September 12

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

Providence Gazette (September 12, 1772).

“This lottery being evidently designed to serve the Public … the Managers are persuaded it will meet with general Encouragement.”

Advertisements for lotteries that funded public works project accounted for a substantial amount of the content in the September 12, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  A notice for the “GLOUCESTER South Road Lottery” asserted that it was “evidently designed to serve the Public, as travelling from Providence to Connecticut will be thereby rendered very commodious.”  Another lottery held for the purpose of raising funds “to build a Town Wharff in Warwick” was similarly described as “being designed to serve the Public,” prompting the manager appointed by the General Assembly to expect “good Encouragement” from colonizers purchasing tickets.    A third lottery advertised in that issue would pay for “repairing the Meeting House in the Town of Barrington; and also for purchasing and opening some Highways in said Town.”  Each of those advertisements indicated that “a List of the Prizes, when drawn, will be published in the Providence Gazette.”

Many colonial newspapers regularly carried lottery results.  Those results usually appeared in elaborate tables that listed dozens or even hundreds of winning tickets and the prize associated with each ticket.  The advertisement for the Gloucester South Road Lottery, for instance, indicated that it consisted of 1400 tickets with prizes for 467 of those tickets.  Similarly, the lottery for the wharf in Warwick had 353 prizes for “CLASS I,” its first drawing, and another 248 prizes for “CLASS II.”  On September 12, the Providence Gazette published the “LIST of the fortunate Numbers in the MARKET-HOUSE LOTTERY, CLASS III.”  A table that contained ten columns each for the winning tickets and prizes listed approximately eight hundred of those “fortunate Numbers.”  It spread across two of the three columns on the second page, extending three-quarters of the page, seeming to displace news from Quebec and London inserted in what space remained below the table.

Considered collectively, the advertisements for lotteries in Rhode Island and the list of winners in the Market House Lottery filled an entire page in a weekly newspaper that consisted of only four pages.  Just as those lotteries raised funds for various projects, they also generated revenues for John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette.  He may or may not have considered the list of “fortunate Numbers” news that he printed gratis as a public service, especially since it appeared on a page that otherwise did not feature advertising, but the notices encouraging readers to purchase tickets did run alongside other paid advertisements … and they ran for multiple weeks.  Colonizers who bought lottery tickets took a chance on winning a payout, but printing advertisements for lottery tickets was a sure thing for Carter and other colonial printers.

September 11

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

New-London Gazette (September 11, 1772).

“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.