Lottery Tickets in 1800s England


Lotteries have become a cornerstone of American life, alongside tea drinking and athletic rivalries; it is hard to imagine life without lottery tickets today, yet their presence was once prevalent over two millennia ago! Time travel will show that public and private lotteries continued being played back then too.

In the Low Countries during the 15th century, lotteries were first held as a way of raising money for town fortifications and helping the poor. These lotteries took the form of speculative betting using slips of paper with numbers on them similar to lottery tickets used today; winners received prizes including money, goods, land or slaves as prizes.

Public and private lotteries remained highly popular during the 1700s, raising money for towns, colleges, and war efforts – even more specifically than in prior centuries! Public lotteries generated more than one quarter of funds allocated towards fighting Napoleon’s forces through lottery sales.

One of the earliest and most renowned state lotteries took place in 1612 when King James I authorized the Virginia Company of London to hold a lottery to raise funds for establishing Jamestown, Virginia as the first permanent British colony in America. Ships brought settlers across, while funds raised also helped fund another Virginia settlement at Roanoke as well as an English colony in New Jersey. This lottery proved so successful it continued funding other ventures including funding a second settlement at Roanoke and an English colony there.

Lotteries began their decline during the 1800s due to religious and moral pressure and corruption; their proliferation offended moral sensibilities while unscrupulous gambling operators took off without awarding winnings to winners.

Benjamin Franklin organized a lottery in 1748 to raise funds for cannons to protect Philadelphia, John Hancock ran one to build Boston’s Faneuil Hall and George Washington ran his “Mountain Road Lottery”, an unsuccessful fundraising venture intended to construct a road over an impenetrable mountain pass in Virginia. Today lottery tickets bearing Washington’s signature are highly collectable items.

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