What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A LIST of the fortunate Numbers in the First Class of CUMBERLAND BRIDGE Lottery.”
In order to raise funds for “the Purpose of repairing and rebuilding the Bridge over Pawtucket River, called Whipple’s Bridge,” a committee composed of residents of Cumberland received permission from the Rhode Island assembly to conduct a series of lotteries in 1770. The committee began advertising in late November, advising the public that they would sponsor a series of four lotteries intended to yield one hundred dollars each. They published the “SCHEME of a LOTTERY” in the Providence Gazette, stating that they planned to “draw the First Class in a very short Time” and pledging to publish the winning tickets in the Providence Gazette.
That notice appeared in the December 29 edition. A heading informed readers that it was “A LIST of the fortunate Numbers in the First Class of CUMBERLAND BRIDGE Lottery.” The remainder of the advertisement consisted entirely of five pairs of columns that gave the winning ticket numbers and the dollar value of the corresponding prizes. According to the original notice that recruited participants, the winners had six months to claim their prizes. Any prize money not claimed in that interval “will be deemed generously given to the Public, for the future repairing of said Bridge.” The committee did not, however, remind winners of that stipulation when publishing the winning numbers in the newspaper. Still, the new notice apprised both participants and the general public that the enterprise moved forward.
It also buttressed another notice in the same edition. In that one, the “Managers of the Cumberland Bridge Lottery hereby give Notice, That the Third Class of said Lottery will be drawn on the 11th of January, at the House of the Widow Martha Whipple, in Cumberland aforesaid.” The announcement of prizes from the first class likely helped to advertise the later lotteries by demonstrating that some participants already enjoyed the benefits of their “fortunate Numbers” being drawn. Considered together, the two notices indicated that the committee made good progress on raising the necessary funds to repair the bridge.