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Montclair Intelligence Division Records

Identifier: Mss. Acc. 2007.116

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The letters in the collection consist of correspondence between Thomas Randle, the head of the Intelligence Division of the Montclair Security Council, and various members of the organization dated from September 9, 1940 to August 9, 1942.

The letters in the collection of the Intelligence Division of the Montclair Security Council are dated September 9, 1940 to August 9, 1942. They contain information pertaining to the organization of the division, prospective recruits and reports on potential subversive activity. 

The tone of the letters change somewhat with America's entrance into World War II.  In a letter, dated December 8, 1941, Randle asks his recruits to take stronger steps to stop subversive activities, indicating Montclair to be in a part of the country "riddled with foreign agents."  He asks them to report any un-American activity to the division and to do so without arousing suspicion.


  • Creation: 1940-1942
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1940-1942


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Historical Note:

Located west of New York City, Montclair, New Jersey had a population of approximately 40,000 in the late 1930s.  At the time, a group of  the citizens of  the New York  suburb,  troubled over potential fifth column activity in their community, formed an intelligence gathering organization to expose perceived subversive activities. The organization eventually became part of the official civil defense apparatus of the town and was referred to as the  Intelligence Division of the Montclair Security Council.

Colonel Dallas Townsend, a New York attorney and Montclair resident, served as the town's Commissioner of Public Safety and the members of the Intelligence Division reported to him. Official recognition was granted to the group by Townsend in the Fall of 1941, giving it work space in the Montclair Municipal Building, where it held regular monthly meetings. 

For purposes of their activities, the Intelligence Division partitioned Montclair into fifteen sections, each headed by a "key man."  Ten to fifteen "thoroughly trustworthy", "good substantial Americans" of unquestioned patriotism were assigned to, or recruited by, each of the key men.  They were from  "different levels of society and various social groups."  In this pyramidal structure, key men did not know the identity of other key men and the lower level informants only knew their own key man.  Members of the Intelligence Division were to report to the next most superior authority on activities they "construed as subversive or un-American in any way."  Correspondence from operatives was addressed to their key man in care of the office at municipal building.  Townsend, the top of the intelligence gathering pyramid, would then turn over information to the FBI if he thought it represented information sympathetic to the Nazi cause.

As of July, 1941, according to the Montclair Times, the intelligence division had been operating for over a year. The newspaper claimed it was remarkably successful in uncovering potential subversive activities and fascist sentiment. Although the FBI never reported back to the intelligence division as to the outcome of information passed to it, the newspaper credited the intelligence division with 43 reports to the FBI resulting "in several arrest and convictions."


0.20 Linear Feet

Arrangement of Materials:

The collection is arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information:


Guide to the Montclair Intelligence Division Records
SCRC Staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository