Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Lottery History - Way Back When

In 1992, Edwin Leland of Covington wrote an article about the Old Louisiana Lottery, the one that ran between the years 1868 and 1895. It was a fascinating overview of Louisiana politics, newspapers, banks, and even Confederate generals. Here's the article that appeared in the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper. 

"Shortly after the Civil War, the New York lottery syndicate of C.H. Murray and Co. were stimulated by reports of its Loui­siana agent, Charles T. Howard. A mania for gambling existed in New Orleans, Howard said. Lottery tickets were snapped up from the New York lottery as soon as they went on sale.

"Although in many states, laws against gambling were on the rise, Howard reported that the Louisiana legislature would be sympathetic to an offer of establishing a lottery.

"Burly and bluff, Howard was the epitome of the Gilded Age speculator. He could be ruthless, and when he was denied member­ship in the exclusive Metairie Rac­ing Club he told the directors that he would ruin their organization. Hence the genesis of the Metairie Cemetery. He converted their pro­perty into a resting place for dead people.

"Before the Civil War, lotteries were illegal in Louisiana, but the Reconstruction legislature of 1866 was eager to charter a lottery com­pany. Howard handed out $260,000 to influential politicians to get a lottery charter. The company was tax ex­empt, but was to pay $40,000 a year for the support of the Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

"Thus was created the largest gambling syndicate m the U S before the twentieth century . At the height of its power it grossed $29,000,000 annually. (Please multip­ly all figures of that day by 15 to ap­proximate today's values).

"The Louisiana lottery came to dominate the political economic and social life of New Orleans and the state. It controlled most state legislators from 1868 to 1890. Historian T. Harry Williams said it controlled all the newspapers in New Orleans and most of those in the state. In allying itself with the largest banks, it controlled the sources of credit.

"This monster was created by money. It bought up politicians like sacks of potatoes. It tried to project a generous image by worthy causes like helping flood victims. It sup­ported the French Opera House, and it fostered employment by investing in the construction of cotton mills and a sugar manufacture.

"How could gambling be wrong when large sums of money were devoted to civic purposes? Never­theless, they had their enemies. Governor Francis T. Nicholls led a majority of the legislators to stop the lottery.In a constitutional conven­tion, the lottery spent $260,000 to achieve a sympathetic result The results were favorable. Lotteries were declared to be legal until 1895.

"Most of the ticket purchases came from outside the state. The lottery had branch offices in New York, Chicago, Washington, Kansas City and other places. In an average year the company-would take in $28,800,000. In prizes it paid out approximately 15 million. The rest at the money covered expenses and a large profit.

"Howard died in 1885 and a new manager installed a system used in the Venice lottery. Out of every 100 dollars collected the lottery kept 48 dollars. The newspapers, prospering from the lottery advertisements, , reported many cases of winnings. A barber won 300,000 dollars; a resi­dent of Louisiana invested 100 dollars and received 25,000 dollars: They rarely mentioned the thousands of people who never  received a cent.

"Number books were sold. If you saw a stray dog, you should play-number six, a drunk man 14, and 11 for seeing a naked female leg not belonging to your wife or mistress.

"Disappointed buyers claimed that the drawings were rigged. The manager hit upon the scheme of in­viting two Confederate generals who would supervise the drawings. Local hero General I*G.T. Beauregard was selected. And it was rumored that he received $30,000 for his ser­vices. Beauregard picked Jubal A. Early of Virginia as his partner.

"Beauregard was also expected to defend the lottery. The national government threatened the com­pany's right to use the mails, and Beauregard rushed to Washington to lobby congressional committees.

"The Louisiana lottery would not outlive the expectation of its charter. As the 1880s came to a close, opposition to the lottery was steadily rising in the state.

"A majority of state legislators signed a pledge net to renew the charter. Lottery supporters and enemies vied in elections. But it was the federal government that put the kibosh on the lottery. Congress pass­ed a law forbidding the selling of tickets through the mail.

"The lottery struggled on by trying to use express companies, but was turned down. In 1894 it moved its of­fice to Honduras where it labored on with diminishing success.

"Thus the Louisiana lottery of the 19th century century was finally killed by the federal government."

The Louisiana Lottery was closed down in 1894 by the federal government, but was resurrected in 1906, in Honduras. This is a ticket from the Lottery that re-surfaced in 1906. The ticket was sold for the April 28th, 1928, drawing.

Some lotteries go even further back in time.