KanColl: The Kansas
Historical Quarterlies

Some Kansas Rain Makers

by Martha B. Caldwell

August, 1938 (Vol. 7, No. 3), pages 306 to 324
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

     IN the Kinsley Graphic of February 3, 1938, appeared a full-page advertisement of twenty-five business, men of Kinsley under the heading "WE WANT SNOW OR RAIN." They asked for one-half inch of moisture on or before February 17. To prove their faith in the value of advertising they agreed to pay double for the ads "upon the delivery of said moisture," and in case it did not arrive, the Graphic and Mrs. Cora Lewis, its editor, were to stand the cost. This advertisement was resorted to in a spirit of fun and to help keep up the morale of the people of Kinsley who were becoming disheartened by the prolonged drought.

     When the Associated Press carried a short announcement of this unique appeal to the power of advertising, Mrs. Lewis and the Graphic suddenly found themselves famous. Letters from all parts of the country offered advice, criticism and assistance. A Dodge City editor offered to furnish a rain maker, but the Graphic declined with the pertinent observation that Dodge's drought was still unbroken. A woman from New York advised that they try the Indians for rain, saying that they are "very close to the forces that govern the natural events of the planets." A Nashville, Tenn., woman offered to come to Kinsley and pray for rain (for a stipulated sum) and guaranteed success. A New York City business man had such great faith in advertising that he wanted to sell the Graphic a motor boat. An Emporia man, referring to the Kinsley region as the "Dry West End," said he was eager to do his part and sent a bottle of Neosho river water.

     As the dead line of February 17 approached it began to look as if the pulling power of Graphic display space was about to be discredited. But on the morning of the 16th it began to mist and by 10 o'clock the Graphic's contract had been fulfilled with .03 of an inch to spare. As a matter of official record the total amount of rainfall was .95 of an inch including three inches of snow. The long drought which had begun November 1 was broken.

     This demonstration of successful advertising naturally was received with great glee by newspapers all over the country. Old-timers began remembering other rain-making attempts in the state. The subject of weather making is an old one, dating back to ancient times. The methods employed have varied from the incan-



tations and forms of fetishism used by the pagans to the more practical and scientific attempts of modern people. Much has been written on the subject; a large part of the literature being produced during the period from 1890 to 1894.

     These writers had various theories as to the methods of producing rain. A French author suggested using a kite to obtain electrical connections with the clouds. James P. Espy, a meteorologist from Pennsylvania, proposed the method of making rain by means of fires. This idea is prevalent on the Western Plains where the saying, "A very large prairie fire will cause rain," has almost become a proverb. The Indians on the plains of South America were accustomed to setting fire to the prairies when they wanted rain. A third method patented by Louis Gathman in 1891 was based on the supposition that sudden chilling of the upper atmosphere by releasing compressed gases would cause rapid evaporation and thus produce rain. [1] One of the oldest theories of producing artificial rain is known as the concussion theory, or that of generating moisture by great explosions. The idea originated from the supposition that heavy rains follow great battles. Gen. Daniel Ruggles of Fredericksburg, Va., obtained a patent on the concussion theory in 1880, and urged congress to appropriate funds for testing it. [2]

     By 1890 the subject of artificial rain making had attained considerable dignity; two patents had been issued and through the efforts of Sen. C. B. Farwell, congress had made appropriations, $2,000 first, and then $7,000 to carry on experiments. In 1892 an additional appropriation of $10,000 was made to continue the work. [3] The carrying out of these experiments naturally fell to the Department of Agriculture, and the secretary selected R. G. Dryenforth to conduct them. [4] In 1891 Mr. Dryenforth [5] with his assistants proceeded to the "Staked Plains of Texas" to begin work. Included in the equipment which he took with him were sixty-eight explosive balloons, three large balloons for making ascensions, and material for making one hundred cloth covered kites, besides the necessary explosives, etc. He used the explosives both on the ground and in the air. An observer stated that "it was a beautiful imitation of a battle." [6] The balloons filled with gas were exploded high in the atmosphere. After a series of experiments carried on in different parts


of Texas over a period of two years, his conclusions were to the effect that under favorable conditions precipitation may be caused by concussion, and that under unfavorable conditions "storm conditions may be generated and rain be induced, there being, however, a wasteful expenditure of both time and material in overcoming unfavorable conditions." But the conclusions of Prof. A. MacFarlane, a physicist of the University of Texas, who was an "uninvited guest" at some of the experiments, were adverse to the rain makers. [7]

     The government tests were much talked about and tended to make the people weather-making conscious. Individuals throughout the United States began to experiment with other theories. The interest in these operations was greatly increased by the drought which began in 1891 and continued for several years.

     Kansas, like other Western states, suffered a severe dry spell in 1891. Conditions in the early part of the year had been quite favorable, rain falling in sufficient quantities to mature the early crops, but at the last of July the drought set in and the corn and other grains began to wither under a scorching sun and hot winds. The farmers in their helpless condition were ready to grasp at the last straw, which in this case happened to be the rain maker.

     The fame of Frank Melbourne, said to be an Australian, as a "rain wizard" had spread throughout the country. Marvelous stories were told of his operations at Canton, Ohio, where he was said to so control the weather that he could "bring rain at a given hour." Since he was fond of outdoor sports he "so adjusted his machine that all the Sunday rains come late in the afternoon, after the baseball games and horse races for the day are over." [8] Mr. Melbourne said his machine was "so simple that were its character known to the public every man would soon own one and bring rain whenever he felt like it." The editor of the Hutchinson News thought there would be serious objections to this for "there could never be a political barbecue without all the rain machines of the opposition being set in motion," and the "infidels would spoil all the camp-meetings and the church people ruin the horse races." [9] He feared there would be continual strife in every community. Mr. Melbourne expressed the belief that he could be more successful in Colorado or Kansas than in Ohio, and the Goodland News wrote: "If it is a square deal it is probable that the solution of the rain question in western Kansas and Colorado has been solved." [10]


     About the first of September A. B. Montgomery, of Goodland, wrote to Mr. Melbourne at Cheyenne, Wyo., with a view of getting him to come to Goodland. The rain maker replied that his charge for a good rain was five hundred dollars, and that his rain would reach from fifty to one hundred miles in all directions from the place. A meeting to consider the matter of making a contract was held at the courthouse. It was apparently an enthusiastic one with a large crowd in attendance. Two committees were appointed, one to contract with Mr. Melbourne and another to make arrangements for the occasion. A considerable sum was raised at the meeting and the citizens were admonished not to shirk their duty in the effort to have Mr. Melbourne there on or about September 25. "Let every farmer who is able act promptly and contribute to this fund," advised the Goodland News, "and we will give to Goodland and Sherman county a valid boom such as they have never enjoyed before." [11]

     The purse of five hundred dollars having been raised, the papers announced that Melbourne would be in Goodland the 25th. Plans were made for a great occasion. The county fair was to continue over Saturday. The Rock Island gave one and one-eighth rates from all points along the road. People were expected from all over the country, Gov. Lyman Humphrey and his staff, and Sec. Martin Mohler and members of the State Board of Agriculture were to be Goodland's guests. Saturday was to be the eventful day with horse racing, speaking and other entertainment culminating in a grand ball in the evening. [12]

     A two-story building twelve by fourteen feet and fourteen feet high was built on the fair grounds for the operations of the rain maker. The upper story, containing four windows facing the different points of the compass, was Melbourne's work room. The room also contained a hole in the roof four inches in diameter for the escape of rain-making gases. The lower room was used by Melbourne's brother and his manager who served as sort of a body guard to the rain maker. In the meantime a dispatch from Cheyenne announced that rain was falling, that Melbourne had two liberal offers from Texas, two from Colorado, and inquiries from Kansas. Following this, a message from Kelton, Utah, stated that Melbourne had produced rain at that place. This was considered most remarkable for Kelton was "in the midst of a desert and about the dryest spot in the union." [13]


     The rain-making experiment of course was the topic of conversation in Goodland and interesting comments were heard. One man said that he would not give anything "because it was interfering with the Lord's business and harm would come out of it." Another declared he "did not believe in it and the first thing we knew we would have a hell of a tornado here that would blow the town from the face of the earth." Still another asserted that "it was a humbug because the clouds were beyond the reach of man and controlled by the Lord and when man went to tampering with them he was setting himself up against the divine powers." [14] Opposed to these were many who expressed their faith and gave the proposal their hearty support.

     Mr. Melbourne, with his brother and manager, F. H. Jones, arrived on Saturday, the 26th, and were met at the station by the committee and a crowd of curious people. Much to his dismay light showers fell on the 25th and 26th and it was decided to postpone operations until Tuesday, during which time his expenses of ten dollars a day were paid by the committee. This was considered necessary to keep him from going to Topeka in answer to a call. Again on Tuesday night a light shower fell, but on Wednesday he took his rain apparatus to the fair grounds to begin work. He performed his work in great secrecy; no one was allowed within the building, and to keep the inquisitive from coming too close a rope barrier was erected about twenty feet from the building and the windows were curtained. However, everyone went up and "gazed" at the building and the small hole in the roof through which cloud making substances escaped. "It was no more than looking at any frame shed," wrote one, "but to know that inside a man was dealing in the mysterious, made the place a curiosity." [15]

     Hard work all day Wednesday and Thursday failed to produce anything but clouds which were soon driven away by the wind. The wind kept up a continuous gale of thirty or forty miles an hour from the southwest, driving the gases to the northeast, where it was reported, heavy rains fell. According to the Goodland News, any number of telegrams and letters were received asking that Melbourne be "shut off," that they were having heavier rains than had ever been known at that time of the year. Melbourne was said to have predicted this, and therefore was thought to have caused the rains. Consequently the committee in charge decided to "shut him off" and he quit work at noon Friday until the weather settled. Sunday he


resumed work and on Monday a light shower fell which was attributed to his efforts. He was also credited with a good rain that fell at Shermanville on Tuesday, but as this was not within the limits of his territory he failed to get his pay and the citizens of Goodland were out only about fifty dollars.

     In spite of Melbourne's failure many Goodland citizens still had faith in him, accepting his alibi, that cool nights and heavy winds were not conducive to rain making. A prominent man in the town expressed his belief in the honesty of Melbourne's pretensions, and thought that he deserved credit for the lengthy trial he had made. [16] The confidence of the people in his ability was further expressed in a proposition presented to him to produce crop rains in forty western counties at ten cents a cultivated acre. This would amount to about $20,000. Whereupon The Globe Republican, of Dodge City, commented: "If Kansans are gullible enough, and Providence helps the wizard out with one or two coincident wet spells, this is liable to prove a good thing for Melbourne, who, of course, is not in the business for his health." [17] Melbourne was given sixty days to decide upon the offer, and on Tuesday, October 13, he left for Omaha, Neb. Shortly after Melbourne's departure the news came out that a company had been formed in Goodland and "after much argument and work a contract was entered into between Mr. Melbourne and the company, whereby the company was to be told the secret, furnished with a machine and allowed to operate in any part of the country." [18] It appeared that the tests, supposedly made by Melbourne on Saturday, October 10, were made by members of the company under Melbourne's instructions. The company failed to divulge the terms of the agreement. The name chosen for the organization was the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company; the officers were E. F. Murphy, president; H. E. Don Carlos, secretary; H. M. Haller, treasurer; M. B. Tomblin, A. B. Montgomery, O. H. Smith and L. Morris, directors. A. B. Montgomery went to Topeka to obtain a charter, and while there visited the attorney general to see if the laws of irrigation might not be applied to rain making. The plan of the company was to divide western Kansas into districts and for a certain amount supply each district with sufficient rains for the growth and maturing of crops. A central station was to be established from which "rain-making squads" were to be sent out when needed. By spring they expected to have all preparations


made and be ready "to furnish rain to the farmers while they wait." [19]

     In the meantime until time for operations in Kansas, the company decided to make tests in Oklahoma and Texas. Five members left for the south, and on October 27 a dispatch from Oklahoma City announced that they had brought a good rain, the first for a period of six weeks. [20] They appeared jubilant over their success. On October 30, Mr. Murphy wrote to M. B. Tomblin, "I tell you, Marve, we have got the world by the horns with a down-hill pull and can all wear diamonds pretty soon. We can water all creation and have some to spare." [21]

     From Oklahoma the rain makers proceeded to Texas, beginning work at Temple, November 1. According to dispatches they were highly successful at this place also, and were negotiating a sale of their secret to a stock company for, it was understood, $50,000. [22] When the deal was closed the party left for home.

     Early in January, 1892, a gentleman from Tulare, Cal., appeared in Goodland to do business with the rain company. After signing several contracts he left, accompanied by Mr. Murphy and Mr. Smith, taking with them their "ironbound trunk" supposed to contain the machine and other "combustables." In due time numerous reports from Tulare and Pixley reached Goodland stating that the experiments had been a great success. At Huron they produced not only rain, but also thunder and lightning, something that had never been known there before at that time of the year. Here again they were said to have sold the rain-making secret and the rights to the Tulare district "for a good round sum," which would make "a neat balance in the treasury." [23] On their return home the Goodland News glowingly wrote:

     It is a happy hour for Goodland to know that she is not only the Mecca of the home seeker; the innermost chamber of these broad plains; the morning star among a hundred towns of western Kansas, but also that she holds within her grasp the scepter that even sways the clouds. It's a happy hour to know that we have but to smite the rock (a la Moses) and the water cometh forth. We are the people.

     The rain makers-E. F. Murphy and O. H. Smith-have returned from California and bring with them not only assured success, but much California gold. [24]


     The reported success of the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company inspired others to enter the field, and early in 1892 two other rain companies were organized at Goodland. The Swisher Rain Company of Goodland was chartered January 13, with a capital stock of $100,000. Dr. W. B. Swisher, president of the company, had been experimenting for some time with various chemicals with results so satisfactory to him that he decided to form a company for the purpose of producing rain by artificial means, making contracts for the same and doing business. Members of this company likewise went to Texas and Mexico to operate until the weather warmed up in Kansas. They then expected to return and give northwestern Kansas the benefit of their knowledge for a "moderate sum." According to reports which arrived frequently Doctor Swisher's success was equal to that of the Artificial Rain Company. He was said to have made a contract with the people of San Pedro to produce two inches of rain, receiving $30,000 if successful .25 Returning in May he was also said to have brought home a good sum of money. The third company to organize in Goodland was the Goodland Artificial Rain Company, chartered February 11, with J. H. Stewart as president. Its capital stock was $100,000 and its purpose as stated in the charter was "to furnish water for the public by artificial rainfall by scientific methods and to contract for services for the same, and to sell and dispose of the right to use our process in any city, township, county, state, territory or country." [26] All these companies claimed to use the Melbourne method of producing rain. As inquiries were coming in from all quarters for information concerning the operations of the Goodland rain companies, and contracts were being made right and left the citizens of Goodland and Sherman county decided that they should make plans early for the next season's rains, otherwise they might be "left out in the dry." On January 23 a meeting was held, but little was accomplished. The rain companies presented two propositions, one to furnish rain for the season at half a cent an acre, the other to give the same amount of rain for three cents a cultivated acre. A committee was appointed to ascertain the amount of cultivated land in the county, and another to confer with the rain companies as to the best terms. Some looked upon the companies with suspicion, since they were home companies, and others were a little jealous that they had no part in the handsome profits said to have been gained. However, they were all urged not to let anything delay action in making arrangements.


     Competition also developed among the rain companies; they were underbidding each other. This came out at a meeting held early in February when the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company proposed to furnish rain for the crop season for $2,500, the Swisher company for $2,000 and the Goodland Artificial Rain Company made an offer of $1,500. The committee of five appointed at this meeting to draw up a plan recommended that an executive committee consisting of thirteen, one from each voting precinct, be given power to make a contract with any company, to "have said contract printed as headings for subscriptions in such a manner as to be binding upon each subscriber to pay the amount subscribed by him"; to be judge as to the sufficiency of rainfall, and to settle all disputes. The committee also recommended that township committees be made permanent, with the duty of circulating subscriptions and collecting the same, for which service they were to receive a percent of the amount collected. [27]

     June found the rain makers back in Kansas preparing to save their native state. They were, according to reports, receiving dispatches and letters from all over the West, "asking them to come and make rain." 28 On June 27 E. F. Murphy began an experiment at Mankato, under contract to produce half an inch of rain over Jewell county within five days for $500, and rain falling within the time was to be evidence that he had produced it. An enterprising merchant took advantage of the occasion with the following advertisement

Call early at our Store and buy one of our Silk, Serge, or Satine Umbrellas. If you want to use them for sun umbrellas they especially answer that purpose. [29]

     Comment of the Jewell county editors tended to ridicule the proceedings. The Jewell County Monitor of June 29 declared that when the rain maker commenced "there were a few clouds in the sky, but he got his machine bottom-side up and dispelled the few there were and at present writing it is clear as a bell." The Jewell County Republican, Jewell City, of July 1, was of the opinion that Mr. Rain Maker was "simply betting his time against $500 that it will rain between Monday and the Sunday following." But as the paper went to press it announced that a good rain was falling. Four days after Mr. Murphy began operating a copious rain fell over Jewell


county. His contract having been fulfilled he received four hundred dollars. A few failing to come up to their promise, he threw off one hundred dollars.

     The first week in July the rain companies were at work at various places. Doctor Rush and O. H. Smith made tests at Jennings and got rain, but a dispute arose as to the pay. The half inch contracted for fell short within the town, although that amount fell on either side; hence some refused to pay their pledges. L. Morris was highly successful at St. Francis, rain falling in quantities "never before seen in this county" at that time of the year. [30] Doctor Swisher at Colby failed to produce rain in the stated amount and therefore lost his pay. Swisher was accused of taking the credit for all the rain that fell in Thomas county. One editor remarked that "Hereafter Providence will get credit only for hail-storms and cyclones, but in time it is expected that the Goodland rain makers will take full charge of the universe." [31]

     Professor Melbourne was also in Kansas, having contracted to produce a half-inch rain over an area of 6,000 square miles in the vicinity of Belleville for $500. He was apparently losing in fame and popularity, and perhaps in profits, to the Goodland companies. He therefore wrote a letter to the Denver Rocky Mountain News in which he asserted that he did not "stoop to notice" the Goodland rain makers or their methods; that he had never at any time been connected with them in a business way, and that he knew positively that he had kept his method of producing rain a secret. He also declared that he had never offered or agreed to sell to any person or state his method of rain producing. [32]

     In answer to Mr. Melbourne, C. B. Jewell inserted a letter in the Rocky Mountain News informing him that no inventor had yet reached that point where he could "wrap the drapery of his couch about him and lie down to pleasant dreams," confident that his invention would not be equalled or improved upon. That the best men of all ages have met their equals and been lost sight of in this progressive age by the invention and improvements of comparatively unknown persons. He assured Mr. Melbourne that the Goodland rain companies with which he was in no way connected, were in full possession of the Melbourne secret, as was he himself, and they had been successful in more than thirty different parts of the United States and Old Mexico. As to their success in Sherman county he stated, "the


farmers in this county have placed injunctions against them to prevent them from making any more rain until after harvest." He closed by saying, "My duties as chief dispatcher for the Rock Island road at this point prevent me from making tests in the arid regions of this country and Old Mexico, as I should like to. But in a short time I will have men of capital associated with me who will do this-men whose character and honesty, like the members of the three rain companies here, cannot be questioned." [33] Mr. Jewell's expectations were realized the next year.

     The rain companies were seemingly very busy during the month of July. Demands were so heavy that they could not be filled at once. Citizens of Burlington, Coffey county, becoming alarmed about the dry, hot weather, decided to appeal to the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company for relief. They were informed that the company's operators were all out at the time, but one could be furnished in a few days. But before the reply reached Burlington an inch rain fell. An editor of Burlington expressed great faith in a rain company where simply writing to them would bring rain. [34]

     A general rain occurred on July 28 and 29 and greatly aided the rain makers. They were all in the field and, consequently, reaped the benefit of the downpour. Fred Albee and Parson Stewart were in Morris county and Mr. Stewart wired from Council Grove: "Big rain here. The people are satisfied. Got the money." [36] E. F. Murphy and O. H. Smith were operating in Lincoln county; L. Morris and George Montgomery in Cloud county; Doctor Rush and W. D. Jeffery in Mitchell county; A. B. Montgomery was at Wakefield and while there was visited by Sen. John K. Wright and W. H. Mackey, Jr., of Junction City; Doctor Swisher, experimenting at Lincoln, sent the following message: "July 28.-Rain as per contract. Time, 48 hours. Two inches of rainfall. Still raining." [36] All the rain makers naturally were successful and returned to Goodland at the end of the week bringing with them the sum of $2,000. One of them, for some unknown reason, failed to get his pay. The rain extended over Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri and was predicted by the weather bureau and the Weather Prophet Hicks. The editor of the Topeka Capital remarked: "No doubt dupes will multiply as a result of the alleged success of the experiments this week-end


and the rain makers will make an excellent livelihood off the credulity of the farmers." [37]

     After spending the week at headquarters the rain operators set out again. At this time Doctor Swisher removed to his old home in Lincoln, Neb. He was said to have taken with him his chemicals and expected to continue his experiments in his native state. An operator began work at Council Grove, August 4, having made a contract to produce a certain amount of rain within a radius of ten miles of Council Grove by six o'clock Saturday night, August 6, for $400. The people were greatly interested in the experiment. Some had so much faith in the rain maker's ability that they "carried huge umbrellas under their arms" wherever they went. [38] Saturday night by six o'clock the sky was clear, but the rain maker was persistent and continued his work. On Monday, however, a bright sky and a dry, sultry atmosphere induced him to pack up his things and quietly leave town.

     At Fort Scott the rain maker had a similar experience. On August 6 a member of the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company arrived there to fulfill a contract whereby he was to produce a rainfall of an average depth of one-half inch over an area of 500 square miles within three days. If successful he would receive $1,000. Failing to furnish the required amount, he begged for more time, but the people turned a deaf ear to his pleadings and he departed, mourning the loss of his money. Perhaps a greater misfortune befell a rain operator in a Nebraska town when a heavy rain fell the day before he arrived and just a day too soon for him to claim his $2,500. But a rain maker at Minden was still more unlucky. Upon his failure, the citizens "tied him to a telegraph pole, turned the hose of the fire company on him and showed [him] how it could make it rain." [39]

     In September the interest in rain making began to wane, giving way to politics. Populism was at its height in Kansas and the campaign was a most exciting one. One of the candidates for state representative from Sherman county was Fred A. Albee, a member of the Goodland Artificial Rain Company. He, however, met with opposition in his own party, many Republicans being prejudiced against him because of his rain-making activities. An editor of the other party came to his defense, declaring

the Goodland Rain Company has never done anything that should prejudice the mind of any honest citizen against them, They have never sold one


dollar's worth of stock, nor offered to sell any. They have never defrauded any one nor in any way sought to get money on the rain-making experiment but on the condition of "no rain, no pay." We are on the opposite side of the political fence, but we cheerfully accord to Mr. Albee honesty and uprightness of dealing as a member of the rain company. To our mind this is no objection to his candidacy, but he has pitched his tent with the party of retrogression and oppression, and is an apologist for corporate spoliation and the rule of greed. [40]

     The editor may have been sincere or he may have thought Mr. Albee an easy candidate to defeat.

     An unusual dry spell in May, 1893, revived the subject of rain making, and Goodland again came to the rescue. C. B. Jewell, chief train dispatcher for the Rock Island at Goodland, had been quietly experimenting in the rain-making field since Melbourne's visit. He thought he had discovered Melbourne's method, and during spare time he pursued his investigation with apparent success. He was, however, handicapped by lack of means to operate on an extensive scale. But in the spring of 1893 his experiments attracted the officials of the Rock Island railroad company, and they offered to furnish him everything necessary to conduct his work and to make a thorough test of the theory of rain making. Being an expert electrician and believing that electricity greatly assisted the work, he had placed at his disposal the electric batteries along the road from Topeka to Colorado Springs. The company also furnished him with balloons for experimenting with the concussion theory. A freight box car partitioned off was to be his laboratory and living quarters, and he was to operate at points along the line.

     On April 30 the Rock Island sent Mr. Jewell $250 worth of chemicals, and on the following day, he with his assistant, Harry Hutchinson, began experimenting at the Goodland depot. The cool nights hindered the work somewhat, but on Wednesday a heavy rain fell in the southern part of the county, and on Friday a general rain began to fall, continuing in showers until Sunday noon. It was said to be the first general rain since August. Mr. Jewell, of course, claimed that the rain was the result of his efforts, and it was difficult to prove the contrary.

     The rain makers now started out along the road making experiments at various places. They arrived at Meade Center on June 1. Here the Rock Island people made extensive preparations for the visit. Invitations, extended to the citizens of Dodge City, were accepted by Mayor Gluck, G. M. Hoover and many other persons. Instead of the air of mystery and secrecy maintained by other rain makers,


     Mr. Jewell allowed visitors in his laboratory and explained to them his methods, with the exception of revealing the materials used and the manner of compounding them. He explained that he used four jars to generate the gases, and utilized the circuit batteries to establish electrical communication with the clouds. [41] On June 2 a light rain began falling, but not in sufficient quantities, and dynamite was fired into the air to assist the gases. Mr. Jewell wired the general superintendent of the road that the wind was blowing too hard to produce rain at Meade, but that a rain should fall in the vicinity of Salina. This happened as predicted, as on the next day a heavy rain was reported to have fallen there. After five days of continuous work, reports differed as to the success of the experiment. The Hutchinson News and the St. Louis papers reported a "copious downpour" lasting two hours. These reports caused the Meade County Globe to wonder what interest it was to the press "to lie in this manner and deceive," stating that the "downpour consisted of a sprinkle that was not sufficient to lay the dust." [42]

     From Meade the Jewell company proceeded to Dodge City, arriving on June 6. They began work at once surrounded by a crowd of spectators. People had driven for miles to witness the experiment. The natural condition of the atmosphere, being unfavorable for rain, gave the rain makers a chance to work on their own merits. On June 7 a representative of The Globe Republican visited their car and expressed his surprise that "they did not wear bald heads, long beards, nor forms bowed down by years of accumulated wisdom, but were a couple of hale and hearty young men," with frank, unreserved manner. He found "no air of mystery or complicated contrivances calculated to mystify the people." [43] The experiment, nevertheless, was not a success. A high wind blowing continually from the time they commenced, scattered the gases and only a sprinkle fell on Thursday night. The rain makers claimed to be responsible for a rain that fell at Meade, and so were not disheartened at their failure at Dodge City, explaining that the wind carried the chemicals several miles and that the rain did not fall in any quantity where they were sent up. "Only on a calm day," said Jewell, "will it rain at the point where the experiment is made." [44]

     Mr. Jewell alternated along the Rock Island between the south-west and northwest.The last week in June he was operating in


Phillips county, beginning work at Phillipsburg Tuesday, the 27th. Tuesday night a good rain fell and on Wednesday night it rained so hard the people began to fear a flood. "If this wetting is due to Mr. Jewell, give him credit for it," wrote the Phillipsburg editor, "and if it is it isn't costing anybody a cent, so let's don't hear any loud words about it." [45] At this place Mr. Jewell also used rockets. He re- modeled and filled them with chemicals, so arranged as to explode with the explosion of the rocket when at its greatest height. He considered this most effective at Phillipsburg.

     Returning to the southwest the rain makers began a test in Seward county where, it was reported, no rain had fallen for ten months. On Monday, July 3, they reached Liberal and commenced work in the evening, expecting to continue until Saturday unless an abundant rain fell in the meantime. After less than a week's effort they were unsuccessful and left town. The comment of the Liberal News of July 13 was, "This country is too `tuff' for anybody but the Almighty and the rain makers had to give it up." At the same time the editor at Meade attributed the dry, hot weather in that part of the state to the working of Mr. Jewell at Liberal. [46]

     Mr. Jewell was seemingly more successful in the northwestern part of the state. On July 9 he concluded an experiment at Jennings, in Decatur county, where a rainfall was reported to have extended twenty-five miles east and forty-five miles west of town.

     During this time the rain makers had carried on their work in the box car with which they started out, but Superintendent Allen was planning a specially constructed car for them. When it was finished they contemplated a rain-making trip through Iowa and Illinois, ending in Chicago in time for "Kansas Week" at the fair. Mr. Jewell thought that the week would not be complete without a sample of genuine Kansas weather. A man in Canada, hearing of his expected visit, urged him to hasten to the world's fair and bring down such a rain every Sunday morning as would prevent all attendance on that day. And the Chicago Times warned him that he had better not "give an exhibition of his abilities as a Pluvian influencer at the world's fair." It stated, "Chicago doesn't believe much in rain making, but if Jewell fools around the fair grounds and it should rain it will be a bad job for Jewell, that's all." [47]

     No account is given of Jewell's visit to the fair, nor of a deluge in Chicago during "Kansas Week." He may have thought it a more


thrilling experience to relieve the suffering "strip boomers." At any rate be left Caldwell Friday, September 15, and began operations at Hennessey, Okla., the same day. A dispatch sent to Goodland Monday night stated that rain was falling on the strip. [48]

     The three rain companies of Goodland which received so much publicity during 1892 were seemingly completely eclipsed by C. B. Jewell so that little was heard from them. They, no doubt, had a hard time competing with his free experiments. A. B. Montgomery continued to be enthusiastic on the subject, and was attempting to secure a patent on the Inter-State Rain Company's rain-making process. At a convention in Wichita he explained that his company had operated in Sherman county but three times during the season. In July when the hot winds were about to ruin the wheat the company began operations and within twenty-four hours the hot winds had ceased and the temperature had dropped, and on the fourth day two inches of rain fell. The company made this experiment at their own expense, the people refusing to contribute. As a result Mr. Montgomery stated that Sherman county raised 100,000 bushels of wheat, and none was raised for a hundred miles east and west of them. [49]

     In the spring of 1894 the Rock Island company began experiments on a larger scale. Three cars were fitted up and managed by C. B. Jewell, Harry Hutchinson and W. W. LaRue. In April Mr. Jewell went to South Dakota. to give instructions to parties who had purchased his method. While he was there it is said to have rained every day, and the following messages were reported to have gone over the wires:

     C. B. Jewell, Aberdeen. How much will it cost to stop this rain? Have a flock of calves in danger of drowning. V. N. W.

     V. N. W., Britton. Machine wound up for ninety days. Same price for stopping as for starting. Teach the calves to swim. C. B. J. [50]

     The second week in May the Rock Island rain makers began work. They planned to make the first trials simultaneously at Selden, Phillipsburg and Norcatur. These were to be free, but after that they intended to make contracts and charge for their experiments. By May 10 Mr. Jewell was said to have made contracts with Mankato, Colby, Smith Center, Norton and Phillipsburg. It was also reported that he had contracted to produce rain on Senator Farwell's


400,000 acre ranch "I. X. L.," in Texas, for $50,000 if successful. [51] On May 10 the three cars departed. But opposition to their operation began to be registered. The people in the eastern part of the state protested against their coming there as they had too much rain already. And the farmers of Sherman county held several meetings and resolved: "That the experiments of the rain makers had been detrimental to the crop prospects and instead of any rain being produced the gases sent up had produced heavy winds and cold weather, and that a committee be formed and wait upon these gentlemen and notify them to quit the business." [52] The people were also complaining because they thought that the dry weather of the spring was a visitation of Divine displeasure and that God had withheld the moisture from that section because of the "impudence of man in trying to take control of the elements out of His hands." [53] One editor thought that this placed the boys between two fires and that they would have to go to Texas "to try for water and clouds." [54] It was also thought that it would discourage any other attempts to make tests or raise money for the same. Mr. Jewell began operating at Wichita, June 9, where he threatened to turn Douglas avenue into a canal by the next day. His threat was fulfilled in a measure, for a heavy rain falling that afternoon and night put all the rivers and creeks out of their banks. At the same time Jewell operators were making tests at Peabody and Wellington with like success. At Peabody rain began at one o'clock Saturday afternoon and was reported to have been the heaviest in three years. It was, however, a general rain extending all over the West. Some gave the rain makers credit for it, but the skeptic insisted that it was "the work of the Lord." [55] "Doubts or no doubts," wrote the Wichita Eagle of June 10, "the rain poured down in fair quantities, and the owner of a patch of potatoes or a field of corn will not bother his head as to who sent it." In July the interest in rain making suddenly died out, giving way to a rising enthusiasm over irrigation. Only slight mention is made of the activities of the rain makers after this. C. B. Jewell was in Chicago in July, returning to his rain car the 19th, and by the first of August was making experiments in the East. The first of September he left with his family for Old Mexico where he intended to continue his rain-making investigations. Mention is also made of W. W. LaRue returning from a rain-making trip in the East.


     A great diversity of opinion prevailed as to the ability of the rain makers to produce rain. The question whether they were scientific experts or downright frauds was widely discussed. Many men of good judgment believed in them, among whom were the officials of the Rock Island railroad, who had faith enough in their theory to spend a large sum of money in testing it. The government of the United States had manifested a like belief.

     The workers claiming to conduct their experiments upon a scientific basis, explained that volatile gases charged with electricity and projected high into the air, chill the atmosphere, causing a condensation of moisture. Jewell used four generators in his work, making 1,500 gallons of gas per hour. [56]

     The farmers may have believed in rain making and may not; but being in desperate circumstances they reasoned that if rain was not produced they would be out nothing, for the contracts always provided "no rain, no pay," and if it did come the benefit to the crops would far surpass the amount paid to the rain maker.

     On the other hand a great many, the majority, no doubt, thought rain making a fraud. The press in general ridiculed the idea. It may be mentioned that the Goodland papers stood by its rain makers throughout. The skeptics pointed out that the companies were never called until there had been a protracted dry spell, and then contracted to bring rain within a certain time, when it was most likely that rain would fall naturally. If the rain fell they claimed the credit and got their money, and if not they were out very little. One writer stated: "They simply bet their gall against several hundred dollars that a dry spell, which has already lasted a long time, will not last ten days longer." [57] They were also accused of studying the weather predictions, and when the signs were not propitious, of being out of chemicals.

     The rain-making business was evidently a lucrative one. A company generally had several operators in the field at the same time in different parts of the state. If only one happened to be successful, money was made, and if a general rain occurred a great harvest was reaped. The rain makers usually received their pay, for of course they could easily prove whether rain fell or not, and while many did not believe they caused the rain they could not confirm it. Doctor Swisher carried a case into court at Lincoln, Neb., and got judgment for $500, the balance due him. This perhaps was the only case the


Kansas rain makers brought into court. But the greatest profit came from selling the rain-making secret and the right to operate in a given territory. This so-called graft was worked by Melbourne and some of the Goodland companies. After a successful experiment, usually in a distant place, the rain makers would interest a group in forming a company, sell them their method for several thousand dollars, and then quietly depart from the place.

     At the close of the year 1894, the rain-making delusion seemed to pass away. The conclusions of Mr. Jewell and the Rock Island officials are not known, but there appears to be reasonable doubt whether their experiments added much to the sum total of scientific knowledge.


1. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1894, p. 263.
2. Ibid., p. 264.
3. Statutes of the United States of America, 1891-1892, p. 76.
4. Annual Report, Smithsonian Institution, 1894, p. 265.
5. Robert G. Dryenforth was at the time a patent and corporation lawyer in Washington.
6. The Globe Republican, Dodge City, October 22, 1891.
7. Annual Report, Smithsonian Institution, 1894, pp. 265-267.
8. The Hutchinson (Daily) News, August 4, 1891.
9. Ibid.
10. The Goodland News, August 6, 1891.
11. Ibid., September 10, 1891.
12. Ibid., September 24, 1891.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid., October 1, 1891.
16. Ibid., October 8, 1891.
17. The Globe Republican, Dodge City, December 10, 1891.
18. Goodland News, October 22, 1891.
19. The Globe Republican, Dodge City, October 22, 1891.
20. Goodland News, October 29, 1891.
21. Ibid., November 5, 1891.
22. Ibid., November 19, 1891.
23. Ibid., March 24, 1892.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid., May 12, 19, 1892,
28. Kansas, "Corporations," copybooks, v. 44, p. 254.
27. The Goodland Republic, February 5, 1892.
28. The Goodland News, June 30, 1892.
29. Jewell County Monitor, Mankato, June 29, 1892.
30. Goodland News, July 7, 1892; Topeka Daily Capital, July 14, 1892.
31. Stockton Record, reprint in Goodland News, July 7, 1892.
32. Goodland News, July 21, 1892.
33. Ibid.
34. Burlington Republican, July 15, 1892.
35. Goodland Republic, July 29, 1892.
36. Ibid.
37. Topeka Daily Capital, July 30, 1892.
38. Council Grove Republican, August 12, 1892.
39. Jewell County Republican, Jewell City, August 26, 1892.
40. Goodland Republic, October 7, 1892.
41. The Globe Republican, Dodge City, June 2, 1893; Goodland News, June 8, 1893.
42. Meade County Globe, Meade, June 8, 1893.
43. The Globe Republican, Dodge City, June 9, 1893.
44. Goodland News, June 15, 1893.
45. Phillipsburg Dispatch, June 29, 1893.
46. Meade County Globe, Meade, July 13, 1893.
47. Reprint in Goodland News, June 29, 1893.
48. Goodland News, September 21, 1893.
49. Ibid., November 30, 1893.
50. Ibid., April 26, 1894.
51. Ibid., May 10, 1894.
52. Ibid. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid.
55. Ibid., June 14, 1894.
56. Ibid., July 0, 1893.
57. Iola Register, July 15, 1892.

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