Colonial Lottery: Massachusetts Description of Payments
Table of Contents
Colonial Lottery Ticket Index
Massachusetts 1st-4th Class Lotteries and Certificates of Delayed Payment
On May 1, 1778 the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolve to conduct a lottery to obtain $750,000 to pay soldiers who had enlisted in the Continental Army before April 15, 1777, for a term of at least three years. The lottery was planned in four classes. In the first class there were 25,000 tickets at $6.00 each. Tickets were sold until December 1779, when the drawing was presumably held. As had been announced at the start of the lottery, because of the need for cash to conduct the war effort, prizes of $50 and up were not immediately awarded. Rather winners were given treasury certificates stating they would be paid by January 1, 1783 with 6% interest. Pursuant to the resolve of February 11, 1779, the treasurer was authorized to issue £21,450 in these certificates to winners of the first class lottery.
By January 26, 1779 sales began on the second class lottery consisting of 25,000 tickets at $10.00 each. Sales were nearly complete by March 1 and the drawing was held on March 17, 1779. On March 11, 1779 an advertisement was published in the Independent Chronicle for the third class lottery which consisted of 20,000 tickets at $15.00 each, with 5,751 prizes totaling $255,000, leaving $45,000 (15%) for the Commonwealth. The prizes were as follows:
According to the Independent Chronicle of May 27, 1779 the drawing for this lottery was to begin on June 3, 1779. As with the first class lottery winners of $50 or more, winners in these two lotteries were give treasury certificates stating they would be paid by January 1, 1783 with 6% interest. On April 14, 1779 a resolve was passed enabling the treasurer to issue £81,572 in certificates, "to pay the prizes of fifty dollars and upward, drawn in the second and third classes of the lottery." The certificates were indented with a "counterpart" or stub kept by the treasurer as a record. The act also provided that a poll and estate tax amounting to £81,500 was to be levied during the June 1782 session of the General Court and was to be collected before November 20, 1782. It was also provided that if the legislature did not impose the tax by September the Treasurer would be empowered to levy the tax. Note that the announcments of the lotteries stated the cost of the tickets and amount of winnings in Spanish milled dollars, but the treasurer actually calculated the winnings and issued certificated in Massachusetts pounds (in Massachusetts by January 1779 the Continental dollar had been devalued to $7.42 to a Spanish milled dollar and by June it was down to $13.40 to a milled dollar)
- 1 ticket - $10,000 for a total of $10,000
- 1 ticket - $5,000 for a total of $5,000
- 1 ticket - $2,000 for a total of $2,000
- 10 tickets - $1,000 for a total of $10,000
- 20 tickets - $500 for a total of $10,000
- 40 tickets - $300 for a total of $12,000
- 220 tickets - $100 for a total of $22,000
- 1902 tickets - $50 for a total of $95,000
- 3,556 tickets - $25 for a total of $88,900
The fourth class of the lottery was similar to the third and was advertised on July 1, 1779. In October the drawing was announced for the second Wednesday in December. Because of slow sales it was postponed until January 20, 1780, but it did not take place until February. As with the previous lotteries a resolve was passed enabling the treasurer to issue £49,830 in promissory certificates to the lottery winners. The certificate shown on the following page is a promissory certificates issued to Joshua Wyman, a winner in the fourth class lottery.
See: Charles H. Douglas, The Financial History of Massachusetts: from the Organization of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the American Revolution, Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, volume 4, New York: Columbia University, 1892, pp. 107-114; The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, Boston: Wright and Potter, 1886, vol. 5 (of 5), p. 983 (Resolve of May 1, 1778), p. 929 relating to the1st class lottery winners; p. 1193, relating to the 4th class lottery winners and relating to the above document (winners of the 2nd and 3rd class lotteries) see pp. 959-960, Province Laws 1778-1779, 4th session, Chapter 42, "An act to supply the treasury with the sum of eighty-one thousand five hundred and seventy pounds."