Wild Weather Wednesday: Rainmaking (Part Four) – The Moisture Accelerator

Frank Melbourne mysteriously disappeared, although he had long since been found to be a fraud.  (In case you missed previous articles, check out Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this series.)  Yet, that didn’t stop other so-called rainmakers from attempting to make a buck.  The early twentieth century’s most famous rainmaker was called the “Moisture Accelerator”. Charles Mallory Hatfield, aka the “Moisture Accelerator”, was born on July 15, 1875 in Fort Scott, Kansas and sometime in the 1880’s his family moved to southern California.  In 1894 they moved to San Diego County where his father bought a ranch.  As a young boy, Charles sold newspapers on the streets of the city. Although Hatfield was later employed as a sewing machine salesman, he also studied “pluviculture” – rainmaking – in an attempt to create his own secret formula.  By 1902 he had a formula of twenty-three chemicals which actually produced a bit of drizzle at his father’s farm located in the San Diego area. This article was enhanced, complete with sources, and published in the September 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Wild Weather Wednesday: Nineteenth Century Rainmaking (Part Three)

In the early 1890’s several men claiming to be rainmakers were making headlines — from explosive-laden balloons launched to blast rain from the sky (see Part One of the series) to the super-secret formulas Frank Melbourne, a.k.a., the “Rain Wizard”, claimed would produce copious amounts of rain in drought-stricken parts of the West and Midwest (see Part Two). Frank Melbourne began broadening his horizons in 1892 and making plans for that year’s rainmaking wizardry.  In early January he was promising rain to farmers around the Rapids City, South Dakota area, for which he would charge ten cents per acre of coverage.  In late January Melbourne was on his way to the State of Sonora, Mexico where it hadn’t rained for about eight months. The Mexican government was willing to pay his expenses, but wouldn’t grant further compensation until rain was produced.  By early March rain had indeed fallen at Hermosilla and Melbourne began negotiating another deal with the State of Chihuahua.   Meanwhile, back in the States rainmaking companies were sprouting up.  In February of 1892 the Goodland Artificial Rain Company filed its charter with the Kansas Secretary of State.  Melbourne would now have competition. This article was enhanced, complete with sources, and published in the August 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Wild Weather Wednesday: Nineteenth Century Rainmaking (Part Two)

Frank Melbourne, The Rain Wizard Just because General Dyrenforth was on his way to being exposed as a fraud (see Part One of this series) didn’t stop others from trying, nor end the public’s fascination with so-called rainmakers.  Frank Melbourne immigrated to America and lived in Ohio before heading west to Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado in 1891, proclaiming himself as “The Rain Wizard”. He was born in Ireland in 1857 and educated in the public schools of his village.  Although he never attended college, he was considered a well-educated gentleman.  At the age of twenty-one he left Ireland to live on a ranch in Australia where the dry climate presented challenges.  Melbourne, determined to solve the problem with scarcity of rain, set about to find a way to produce rain artificially.  In 1887 he began experimentation and after three years and twelve successful attempts to produce rain in Australia, he went to New Zealand before making his way to Ohio where his brothers resided.1 This article has been enhanced, complete with sources, and published in the July 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Wild Weather Wednesday: Nineteenth Century Rainmaking (Part One)

Let’s face it folks, weather patterns are cyclical – always have been, always will be.  One of my favorite quotes, originally attributed to George Santayana in his book The Life of Reason (1905), is: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  One only needs to review history and discover that man’s attempts to modify the weather have been at best hit-and-miss and often outright failures, eventually exposed as hoaxes.  The purpose of this series of articles isn’t necessarily meant to debunk current-day climate change mania (although that’s how I’ve always skeptically viewed it — as mania), but rather to take a look back at a period in history when climate hucksters preyed on farmers in desperate need of a drought solution. The Storm King James Pollard Espy, a nineteenth century meteorologist, developed a convection theory of storms.  The idea he proposed, burning forests to create more rainfall, was laughed and scoffed at by climate skeptics of the day.  Even in Philadelphia, his hometown, the newspapers and critics were many. One Philly newspaper stepped forward, however, and supported Espy.  After his successful presentation before the French Academy of Sciences in 1841, the Public Ledger (20 Apr 1841) was crowing a bit and casting aspersions on their fellow journalists, referring to their “limited comprehension” and tendency to pronounce anything they didn’t understand as “humbug.” This article was enhanced, complete with sources, in the June 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Wild Weather Wednesday: Yet Another 1913 Historic Storm

From beginning to end, the year 1913 was a meteorologically-challenging year.   Earlier this year, “Wild Weather Wednesday” articles covered two 1913 historic weather events: The Great Flood of 1913 (Part One and Part Two) and The White Hurricane.  On July 10, 1913 the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States occurred in Death Valley – 134 degrees. That year would end with an historic blizzard which buried the eastern slope of Colorado in early December.  As the Daily Journal of San Miguel County reported on December 1, snow was “general throughout Colorado”, but the eastern slope would take the brunt of the storm.  Days later the Steamboat Pilot  reported their part of the state had entirely escaped the storm. This article was enhanced, complete with sources, and published in the February 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Wild Weather Wednesday: The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900

On September 8, 1900 a massive storm was raging and headed for the Texas coast.  The storm, which may have originated off the western coast of Africa, had already inflicted heavy damage in New Orleans and was heading west. The city of Galveston, located on thirty mile-long Galveston Island, was incorporated as a city in 1839 and by 1900 had become a major United States port (third busiest), and approximately forty thousand residents called it home.  The island’s highest point was a mere 8.7 feet above sea level, with most of it averaging about half that altitude.  The city was fast becoming a metropolis on par with other U.S. cities like New Orleans and San Francisco.  The New York Herald went so far as to call it the “New York of the Gulf”.  Galveston had electricity, telephone and telegraph services, several hotels, expensive restaurants and more. This article has been enhanced, complete with sources, and published in the March 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...