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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Grant County: Man wagers he can conjure rain for wheat farmers

The head meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Spokane said he was sure the “rainmaker” would fail. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
The head meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Spokane said he was sure the “rainmaker” would fail. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Charles M. Hatfield, a professional “rainmaker,” was under contract to produce 3 inches of rain in the Ephrata area by June 10. Success would earn him $6,000 from the area’s wheat growers. Failure would earn him nothing.

Charles Stewart, head meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Spokane, was certain of the outcome: Hatfield would earn nothing.

Why? For the simple reason no man can produce rain on command.

No matter how hard Hatfield tries, he cannot “hope to force by artificial means the precipitation accomplished by nature on a vast scale.”

In fact, Stewart predicted the region would have exactly the amount of rain that was normal for the season. That would be a little under an inch.

Stewart explained, in great detail, the atmospheric processes that produce rain. The most important element was a “vortical ascending air current.”

Stewart did not know exactly what kind of mechanism Hatfield had set up on the shores of a lake near Ephrata. But he knew it would be insufficient.

“If a rainmaker attempts to cause precipitation by means of an artificially ascending current, he would be correct in theory only, because he would be attempting to do what nature is doing,” said Stewart. “But he would fail for the simple reason that he cannot perform this operation in such a vastly grand scale as nature does.”

There was no comment in the Spokane Daily Chronicle’s story from Hatfield. He was presumably too busy conjuring up rain.

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