What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“SCHEME Of the Second and last CLASS of a LOTTERY.”
An advertisement in the September 11, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette promoted a “LOTTERY For raising Six Hundred Pounds, to repair and add to the Great Bridge over the Cove at Chelsea” in Norwich, Connecticut. That was one of several public works projects in New England funded by lotteries in the era of the American Revolution. The General Assembly passed “an especial Act” and appointed managers to oversee the lottery. Local agents in half a dozen towns sold tickets.
Rather than hold a single set of drawings, the managers opted to sponsor more than one “class” of tickets and prizes. Doing so gave colonizers more opportunities to participate, likely making it easier for the managers to meet their fundraising goals. Winners in one class could reinvest in another, those less fortunate could try again, and others could purchase tickets for the first time. The notice published in September concerned “the Second and last CLASS” limited to “2000 TICKETS at Fifteen Shillings each; of which 592 are Prizes.” Tickets sales amounted to £1500, with £1200 paid out in prizes and the remaining £300 for the bridge.
The managers encouraged colonizers to purchase their tickets quickly because “the Tickets in the former Class were sold in less than two Months,” leaving “many people disappointed.” They aimed to sell all the tickets in time to hold the drawing by the middle of October. The managers pledged that “Proper Notice will be given of the Time and Place of drawing,” just as a “a List of Prizes will be published in the New London Gazette.” By the time they encountered the advertisement for the lottery on the final page of the September 11 issue, readers likely saw the “LIST of the NUMBERS which came up PRIZES in Chelsea Bridge LOTTERY, Class the First; drawn August 31, 1772” that dominated the first page. The printer managed to squeeze one advertisement into the right margin, but otherwise the list of winning numbers and the prizes associated with them was the only content that appeared below the masthead. Publishing that list served many purposes, including giving a boost to the advertisement for the second class of the lottery that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper.