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much suffering from this cause; for, from 1779 to 1787, there was a succession of favorable seasons, and the various crops were remarkably abundant.
In the course of our examination, we are led to the conclusion, that a small amount of rain, evenly distributed over the season, will afford sufficient moisture for the support of vegetation; while, had the same amount fallen in a single shower, it would have done comparatively little good. Thus, in 1791, 2.30 inches of rain fell in April, 2.55 inches in May, 2.69 inches in June, and but 1.79 inches in July.* These amounts are below the average of those months, and would have led to a severe drought in July had not the distribution been very general over the month. To show the distribution of rain in July, for instance, when the smallest quantity fell, it may be stated, that it rained on the 30th of June, on the 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 21st, 22d, and 24th of July; though, as will be seen from the amount given above, no great quantity of rain could have fallen at any time. And again, in 1792, the rains for July were but 1.60 inches, and for August but 1.34 inches, but the distri. bution over these months was as follows: In July, it rained on the 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 21st, 24th, and 30th; and in August, on the 6th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 24th, 25th, 28th, and 30th; and we find, accordingly, no notice of any great difficulty from want of rain in that year. But had the same amount fallen on one day, and the other thirty days been clear, it is easy to see that vegetation must have suffered severely.
Soils, it is true, differ greatly in character, and some are far more liable to suffer from drought than others; but all soils depend more or less upon the amount of rain which falls, and its distribution over the seasons, for their fertility. The amount required differs of course with the nature of each soil, the temperature of the atmosphere, and its power to promote evaporation from the surface, and upon many other circumstances, which make all accurate investigations difficult and complicated.
The earth, with our climate, should retain at least threehundredths of an inch of water to every inch in depth during
* As appears by a record kept by Dr. Prince, of Salem, which is now deposited in the library of the Essex Institute.
the scorching suns of summer, and it should not retain more than nine-hundredths at any growing season. To maintain this proportion of moisture, it is of the utmost consequence to have a general and even distribution over the spring and summer months.
It has been found, by accurate experiment, that the depth to which rain water penetrates in a clayey soil (composed of 43 parts of carbonate of lime, 33 parts alumina, and 20 parts sand) equals six times the depth of water fallen. A rain of .04 of an inch would penetrate .24 of an inch of soil; a rain of .5 inch would penetrate 3.0 inches of soil; and so on. This supposes the surface nearly dry when the rain falls. But suppose a rain to fall before the preceding rain has wholly evaporated, that is, before the earth is dry; the rain penetrates still deeper than before, increasing the depth of moisture. And these lower strata, when once saturated, retain their moisture of course longer than the surface, holding in reserve a fund of moisture for the roots of plants in times of drought.
During the winter months, or when the amount of evaporation is not equal to the quantity of rain, all soils which retain more than forty per cent. of water are wet. But when the amount of evaporation exceeds or doubles the quantity of rain, they dry up, and a drought succeeds. It is necessary, therefore, in order to know the severity of a drought, to study the distribution of rain over the seasons, and the amount of evaporation in the same seasons. The most serious droughts are usually those that come in early spring, and after them those that occur later in summer, during the ripening of grains. Dry springs injure the grass and grain crops; while an over. abundance of rain sometimes causes the grain to blast, and the Indian corn to turn yellow. Moist climates, like that of England, are best for the grasses and root crops; and those in which such severe droughts occur, as in our own, require a very different system of husbandry.
It is evident, also, that the inclination of the soil must exer. cise a marked influence over the quantity of water which it would require to prevent its being two moist or too dry. Sands require more moisture than clays. This is so well understood in countries where irrigation is practised, that it is known to be sufficient to water stiff soils, which contain only twenty per cent. of sand, once in fifteen days in summer; if they contain forty per cent. of sand, they are watered every eight or ten days; if sixty per cent., every five days; if eighty per cent., every three days. From this it is plain that different soils require different quantities of rain to insure them from drought.
A drought of some severity is recorded in the year 1796, continuing for more than a month, in August and September. In the first of these months there were but two slight showers,* and not an entire cloudy day in the whole month. July also had been very dry. But little rain fell in June and July of the next year, (1797;) and but for its general distribution over the month, its small quantity would have occasioned much suffering. The amount in June was but 2.44 inches, and in July but 1.65 inches; yet it rained in July on the 8th, 9th, 14th, 23d, 25th, 27th, and 28th.
The next bad drought was in 1805. The latter part of the spring of that year was quite dry, and there was not an entire rainy day from the 16th of May to the 29th of September. In June there were slight showers on seven different days; in the whole month of July there was but one entire cloudy day, and but four light showers, while there were no less that twenty-two days on which not a cloud was to be seen. There were showers in August on eight different days, which afforded some relief, and more abundant rains set in on the 12th of Septem
In August, 1808, there were but two light showers, and but one entire cloudy day. In June, 1815, also, there was much want of rain. In 1818, no rain fell, according to the Journal of Dr. Holyoke, from the 3d of August till the 7th of September; there was but one entire cloudy day during the whole month of August, and only a few days were even partially cloudy.
The spring of 1825 was forward, but the drought of April and May was exceedingly unfavorable to grass.
There were but two light showers in April, one of which was on the 1st, the other on the 29th, and but six cloudy days.
* Dr. Holyoke's Journal.
The month of May followed with only four slight rains and seven whole cloudy days. In July vegetation suffered severely; there were but five light showers in the whole month, two of which were on the 1st, and only five cloudy days. It was oppressively hot at the same time, the thermometer, from the 10th to the 21st, ranging from 950 to 970 in the shade. * August was also exceedingly dry, there being but three rainy days. In this year there were sixty-four days in which the thermometer rose above 80°, twenty-eight of which were in July. There were fifteen days on which it rose above 90°. The drought was called very severe.
In 1826, the earlier part of the season was remarkably dry, and the springs were lower than in 1825. There was no rain in May till the 22d, and then but little.t
There were local droughts in August, 1828, when but .64 of an inch of rain fell at Waltham; June, 1832, August, 1836, July, 1837, and July, 1838.
The month of June, 1841, was very dry, only 1.17 in. of rain having fallen in Waltham, and 1.65 in. at Amherst, but no other general and excessive drought occurred till 1844. That year was almost without a parallel in the eastern parts of this State, and was marked by its excessive dryness throughout the country. The water in many of our streams was lower than it had been for years. The quantity of rain during the three summer months was less than it had been for many years. As might have been anticipated, the crops suffered very much in many places.
A very dry time occurred in September and October of 1846, another in the spring of 1847, another in April, 1848, and another in 1853, when the quantity of rain which fell at Amherst was but .95 of an inch.
But the drought of 1854 was undoubtedly more extensive and more destructive than any of those which have preceded
* There fell at Waltham but 1.14 in. of rain, falling at Salem on the ist, 4th, 6th, and 24th. + Dr. Holyoke's Journal, Salem.
But .57 inch of rain fell at Amherst in April of this year, and the whole amount at Waltham for the summer months was less than it had been for many years before.
it. Not confined to this State, nor indeed to New England, it was felt in nearly every part of the Union. The loss from this cause alone has been estimated at no less than one hundred millions of dollars. From the 20th of June to the 25th of August rain fell only in slight showers and at long intervals, and in many localities there was none for two whole months. The melancholy effects cannot be described. Wells gave out that never failed before, ponds dried up, and streams diminished to nothing. The excessive rains of the early spring had retarded the usual operations of the farm; but with that exception, and after they had passed, the favorable character of the earlier part of summer had created a general expectation of an abundant harvest. But soon the earth was parched to perfect dryness; clouds of almost impalpable dust floated in the air, descending upon the wiry, juiceless grass, and covering the leaves of the trees, which began to fall to the ground, yellow and withered, in midsummer, and every plant seemed tried to the utmost limit of its endurance. Fires, too, ran through the forests and along the lines of our great railroads, burning over thousands of acres, and doing an almost incalculable amount of damage.
Massachusetts, however, suffered less than most of the neighboring States. On the seaboard particularly, the crops looked pretty well in the midst of the drought, and in the deep soils of the valley of the Connecticut they withstood the heat remarkably well, considering its severity; so that, on the whole, the season has been much more fruitful with us than might have been anticipated at some periods of its continuance.
The drought of the last year was the more injurious on account of the large quantity of rain which fell in April, and the excessive wetness of the ground in consequence of it. The seed was sown late; and though some days of very favorable weather occurred, the drought coming on so soon, checked the growth of plants before they were well advanced. There was nearly twice as much rain in April, 1854, as in the corresponding month of any one of the preceding twenty years. The amount at Amherst was no less than 8.33 inches, while the largest quantity which fell there in any April during the last eighteen years was 4.82 inches, (in 1843,) and the average of