Rain-Makers: Wizards, Kings…and Uncle Sam


Uncle Sam’s Rain: Prosperity
Politician’s Rain: Office
Miser’s Rain: Money
Merchant’s Rain: Orders
Farmer’s Rain: Crops
Spinster’s Rain: Angels? Babies?

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Sep 5, 1891

Image of men attempting to make rain — from the Nebraska State Historical Society website.


An Interview With Frank Melbourne, the Rain King.

CINCINNATI, July 3. — An evening paper publishes the following interview held with Frank Melbourne, the rain wizard, at Canton, O., Monday evening:

Late this evening, during a drizzling rain, your correspondent called on Frank Melbourne, the storm wizard, at his quarters in the Hotel Yohe. Melbourne, who is the busiest man in Ohio just at the present, could not be seen at the noon hour, being then engaged in the undertaking of bringing a storm, he said, and too busy to spare time for an interview. To the patter of the rain upon the roof, the wizard bid the correspondent be seated.

As a prelude to the conversation, and no doubt indicative of his powers, Melbourne pointed his finger upward, where the rain was playing a tattoo upon the roof, and said: “This is the rain I was advertized to bring. It was booked for Tuesday, but, owing to the condition of the atmosphere it came a day sooner than expected. It takes from a day to two days to bring a storm. I began on Sunday to start this one, expecting it to be here on Tuesday, but you see it got around a little in advance.”

“How do you produce these rains?”

“That is a secret I hardly dare divulge beyond saying it is the infusion of certain chemicals in the air through a machine of my invention.”

“How long have you been engaged in this occupation?”

“I began to work on my machine twelve years ago last September and soon after brought the first rain. I was then in Australia. I made twelve experiments in Queensland and New South Wales, all of which were successful. A rain can be brought there more rapidly than here, being closer to the sea and not so hilly.”

“The formation of the land there has something to do with the bringing of a rain?”

“Oh, yes, considerable. The nearer to the sea and the more level the land the sooner a rain can be started. One day was all the time needed there.”

“What are your charges for bringing a real good shower?”

“Three hundred dollars is all I ask, and that not to be paid until the rain is produced. This is much cheaper than most experiments of the kind are made.”

“How large a territory can you cover?”

“About two hundred and fifty thousand square miles.”

“Are your storms all electrical and accompanied by thunder and lightning?”

“Not at all. That depends upon the condition of the atmosphere at the time it is produced.”

Mr. Melbourne at this time felt that his presence was required at his office, where the rain machine was then at work, and begged to be excused, handing the correspondent the accompanying circular, which, he said, would throw some light upon his invention.

Mr. Melbourne is a rather tall and slender man, decidedly nervous and thoroughly in earnest regarding his experiment as an actual fact as he regards it now. Whether there is any truth in his assertions or not, he is the biggest Roman of them all at present, and managers of picnics and outdoor sports consult this modern oracle before determining upon the date.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Jul 3, 1891

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Jul 2, 1891

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 18, 1891

The Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jul 27, 1892

The Last of the Rainmakers.

George Matthews of Wichita is the only one left of all the Kansas rainmakers who has nerve enough to get into public notice and talk about his system. Scoffs and jeers have no terrors for Mr. Matthews. On Friday night he commenced operations at a point near Wichita under an agreement to bring rain by Monday night or ever after hold his peace. In a talk to a reporter the rain wizard said:

“I use thirty-six electric batteries, two jars of hydrogen gas, and two jars of compound hydrogen gas in making rain. In order to produce a storm center we mix the hydrogen gas so that it explodes in the upper air. This forms a vortex. Then the clouds hover around and concentrate, forming a storm center.”

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Jul 31, 1895

Millions of dollars have been spent in the last few years on the perfection of irrigation, which, up until the present time, was the only solution to crop production in arid sections.

But science is always solving these problems in other ways, as in the case of Chas. M. Hatfield, the “Rain Wizard,” who claims to have perfected a chemical apparatus whereby rain clouds are attracted and caused to drop their wealth of rain drops. Mr. Hatfield has practiced his secret system for 22 years with much success, charging from $1000 to $3000 an inch for rain. Only recently he was credited with a cloudburst in the northwest. Press reports did not state whether or not he was paid at the above rate.

Adams County Press (Corning, Iowa) Aug 18, 1920


Hear the tapping of the rain
Tripping on the window pane
Like gay, nimble footed fairies
Dancing in a field of grain.
How the new drops dart and pass
Till they press against the glass
Lightly as the fragile fingers
Of a dainty, crippled lass.

Oh, these pixies of the mist,
Jeweled, all, from heel to wrist,
How they glitter as they gather
To some nature nurtured tryst!
How they romp across the dim
Spaces of the day or swim
In a vapor surf with Zephyr,
Playing hide and seek with him!

Oh, the rain of field and town,
Darting, drifting, dawdling down,
Careless of its brief existence
And creation’s smile or frown!
Wasn’t it but yesterday
That we heard the shower say:
“Cheer up. Time is but a moment.
Make the most of work or play?”

— Chicago Record.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Feb 17, 1899

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