lying to the grand jury when he denied giving Chambers the documents and said he had not seen Chambers after
the first of 1937.

Hiss was convicted of two counts of perjury, disbarred and thrown in jail for three years and eight months.

richard-nixon-with-microfilm

Richard M. Nixon examines microfilm

Richard Nixon, a freshman congressman at the time, rose to fame on the coattails of the scandal.

Alger Hiss died in New York City on November 15, 1996. He was 92.”

Copyright 1998 CBS. All rights reserved.

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America’s First Labor Day Parade

First labor Day Parade, 1882

First labor Day Parade, 1882

On September 5, 1882, some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City to participate in America’s first Labor Day parade. After marching from City Hall, past reviewing stands in Union Square, and then uptown to 42nd Street, the workers and their families gathered in Wendel’s Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches. This first Labor Day celebration was eagerly organized and executed by New York’s Central Labor Union, an umbrella group made up of representatives from many local unions.

Labor Day Parade, 1904

Labor Day Parade, 1904

New York’s Labor Day celebrations inspired similar events across the country. In 1894, Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday.

Eight-hour day banner

Eight-hour day banner, Melbourne, 1856

The Eight-Hour Day movement is part of the early history of the celebration of Labor Day in many nations and cultures.

Nowadays, Labor Day is associated less with union activities and protest marches and more with leisure.

For many, the holiday is a time for family picnics, sporting events, and summer’s last hurrah.

Text from the Library of Congress “Today in History” Archive.