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Yours, in dread of the Hot Seat
Anti-Communist Investigations in Seattle, 1947-1949

January 19-March 20, 1998
Allen Library Balcony

This University Libraries exhibit of historical materials about the investigations is designed to provide historical context for the play, ''All Powers Necessary and Convenient." The exhibit features original materials from University records, faculty papers, and other unpublished records, as well as newspaper accounts, official publications, and photographs.


2nd Canwell Hearing, July 1948

The Canwell Committee decided to focus its second hearings on communists and former communists employed by the University of Washington. During the spring of 1948, the Committee's investigators questioned U.W. faculty, students, and staff. Although some professors were treated professionally and courteously, many people recall the investigation as "a horrifying period" and a "shocking intimidation." The investigators threatened and insulted some professors. Several received frightening anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night during the investigation.

"He then handed me his calling card"

(Ted Astley Papers, Box 1, Folder 24, Manuscripts & University Archives, UW Libraries.)

Excerpts of notes of Ted Astley, U.W. graduate student and veterans' counselor.

Visit from Mr. Tibbetts 4-22-48 approx 1:10 PM. Mr. Tibbetts met me in the hallway of the Guidance Center near my office and said "Are you Mr. Astley" "Yes" ....."I invited him to have the chair beside my desk. He then handed me his calling card and said that he was calling on me for the Committee. .....I replied that I had "nothing to say to the committee" Mr. Tibbetts then stated that the committee was investigating communism, that certain professors on the campus are not teaching their subjects but instead teaching communism in their classes.
(Visit from Mr. Tibbetts, 4-22-48, Astley 1/18.)


Photo of Canwell Committee examining evidence
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry)
Members of the Canwell Committee include the chair, Rep. Albert Canwell, in the center holding the index card. Other committee members are (left to right) Rep. Grant Sisson, Chief Investigator William J. Houston, Sen. R.L. Rutter, Rep. Sydney Stevens and Sen. Thomas Bienz.
Sixteen U.W. professors were subpoenaed by the Canwell Committee. Professor Ralph Gundlach (Psychology) tried to persuade the other subpoenaed professors to issue a joint statement denouncing Canwell and announcing that that would not honor the subpoenas. This strategy soon fell apart when U.W. President Allen announced that the University would dismiss any professor who did not honor the subpoena. Fearing for their jobs, most professors did not publicly criticize Canwell. When the attempt to coordinate a joint response failed, each subpoenaed professor hired his or her own attorney and worked out strategy individually.
President Raymond Allen
(Washington Post, March 27, 1949.)

President Allen's notes for the General Faculty Meeting, 5-12-48
(U.W. President's Office Records, Acc. 70-29, Box 6, Folder 4, MSS & UA)

Melville Jacobs letter to President Allen
(excerpt, 7-15-48 Melville Jacob Papers, 120/51, MSS & UA)

Summary of President Allen's interview with Professor Herbert Phillips, 6-3-48
(U.W. President 70-29, 5/56 MSS & UA)

Ralph Gundlach letter to Clif (O'Brien, his attorney) 28 June 1948
(excerpts, Ralph Gundlach Papers, Acc. 686-70-21, Box 1, Folder 10, MSS & UA)



Canwell called 12 professors to testify at the Committee's public hearing in July 1948. Only one professor was willing to provide the names of people that he had seen at Communist Party meetings.

Dr. Garland Ethel, University of Washington assistant professor of English, is pictured on the witness stand at the state un-American activities committee hearing.
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer Photo by John M. "Hack" Miller.) July 21, 1948.

Professor Garland Ethel (English) set a brave precedent. He testified about why he had joined the Communist Party and why he had left it, but he refused to name other people as communists. Ethel later said, "I was willing to take responsibility for my own activities, but I didn't want to damage anyone else's reputation." Ethel received loud applause form the audience when he stuck to his position even after Canwell threatened him with a jail sentence. Ethel's performance on the witness stand strengthened the resolve of the other subpoenaed professors. All the professors called to testify after Ethel also refused to "name names."

Excerpt of Garland Ethel Testimony quoting Hamlet
(Second Report Un-American Activities in Washington State, 1948. Report of the Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities)


Funding for this virtual exhibit is made possible by a generous grant from both the Pequod Fund of the Tides Foundation, and the Kenneth S. Allen Endowed Library Fund.


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University of Washington Libraries
Manuscripts & University Archives
kwinn@u.washington.edu
December 30, 1997