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Merchants of Death, by H. C. Engelbrecht and F. C. Hanighen, 1934

Merchants of Death was one of several books published during the 1930s that expounded on the evils of the arms industry and their financial backers during the war. Critics of the industry cited the Chaco War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War I as conflicts that had resulted in enormous profits for arms makers and little concern for human life.

General Collections, Library of Congress

Merchants of Death Merchants of Death

The Nye Committee

During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of authors, high-ranking officials, members of Congress, and pacifist groups claimed profit-hungry arms manufacturers had unduly influenced America’s decision to enter World War I. As conflicts in Europe recurred in the 1930s, some Americans grew concerned that arms manufacturers might pressure the United States to enter another conflict overseas. The Senate created a special committee in 1934 to investigate the sale of munitions in World War I, known as the Nye Committee, after its chairman Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota.

We are very anxious that you investigate the Armament Business, we know too much about the futility of the last war, and will never support another.

Miss Mabel Harman, Mrs. Martha Harman, and Mrs. Charles Bachman, Postcard to Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, March 1, 1934