2.10.13 Mass

Lottery Massachusetts

A Description of the First Colonial Government Lottery

The first authorized lottery in Colonial America took place in Boston Massachusetts in 1745. In the previous year Massachusetts (which also included what is now Maine) was compeled to expend a great deal of money defending the frontier and seacoast as well as being required to protect the royal province of Nova Scotia. The colonists had already been subjected to unusually high poll and estate taxes, but part of the military debt was still outstanding. On January 9, 1744/5 the General Court passed an act that provided for the payment of the debt, "in a manner the least burdensome to the inhabitants, " that is, by a lottery.

The act was very specific giving several details of the administration of the lottery. The directors of the lottery were Samuel Watts, John Quincy, James Bowdoin, Robert Hale and Thomas Hutchinson. It was their job to oversee the process and insure the laws were followed.

Sheets were printed with tickets in three columns. The left column and the center column were identical ticket stubs, while the right column contained an oblong ticket with the words "Massachusetts Government Lottery." The three sections were attached to each other by a design, much like indented currency was attached to a stub (to see our example of an undetached stub with the full design intact, from the Maryland currency emission of 1733 click here. ). In all 25, 000 tickets were printed on sheets that were held in binders as notebooks. The tickets were numbered consecutively 1-25, 000 with the two stubs given the same number as the attached ticket. When an individual purchased a ticket, which cost 30 shillings O.T., one of the directors signed the ticket and cut it out along the design area with a curved cut called an indent and handed it to the purchaser. The idea was that only the unique curve of the original indented ticket would perfectly join the indent on the stub. This was meant to stop counterfeiters who might try to either make false tickets or alter the number of a loosing ticket. Click here to view actual tickets.

When the tickets had been sold, the directors of the lottery, in the presence of any ticket holders who wished to attend, would detach the center stub by making an indent cut along the border design area connecting it to the innermost stub. The detached center stub was then rolled up and sewn with thread or silk and placed into a box marked with the letter A. The box was then put into a strong box which was secured with five different locks, each of the directors having a key to one of the locks, and then the box was secured with each of the director's wax seals. The stubs on the inner margin were kept in the book as a record to be used to detect any mistakes or uncover fraud.

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