Article ID: CBB001553159

On the Edge of the Possible: Artificial Rainmaking and the Extension of Hope on the Great Plains (2015)


Rainmaking flourished on the Great Plains during the 1890s drought. A complicated hybrid of sincere belief in science and confidence games, Plains peoples' willingness to place tentative faith in the practice reflected larger insecurities about the advisability of practicing agriculture in a marginal environment and their ability to succeed in the face of periodic, intense, drought. An extension of older weather modification theories---such as rain follows the plow---rainmaking facilitated hope and empowered believers. Doubters, meanwhile, participated under the guise of entertainment, a harmless diversion that allowed them to delay any absolute judgment regarding the legitimacy of the practice. Suspension between skepticism and belief in rainmaking, in effect, allowed faith in the region, even during conditions of devastating drought, to remain alive. A supposed panacea for the Plains' most significant environmental insufficiency, rainmaking resurfaced beyond the 1890s whenever the rains stopped. Hope, like moisture, was in constant demand.

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Authors & Contributors
Wishart, David J
Seitz, John Britton
Waiser, Bill
Pazzagli, Rossano
Larkin A. Powell
Rob B. Mitchell
Agricultural History
Historical Archaeology
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa
Studi Storici: Rivista Trimestrale dell'Istituto Gramsci
Social Science History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
University of Nebraska Press
Cambridge University Press
Queen's University (Canada)
University Press of Kansas
Texas A&M University Press
Firenze University Press
Agricultural technology
Environmental history
Drainage; irrigation
Hunting; trapping
Water resource management
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
Early modern
17th century
Great Plains (North America)
United States
Western states (U.S.)
Nebraska (U.S.)

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