Heritage, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall 1986

SHOOTING THE BREEZE WITH

C. W. POST

Out in the Northwest, the farmer pulls
stumps, breaks up new land, digs post holes,
puts in irrigation ditches and plants fruit
trees with dynamite. Down here in Texas
where ideas are baked to a finish we're
experimenting with dynamite to fetch rain. If
successful, the farmer of the future can set
up shop with a few sticks of dynamite and a
congressional consignment of garden seed.
Fort Worth Weekly Citizen
June 20, 1912

by Andrea Beebe
The Texas Plains, for farmers, were a
land of drought. But for early 20thcentury
rainmakers, the plains were a
land of opportunity. And one of the most
celebrated of these rainmakers was cereal
king C. W. Post.
This summer marks the 75th anniversary
of the beginning of what Post called
his "rain battles." Post's boundless imagination
and ambition led him to believe
he could blast rain from the clouds with
dynamite. He knew if he could produce
rain on demand, he would become history's
greatest inventor; the man to make
the deserts bloom.
Post staged rainmaking battles from
1911 through 1913. Records from these
battles indicate clouds usually formed
after the blasts and rain often followed.
On occasion, huge storms were attributed
to the blasts.
In many ways, Post was the most appropriate
man to stage Texas' most elaborate
series of rainmaking experiments.
Possessed of an incessant business drive,
Post capitalized on public demand for
ready-made products. He jumped into the
instant breakfast foods business in 1885,
while the industry was in its infancy. In
four years he built a town of 15,000 residents
by selling ready-to-farm homesteads.
And for these West Texas farmers,
he worked to produce instant rain.
Post's breakfast foods; Postum, GrapeNuts,
Post Toasties, brought him world
20

fame. Less well-known are Post's dozen or
so successful business ventures that established
him as the leading entrepreneur of
his day.
Born in 1854 in Springfield, Illinois,
Post grew up in the land of Lincoln at a
time when the Lincoln family lived only
a few miles away. Post enrolled at the Univeristy
of Illinois at age 15, but dropped
out after a single semester of botany. He
joined his father's hardware business, and
by age 17 had doubled his $1,000 investment
in the business.
By age 31 Post had been a traveling
salesman, managed a large farm implement
factory, and established a plow factory
in Springfield. He had also received
numerous patents for items such as plows,
planters, harvesters, and suspenders.
But success came with a price, and Post
paid with his health, a price he was to pay
over and over again throughout his life.
In 1885 Post developed stress-related
stomach and nervous disorders. Thinking
a simpler life on the open prairies of Texas
would rejuvenate him, Post joined the
Curry Comb Ranch near Fort Worth.
While working on the ranch, Post
dreamed of establishing a prairie town of
his own, a little Texan utopia.
Friend Zach Moore described the birth
of Post's dream in an article in the October
1909 issue of Pearson's Magazine. According
to the story, Post had been riding
near the Caprock, a natural limestone
bluff in West Texas considered the beginning
of the Texas Plains. Saddle-weary,
Post decided to relax beneath a mesquite
tree. As he gazed over the endless prairie
below the ridge, Post envisioned his version
of a perfect community; wide streets,

spacious farms and homesteads, and a
magnificent hotel. Then his pony stepped
on him. Startled back to reality, Post returned
to the ranch, but with a dream for
the future. During his "vacation" on the
ranch, Post's business drive refused to die.
In his seven-year stay, Post established a
real estate business and a wool mill. He
also developed a process to manufacture
paper from Texas cottonseed.
By 1891 Post realized his health could
not handle much more "relaxation" in
Texas. Again wracked by stomach and
nervous problems, Post left Texas and
checked into the sanitarium at Battle
Creek, Michigan. But Post proved to be a
restless patient with an unquenchable entrepreneurial
spirit. At the sanitarium
Post enjoyed a coffee substitute served by
the Kellogg brothers, who ran the hospital
and later founded the Kellogg's cereal
company. Post perfected the wheat, bran
and molasses drink and marketed it as
Postum. Unhappy with his slow recovery,
Post checked out of the Kellogg's sanitarium
and founded one of his own,
called La Vita Sanitarium.
During his hospitalization Post persued
many other business interests. He developed
and marketed Grape-Nuts cereal as
an easily digestible health food. In later
years, Colliers Weekly challenged Post's
claim that a diet that included GrapeNuts
would make appendicitis operations
unnecessary. Post lost the lawsuit and, in
1914, his appendix. Post also developed
Elijah's Manna, a marketing flop until he
renamed the cereal Post Toasties. He
founded the Postum Cereal Company, the
forerunner to today's General Foods, and
Post organized the Battle Creek Paper

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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45442/. Accessed July 22, 2014.