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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

"Rain Will Follow the Plow"

"In this miracle of progress, the plow was the unerring prophet, the procuring cause, not by any magic or enchantment, not by incantations or offerings, but instead by the sweat of his face toiling with his hands, man can persuade the heavens to yield their treasures of dew and rain upon the land he has chosen for his dwelling … The raindrop never fails to fall and answer to the imploring power or prayer of labor."

Charles Dana Wilber, The Great Valleys and Prairies of Nebraska and the Northwest (Omaha: Daily Republican Printing, 1881), reprinted in Wilber Republican (August 2, 2000), page 15s.

Creator Charles Dana Wilber
Context Railroad companies urged settlement of the West by migration to the Great Plains.
Audience Potential settlers and immigrants who considered moving to the Great Plains
Purpose To draw settlers to the Great Plains by creating a theory that "rain will follow the plow"

Historical Significance

Charles Dana Wilber, an amateur scientist, wrote a book titled The Great Valleys and Prairies of Nebraska and the Northwest (1881), arguing that rainfall would increase as farmers moved westward. During the 1870s and 1880s, boosters wanted to see the area of the Great Plains increase in population. Wilber and other boosters sold the myth that the Great Plains would receive abundant rainfall by establishing the theory that, as farmers migrated westward, "rain will follow the plow." The premise of the theory was that as more settlers came, the region would receive more rainfall, and the land would become more bountiful and productive. Wilber used this theory to encourage settlers to come to the Great Plains, a region that others referred to as the "Great American Desert."


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