During extended periods of dry weather, there is usually a growing cry for something to be done to ‘make it rain’.
In the early 1900s, a sewing machine salesman named Charles Hatfield travelled the Western United States claiming to be a “rainmaker”.
His method of making it rain included a mixture of 23 chemicals he claimed would attract water.
According to an article in the Farmer’s Almanac, wherever he went, rain followed.
This wasn’t always the case, however.
In 1906, residents of the Yukon Territory paid him $10,000 to bring rain.
It didn’t rain and he took off with the money.
During the drought of 1915, Hatfield was hired by the city of San Diego.
He struck a deal saying the city would pay him $1,000 per inch of rain up to 50 inches.
The deal went on to say if it didn’t rain, he wouldn’t be paid.
He set up a big tower and began to release his cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere.
A few days later, it rained and rained and then rained some more.
The next thing the people of San Diego knew, extensive flooding began.
Bridges and roads were washed away and two dams broke, killing 20 people.
Total damages were estimated to be in the neighborhood of $3.5 million.
Hatfield tried to collect his money, but the courts determined the rain and subsequent flooding were an act of God.
During his lifetime, Hatfield’s critics pointed out that he probably knew enough about the weather to put himself ‘in the right place at the right time’.
In my view, that’s probably the case.
Of course, he had no idea his rainmaking antics would cultivate disaster.
Hatfield’s life was immortalized in the film, “The Rainmaker”, starring Burt Lancaster, who invited him to the premiere.
Rainmaking is still a goal of some scientists and tomorrow, I’ll write about that.