For Hiss conspiracy enthusiasts, Horace Schmahl is as important to the frame-up theory as the "faker" of Oswald's backyard photos or the morgue attendant who put his dead palm on the Manlicher is to JFK assassination theorists. Without Schmahl, the whole "forgery by typewriter" cannot stand.
The theory is as follows: Originally hired by the Hiss Defense team to both dig up dirt on Chambers and locate the infamous Woodstock typewriter, Schmahl was only ostensibly a private eye; in reality, he was working for the OSS as early as 1946 in the Hiss frameup, and soon for the FBI, who agreed to drop charges against Schmahl for impersonating an FBI agent for any information he gathered for the defense. Schmahl served as a "go-between" on helping the OSS manufacture the typewriter that was eventually "found" by the FBI and matched up to the type on the documents Chambers turned over. The builder of the typewriter was a pro-Nazi named Adam Kunze.
One can see why the Left clings to this theory, for in it are all their dark fantasies about Cold War America: fascist intelligence agencies, liberal scapegoats, manufactured evidence.
But the problem with this theory, as with all the pro-Hiss ones, is that the empirical evidence runs against it. Far from being "run" by the FBI, Schmahl was volunteered to them by the Hiss defense team in locating the typewriter. The head of the New York Bureau, however, declined, stating ethical dilemmas in working for one side of the case. Nor was it Schmahl who visited the Kunze shop, but the Hiss lawyers who rented a typewriter for the purposes of experimenting with the font.
Nor did the OSS express any interest in the case. OSS head Bill Donovan's only contact with the case involved an interview with the Hiss defense team about Noel Field, a former OSS agent and Communist spy.
The more one scratches at Schmahl, the more damning it becomes for Hiss. Schmahl's relatively short tenure (October 1948-February 1949) was because of Hiss's lies; according to a source interviewed by Schmahl, the private eye expressed "some doubts in his mind as to Hiss's innocence since...Hiss's story concerning the typewriter and other points have been found to be inaccurate...Schmahl stated that if Hiss were proved wrong on one more thing his firm would withdraw from the case."
Schmahl is pivotal to the Hiss case but not in a way helpful to those diehard few who still assert Alger’s innocence. As with the Hiss defense memos, the decrypted Russian documents, the Pumpkin Papers and State Department documents with Hiss' handwriting on them, the memoirs of Khrushchev, and the testimony of Soviet defectors, Schmahl's presence not only knocks down one more desperate conspiracy theory, but also reveals one more participant's disgust with Hiss's lies.