That time San Diego hired a rainmaker – and it poured

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A 1922 photo of Charles Hatfield making his chemical formula for rain. (Courtesy of San Diego Public Library)

A 1922 photo of Charles Hatfield making his chemical formula for rain. (Courtesy of San Diego Public Library)

Rain is water, and water is life. And, boy, do we not have enough water in California these days. Rain is also political. And prayer-worthy.

Four years ago, Governor Rick Perry in the state of Texas, famously asked the lord for rain.

One hundred years ago, in dehydrated San Diego, the city council approached someone less omnipotent for the wet stuff – sewing machine salesman and self-proclaimed “moisture accelerator” Charles Hatfield.

Hatfield and the council agreed to a $10,000 contract if the rain he created filled the Morena Dam Reservoir.

Did it work?

Rick Crawford is Supervisor of Special Collections at the San Diego Central Library, where an exhibit about the incident is now on display. He spoke to KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis.