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
Gilmartin, David
Ertsen, Maurits W.
Ait, Ivana
Van Lanen, Amanda
Bohr, Roland
Journal of Asian Studies
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa
Studi Storici: Rivista Trimestrale dell'Istituto Gramsci
Agricultural History
Environmental History
Environment and History
University of Nebraska Press
Cambridge University Press
University of Oklahoma
Queen's University (Canada)
Texas A&M University Press
Drainage; irrigation
Water resource management
Environmental history
Agricultural technology
Landscape; landscapes
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
15th century
Early modern
Great Plains (North America)
United States
India; Pakistan
Western states (U.S.)
East Indies

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