June 27

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (June 27, 1772).

“SCHEME Of a LOTTERY.”

Two notices concerning lotteries appeared among the advertisements in the June 27, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Managers alerted the public to the “MARKET-HOUSE LOTTERY” and a lottery for “mending the Gloucester South Road, leading to Connecticut.”  The General Assembly approved both lotteries and appointed managers “who have given Bond for the faithful Performance of their Trust” to oversee them.  Readers of the Providence Gazette regularly encountered advertisements for lotteries, a popular means of funding public works projects in Rhode Island and other colonies in the eighteenth century.

Managers often sponsored several stages or classes for their lotteries, giving colonizers multiple opportunities to participate.  The managers of the Market-House Lottery opted not to elaborate on the various classes, feeling that the “Scheme” of the lottery “has been lately published at large.”  Instead, they focused on “the Class now in Hand,” but did remind colonizers that “each succeeding Class becomes more valuable than the former.”  Why not wait for later classes?  The managers sold a limited number of tickets for each class.  Colonizers who participated in the previous class had “the Preference given them, before any other Persons, of purchasing an equal Number of Tickets in the next Class.”  The “Scheme” of the lottery incentivized buying tickets in the first class and continuing to buy tickets for each class.

The managers of the lottery intended to raise funds for mending the Gloucester South Road also described the “SCHEME” of their lottery.  They planned a drawing for the “First Class” of tickets “in a very short Time,” as soon as they sold 1400 tickets for a dollar each.  To entice readers to purchase tickets, the managers promoted both the prizes and the purpose of the lottery.  They reminded readers that the lottery was “evidently designed to serve the Public, as Travelling from Providence to Connecticut will be thereby rendered very commodious.”  They hoped to incite public spiritedness as a means of encouraging colonizers not enticed solely by the prizes.

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