Questionable Document Examiner Pearl Tytell Dies at 104
Pearl Lily Kessler was born August 29, 1917 in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Europe: his father, Harry, was an Austrian tailor, and his mother, Yetta (Feigenbaum) Kessler, left Poland at the age of 2.
In 1938, Pearl was working in the accounting department of a company in the Flatiron Building in Manhattan when she met her future husband. He came to his office to get a rental and repair contract and, while he was there, invited her to dinner. Although they did not go out that night, he came back the next day and said, “Come work for me and I will marry you.
She soon went to work for him and they married in 1943, while Mr. Tytell was in the military.
In 1950 a major change occurred for the Tytells’ business.
Lawyers for Algiers Hiss, the former State Department official who was convicted of lying to a grand jury about passing on secret information to a Communist agent, Whittaker Chambers, hired Mr. Tytell to prove that the printing pattern of a typewriter can be reproduced. During his conviction, Mr Hiss accused Mr Chambers of committing ‘typewriter forgery’ – giving the impression that the documents had been produced by Mr Hiss’ typewriter.
Mr Tytell spent two years building a typewriter whose print pattern was indistinguishable from Mr Hiss’ Woodstock model, to prove that the disputed documents may have been fabricated. Ms. Tytell researched the parts and characteristics of typefaces that needed to be duplicated. Their work became the basis for Mr. Hiss’ appeal, although it ultimately failed.
After the Hiss case, Ms. Tytell took courses in paper, photographic ink, type styles and handwriting; in 1951, the couple opened the Tytell Questioned Document Laboratory, which became the center of their work and, ultimately, that of their son. In the 1960s, she graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.
“Writing speaks to me,” she told the Daily News. “Typewriters, ink and paper too. “