Oh, And Hail Cannon. Must. Remake. The Hail Cannon.

Good grief, it was only a couple of hours ago, and I can't even remember what took me to this three-year-old link roundup on BLDGBLOG that mentions hail cannons. I mean, hail cannon.


Turns out they still make'em, they just don't make'em like they used to. It's something that the Wikipedia entry on hail cannon calls them "pseudoscientific" devices. Because whatever scientific data exists for them now--and it's not at all clear that there is much/any--it's pretty obvious that hail cannon are technotheoretical holdovers from the turn of the 20th century.

The promise of vintners being able to their crops by creating and channeling explosive shockwaves to pulverize hail in the hyperlocal atmosphere had been shooting around Europe since at least the days of Benvenuto Cellini, the Mannerist goldsmith & sculptor who claimed to have stopped the rain and hail with artillery fire.

Between 1896 and 1899, Austrian inventor Albert Stiger tested his design for a giant, megaphone-shaped mortar cannon that fired a smoke ring 300 meters into the air--and spared his village fields from hail damage. The Italians seized upon the hail shooting technology with incredible fervor, and within a year, there were 10,000 hail cannon protecting the vineyards of Northern Italy.

The first two International Congresses on Hail Shooting were held in Italy [Casale in 1899, and Padua in 1900], by which point at least 60 different models of hail cannon were on the market. So far, though, neither event was as extensively documented as the Troisième Congres international de defense contre la grêle, [the Third International Congress on Hail Shooting,] held in Lyon in 1901 [below, via]


For three days, the streets, parks, and plazas of the cities were filled with hail cannon. Were there live demos scheduled? Did people lay out picnics [well, it was Novembre] and listen to the big finish of the 1812 Overture over and over? Did the vineyards of Europe, laid out with a grid of hail cannon--an anti-Lightning Field--echo with rhythmic explosions during the most vulnerable months of the growing season? [Did I suddenly start speculating as if were auditioning for the guestblogging slot at BLDGBLOG?]

Eh, if they did, it didn't last. Governments and scientists began questioning the data behind hail shooting, and by the time the Fourth conference rolled around in Graz, Austria, hail cannon salesmen were prohibited from attending. Suddenly sober and facing the facts--that hail shooting couldn't be demonstrated to actually have any effect--the European hail cannon industry all but disappeared by 1905.

And so it is that refilling our cities' public spaces with several orchestrasful of hail cannon would be a powerful, performative tribute to man's indomitable urge to control the weather using military technology.

Q: Why is this Romanian Wikipedia page on Hail Cannon so darn good? [ro.wikipedia.org]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

post info

first published: September 12, 2010.

next older post:
Must. Remake. Acoustic Mirrors & Locators

next newer post:
I Rumori Dell'Arte

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99