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Wait till the Dies Committee Hears about This! drawing by Herbert Block, December 1938

In this satire of the Dies Committee, cartoonist Herbert Block showed how Santa Claus could plausibly be viewed as an international agent engaged in subversive activities. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin later employed many of the House committee’s tactics, such as high-pressure interrogations of witnesses, during his Senate investigations of alleged communist sympathizers in the early 1950s.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Wait till the Dies Committee Hears about This!

House Un-American Activities Committee

The world wars stirred concerns in Congress about potential disloyalty and subversive activities in the nation. Several congressional committees met between World War I and World War II to investigate these concerns, the most prominent of which was chaired by Representative Martin Dies Jr. of Texas. Initially organized to investigate fascist activities, the House Un-American Activities Committee—popularly known as the Dies Committee—quickly became a controversial vehicle to persecute individuals and groups for their alleged communist ties or sympathies.

Nations are sometimes destroyed by a sudden revolution, but more often republics are destroyed by the gradual process of subversion.

Representative Martin Dies Jr. of Texas, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, February 1, 1943