Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/May 1890/Correspondence
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
IN the February number of The Popular Science Monthly was published an article, by Stuart 0. Henry, entitled Rainfall on the Plains. Mr. Henry claims that the rainfall on our plains has not increased to any appreciable extent since the first settlement; and he says that the general impression that settlement and cultivation traveling westward have been attended by a gradual increase of rainfalls is a "remarkable fallacy." He concludes that agricultural operations can never be successfully carried on west of a line about the ninety-eighth meridian, and that attempts to utilize the regions named for purely agricultural purposes, with-out artificial irrigation, will only result in calamitous failure. Mr. Henry makes the statement that "the reports of the Kansas and Nebraska Boards of Agriculture will show that, in the territory lying west of the ninety-eighth meridian in those States, the acreage of land actually under cultivation, when compared with the whole area of that territory, is almost insignificant." After seventeen years of residence in southwestern Nebraska, near the one hundredth meridian, I am convinced that Mr. Henry is correct as to the absence of an increase of rainfall; but his conclusions are very erroneous, and must have been formed without information as to the great growth in wealth and population in the region west of the ninety-eighth meridian during the last ten years. The statement that the cultivated land west of the ninety-eighth meridian in Kansas and Nebraska is insignificant when compared with the whole area of that territory may have been true ten years ago, but at the present time it is far from the truth. The writer believes that no increase of rainfall has ever been necessary to fit the country named for profitable farming, but that the rainfall has always been sufficient, and that the obstacles to farming that have existed resulted from the newness of the country, rather than from lack of rain, and that these obstacles are gradually disappearing as the country settles up, and will wholly disappear when the country becomes as densely settled as are the States of Iowa and Illinois.
Mr. Henry's gloomy statements seem like an echo of predictions made by sundry scientific gentlemen twenty years ago concerning the plains of Kansas and Nebraska; and he might be aptly compared to a modern Rip Van Winkle, who has just awakened after a twenty years' sleep, ignorant of the wonderful growth that the country west of the ninety-eighth meridian has made. When he penned the lines quoted, was he aware that Jewell County, Kansas, which lies west of the ninety-eighth meridian, is the champion corn-producing county in the Union? Was he aware that nearly one half of the wealth and population of the State of Nebraska is to be found west of the ninety-eighth meridian? The report of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture for the year 1889 has not been issued, but we have the report for 1888. The crops in Nebraska in 1888 were not as good as in 1889, nor was there as much ground in cultivation. I give below some statistics taken from the report for 1888 making a comparative statement of the amount of wheat, corn, and potatoes raised east of the ninety-eighth meridian and west of that meridian in the State of Nebraska. It will be admitted by all that wheat, corn, and potatoes require as much moisture as do any farm products. It must be borne in mind that many of the western counties are very new and their capabilities not developed; but enough is shown to completely disprove Mr. Henry's statements. In the counties of Nebraska that lie west of the ninety-eighth meridian there were raised in 1888 of corn, wheat, and potatoes:
In the counties in Nebraska lying east of the ninety-eighth meridian there were raised in 1888:
It will thus be seen that the counties west of the ninety-eighth meridian produced about thirty-six per cent of all the corn, about sixty per cent of all the wheat, and about seventy-six per cent of all the potatoes that were raised in 1888 in Nebraska, and as a matter of fact a good portion was raised west of the one hundredth meridian. Reference to the same report shows that in 1888 there were 2,611,337 acres of improved land in the Nebraska counties lying west of the ninety-eighth meridian. These statistics clearly demonstrate that the improvements there made are far from "insignificant," and, could the statistics for 1889 be had, we would, without doubt, have a still more encouraging showing.
|A. E. Harvey.|
|Orleans, Nebraska, March 26, 1890.|
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
Under the above heading Mr. Reece presented some statistics in The Popular Science Monthly for January, apparently showing a high and increasing per cent of crime in those communities where there were the fewest illiterates as compared with those where there were the most. In the succeeding numbers of the Monthly two writers, apparently accepting the statistics without question, have proceeded to draw conclusions from them. Some one has wittily said that "nothing can lie like figures"; and certainly any one who deals much with statistics knows that unless carefully and thoughtfully handled they are capable of giving the most deceptive results. For this reason startling conclusions should not be accepted without careful consideration. There is getting to be too wide a tendency to accept statistics as decisive proof on any subject without regard to how they were prepared or discussed.
In the January Lend a Hand, Mr. David C. Torrey carefully discussed the records of crime in Massachusetts, which was one of the States where Mr. Reece found his highest per cent of criminals, and some of his results seem worthy of quoting, as throwing much light on this subject:
|YEAR.||COMMITMENTS FOR CRIMES AGAINST|
for all other
|H. Helm Clayton,|
|Blue Hill Observatory, Readville, Mass., March 30, 1890.|