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.

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.