1934-02 The Man Who Shook the Earth

Cover Date: February 1934
Volume 2 # 6
Copyright Date: January 19, 1934
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition # 43, December 1969
Sanctum Edition # 34
Story Length: 51,059 words
WHMC: The collection contains nine folders for this story, f.131-139.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.


Free Portrait of Doc Savage No. 1
The Man Who Shook the Earth by Kenneth Robeson
Desert Jewels by Edwin V. Burkholder
Snowshoe Trail by Wallace R. Bamber

Doc Savage Club
– Finding Time for the Club
– The Code of Doc Savage
– Keeping a Lighthouse
– Barbarian Art
– Sea Rescue
– Chinese Bandits

The prize is control of the Chilean nitrate industry.  Nitrates were a vital component of explosive munitions.  So much so, that in 1879 Bolivia and Peru fought against Chile in the War of the Pacific for control of the nitrate-rich Atacama Desert.   


Prior to World War I nitrates were an essential component in munitions manufacturing.  In 1909, a German chemist named Fritz Haber developed the Haber Process to use atmospheric nitrogen to produce ammonia. During World War I, German munitions manufacturers were able to successfully use the Haber Process to supply war-time explosives requirements.


Nitrates were in the news in a big and controversial manner in 1933. The Knoxville Journal carried a lengthy article on the Muscle Shoals Dam and its importance in the manufacturing of nitrates for the United States.  The dam was authorized as part of the 1916 Nation Defense Act. The government had decided that reliance on Chilean nitrates was not in the country’s best interests and that a means of manufacturing it within the borders should be a priority.

An engineering study determined that the Muscle Shoals, located on the Tennessee River in northwestern Alabama, was the best location for a hydroelectric plan east of the Rocky Mountains.

The story discloses that a foreign power is behind the attempts to take over the Chilean nitrate mines. In the newspapers, it was a different kind of foreign plot by the “Nitrogen Cartel” to monopolize the synthetic production of nitrates.

January 9, 1933

In the story, the secret of the earthquakes is based on the piezoelectric property of quartz.  Famous inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla had previously discussed the idea of an earthquake machine based on a mechanical oscillator. A 1925 article in The Scranton Republican discussed the possibility of piezo-electric earthquakes created by the oscillation of quartz bearing rocks when subjected to electric current.

The Crime College does not limit itself to the treatment of small-time or petty crooks.  A very unusual group of men head north, on a long journey from South America to the Crime College.  They are leading men in the local nitrate industry.  They are also criminals.  Regardless of their social or economic standing, they will be treated for their “disease”.

Doc Savage performs a delicate operation and restores sight to Johnny’s blind eye.

Ham resides at the Midas Club located on Park Avenue.  A likely candidate for the basis of this exclusive club would be the Harvard Club of New York City.

This story is recycled in “Mystery Island” in August 1941 but that is not the only place it reappears.  On May 15, 1942 – Fleischer Studios released the latest Superman animated feature titled Electric Earthquake.  The story’s central theme centers on electrically induced earthquakes.

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