The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 569
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
who plied their craft almost completely unhindered by scientific the-
Among those with at least some pretense to scientific theory were
James P. Espy, a serious student of meteorology who in the early nine-
teenth century advocated the creation of a government weather bureau,
and Edward Powers, whose book, War and the Weather, was published
in 1871. Espy believed that rising hot air triggered precipitation; thus
he advocated the massive burning of timber to produce rain. Powers,
on the other hand, believed that a direct relationship existed between
concussion (bombarding the skies with explosives) and rainfall. Using
Powers's ideas, Senator John B. Farwell of Illinois, who had extensive
landholdings in Texas, pushed a bill through Congress to hire a con-
cussion rainmaker to bring moisture to West Texas. The man se-
lected by the government was Robert Dyrenforth, who chose rural
areas near Midland, El Paso, and Corpus Christi for his experiments.
The concussion hypothesis lingered on well into the twentieth century.
As late as the 1930os, an Amarillo oil-fire extinguisher named Tex
Thornton attacked the Dust Bowl near Dalhart with aerial torpedoes.
Far more numerous were the practitioners of unadulterated quack-
ery. Australian immigrant Frank Melbourne, once characterized as "a
kind of barnyard Barnum" (p. 52), emerged as the leader of the rain-
makers in Kansas who used foul-smelling chemicals to seduce the at-
mosphere. One of Melbourne's disciples was Clayton B. Jewell, who
managed to get the backing of the Rock Island Railway. Still others
believed electricity to be the correct catalyst. These were divided into
those who wished to extract electricity from the atmosphere (the
"taker-outers") and those who sought to put more in (the "putter-
inners"). Another group, emerging in the early twentieth century, tried
to induce rainfall by sprinkling clouds from airplanes with various sub-
stances ranging from electrically charged sand to powdered lime. Ironi-
cally, the search for a suitable cloud-dust eventually led to the use of
dry ice and successful cloud-seeding experiments.
The best known of all the pluviculturalists was Charles M. Hatfield,
who practiced his craft primarily in southern California at the turn of
the century. He poured smelly chemicals into the tanks of evaporating
towers to "attract the clouds and they do the rest" (p. 81). In early
1916, San Diego was flooded, two dams were washed out, and fifty peo-
ple drowned on the heels of one of Hatfield's experiments in which he
offered his services for the purpose of filling a reservoir.
The author has combed through sources ranging from local news-
papers to various scattered archival collections. No possible document
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/627/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.