In December 1915, San Diego’s reservoirs were nearly empty, so the city turned to Charles Mallory Hatfield, whose skills at making rain were legendary.
Hatfield, who claimed no supernatural powers, had perfected a method of sending a concoction of evaporating chemicals into the atmosphere to make rain fall. The San Diego City Council contracted with Hatfield to fill the Morena Resevoir to overflowing, for which he would receive $10,000 if successful. A light drizzle quickly turned into torrents, resulting in flooded roads, washed-out bridges, burst dams, widespread property damage, and several fatalities. Blaming Hatfield for the disaster, the City Council refused to pay him. Hatfield was more than compensated for his lost fee by the publicity, and he continued his rainmaking work into the 1930s. When he died in 1958, Hatfield took his rainmaking chemical formula with him. His success in making rain remains a mystery. In this attractively designed and illustrated biography, Brimner offers a fascinating, well-timed portrait of an enigmatic character, providing contextualizing information and efficiently exploring the San Diego controversy. Readers will not find an explanation of how Hatfield acquired his knowledge of chemical processes or his methods of experimentation. The generously leaded text is set within wide margins and accompanied by copious archival illustrations; both decisions keep the relatively complex text accessible.
An engaging, intriguing story of a fascinating man. (author’s note, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 9-12)