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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Collection Summary

    Title: William T. Poole collection
    Dates: 1919-1976
    Collection Number: 82095
    Collector: Poole, William T., collector.
    Collection Size: 242 manuscript boxes (100.8 linear feet)
    Repository: Hoover Institution Archives
    Stanford, California 94305-6010
    Abstract: Reports, correspondence, minutes, hearing transcripts, legal exhibits, clippings, serial issues, pamphlets, and leaflets, relating to communism and radicalism in the United States, and to the anti-Vietnam War movement. Includes exhibits of the United States Subversive Activities Control Board and files of the United States House Un-American Activities Committee.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Languages: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection stored off site; a minimum of two days notice is required for use.

    Boxes may be requested through Stanford's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ 

    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], William T. Poole collection, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1982.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog Searchworks at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in Searchworks is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Historical Note

    The Subversive Activities Control Board was established in 1950 in conjunction with enactment of the Internal Security Act (McCarran Act) of 1950. Its purpose was to secure registration of communist-action and communist-front organizations in the United States. The Board attempted to carry out this function for more than two decades but experienced frustration as a result of legal challenges and court decisions. It was abolished by Presidential executive order in 1973.
    The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), as it was generally known, was established as a committee of the House of Representatives in 1938. It was not a law enforcement agency, and, unlike the Board, had no concrete legal function. The broad and amorphous nature of its mandate, investigation and publicization of activities deemed un-American, ensured that any findings would be either tautologous (as applied to foreign countries and their governments and citizens) or tendentious. (Tendentious as well were the suggestions of critics that the Committee itself was un-American.) Investigation of communism was always a central, though not exclusive, concern of the Committee. HUAC was highly controversial, and largely as a defensive cosmetic measure the House retitled it the House Internal Security Committee (HISC) in 1969. Support continued to wane, however, and the House abolished the Committee in 1975.
    William T. Poole was employed as a research analyst on the minority (Republican Party) side of the HUAC staff from the mid-1960s until the Committee's dissolution. When the Board and the Committee respectively went out of existence, Poole took possession of files unwanted for permanent government retention. He gave this collection of material to the Hoover Institution Archives in 1982.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The William T. Poole Collection consists of material collected by the United States Subversive Activities Control Board and the United States House Committee on Un-American Activities/House Committee on Internal Security, and preserved by William T. Poole.
    A large portion of the collection was received foldered and labeled. Internal analysis established that the folders were from HUAC files. In many cases they may have been Poole's own working files. Another large portion of the collection was received unfoldered and unarranged. This material tended to fall into two categories-older material that was stamped as exhibit material of the Subversive Activities Control Board, and later material from the Vietnam War era that was undoubtedly collected by HUAC/HISC and often by Poole himself.
    The collection is arranged in five series. The Subversive Activities Control Board Exhibits series consists of exhibits from Board hearings. They are arranged by docket number. Most exhibits are public issuances of the organizations that were targets of the hearings (the Communist Party and associated organizations), but they also include internal documents of those organizations, and reports, clippings and other material about them. Many of the items in this series are photocopies. The Hoover Institution Archives also holds a separate collection of United States Subversive Activities Control Board Records, which consists of a complete set of Board hearing transcripts, decisions and orders, but does not include hearing exhibits. The Subversive Activities Control Board Exhibits series of the William T. Poole Collection thus constitutes an important complement to that collection.
    The largest series in the William T. Poole Collection is the Un-American Activities Subject File, and it is in many ways the heart of the collection. It consists of material gathered by HUAC/HISC on organizations, publications, individuals and a few broader categories suspected of un-American activities, and is arranged alphabetically by target entity. The great majority of these entities are organizations, some of them well-established and longlasting, others ephemeral and existing only long enough to produce a single newspaper appeal. A file on an organization may be interpreted to mean either that it was suspected of un-Americanism in toto, or that it was thought to have been infiltrated by an influential un-American element. The number of files on suspect individuals is small. They fall into two categories-well-known public figures on the one hand, and, on the other, lesser-known individuals who were fleetingly featured in published newspaper stories because of some act or expression of opinion in opposition to the Vietnam War. Files already foldered and labeled by HUAC have been retained even when consisting of a single newspaper clipping. They are evidential of aspiration toward an impressive level of thoroughness. As the antiwar movement grew, the Committee seems to have become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the monitoring task as originally contemplated. Material left unarranged by the Committee has been added to established files when appropriate. In a few cases, files on new entities have been created when the volume of loose material warranted. Other such material has been batched into a few generic files-Counterculture, Labor, Peace, etc.
    An incomplete list of areas of HUAC/HISC inquiry would include: propaganda issued by Communist bloc countries and associated international organizations for distribution in the United States; organizations promoting cultural ties with such countries; organizations supporting liberation movements in other countries; organizations promoting world federalism; the Communist Party and all its works, including its successive youth groups and anything that might be construed as a front organization; other left-of-center political groups-Trotskyist, Maoist, social democratic and left-liberal; groups or individual politicians within mainstream parties (principally the Democratic Party, but including at least one prominent Republican); government employees (including a number of members of Congress) and even entire agencies within government; civil liberties organizations, including those organized for the legal defense of specific defendants; labor unions and organizations of the unemployed; professional and cultural organizations; publishers and book distributors; organizations promoting rights and advancement of blacks, and to a lesser degree of other racial and ethnic groups; religious organizations and individual clergymen within the Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations (notably Methodists and Quakers); pacifist and other peace-oriented organizations opposing conscription and militarization; disaffection within the Armed Forces (notably Vietnam War era GI dissident movements); student movements; the counterculture (together with drug culture and women's liberation and gay liberation movements); and the actuality of or potential for violent challenge to the existing order (notably black inner-city rioting).
    Considerable attention was devoted to immigration issues, and especially to organizations opposing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (McCarran-Walter Act), which barred admission of the politically suspect and provided for deportation of naturalized citizens associated with radicalism. Also of increasing concern to HUAC was overt opposition to the Committee itself. Organizations or individuals calling for its abolition became ipso facto suspect of un-Americanism, and much attention was given to documentation of their expressions of opinion. In its last years the emergence of a mass antiwar movement in reaction to the Vietnam War became the Committee's primary focus and indeed came close to overwhelming all other concerns.
    To a large extent HUAC's method of procedure was associational. The establishment of connections (through overlapping membership, financial ties, or otherwise) between an organization deemed un-American and a second organization cast suspicion upon the latter. One example of an extended associational chain, unusual in substance but typical in methodology, is illustrative. The Fund for the Republic, a philanthropic project established to promote civic education, criticized HUAC publicly and thus earned investigation by the Committee. The Fund was created and financed by the Ford Foundation, whose resources derived from the Ford Motor Company, seemingly an impeccable capitalist entity. Nevertheless the Ford Foundation came under suspicion. The Foundation also provided money to the Fund for the Advancement of Education and to the Carrie Chapman Catt Memorial Fund. HUAC files were established on both. The Catt Fund received even more financial support from the League of Women Voters than from the Ford Foundation. Material on the League of Women Voters was therefore collected as well. To cap it all, a file was created on the possibly un-American nature of foundations in general.
    Although HUAC's central concern was with the political left, it gathered some information on the far right. In its first years, before American entry into World War II, HUAC established files on native fascist organizations. In the 1960s a few more right-wing organization files were created, perhaps in a self-conscious attempt to display evenhandedness. With one exception right-wing files are few in number and thin in content. The exception is the Minutemen, on whom a substantial body of documentation was accumulated.
    By far the largest volume of material in the HUAC files consists of public issuances of the target organizations themselves. These were typically obtained by purchase or as handouts at public events. A number of files contain letters to Poole or to William P. Thompson (likely a pseudonym employed by Poole) in response to requests for literature or regarding subscriptions. Flyers are often neatly labeled with the date and occasion on which they were obtained. Letterhead data from circular letters and the like were valued for indexing purposes.
    Newspaper stories constituted an important source for HUAC files. The New York Times, the Washington Post, other mainstream newspapers, and the Communist Party press and other left-wing publications were regularly culled for material. Reports and other publications of private anti-communist organizations were another major source. Some material, sent by private citizens sympathetic to HUAC, arrived unsolicited in the mail.
    Internal documents of target organizations, whether original or photocopies, are an important component of the HUAC files. There is no documentation of how they were obtained but there would seem to be a presumption that the means were surreptitious. They were likely passed on to the Committee through intermediary sources.
    Other unpublished file materials include reports compiled by the HUAC staff, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and by state and local law enforcement agencies, and reports submitted by informants who had infiltrated target organizations. There is one sustantial block of drafts and working material for the composition of a specific HUAC staff study. This was on the international Communist-sponsored World Festival of Youth.
    A third series is the much smaller Un-American Activities Informational File. It consists of serial publications and reports and other issuances of private patriotic and anti-communist organizations regarded by HUAC as friendly sources and acquired for their informational value on un-American activities in general. Unlike the material in the preceding series, this material is not susceptible to arrangement by target entity. It is arranged by issuing organization.
    The still smaller United States Government Agencies File contains material of two types: material issued by government agencies about un-American activities in general; and material about the surveillance activities of those government agencies, whether supportive or critical, emanating from private citizens or from the mainstream media. In either case the material is not susceptible to arrangement other than by name of the government agency concerned. Supportive and critical letters to HUAC from the public at large, and petitions to Congress to abolish the Committee are among the materials in this series.
    There is also a small Audiovisual File of photographs.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Communism--United States.
    Radicalism--United States.
    Subversive activities--United States.
    Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements.
    United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities.
    United States. Subversive Activities Control Board.