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©President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2011
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Call No.: UAN 1
Creator: Harvard University.
Title: Records of Harvard lotteries, 1772-1814
Quantity: 2.4 cubic feet (10 folders, 13 volumes, and 3 boxes)
Abstract: The records of the Harvard lotteries are comprised of materials created in the process of administering the Harvard College lotteries sanctioned by Massachusetts General Court Acts of July 2, 1772, June 14, 1794, and March 14, 1806 to raise money for dormitory-building projects. The collection consists of five series containing lottery tickets, newspaper and broadside lottery announcements, accounting records, and administrative lists used to manage the lottery drawings. Most of the documents were created by the managers of the lottery in organizing, publicizing, and drawing the lotteries, and provide a resource for studying the operations of state-sanctioned lotteries in late 18th and early 19th century Massachusetts.
Note: This document last updated 2015 August 13.
In the Harvard University Archives
- Harvard University. Treasurer. Records of the Treasurer of Harvard University (UAI 50.xx): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua05009
The collection is arranged in five series:
Government-sanctioned lotteries originated in Massachusetts as an alternative to taxation, but soon expanded as a fundraising tool to help fund building projects and support charities. The Massachusetts General Court began using lotteries in the 1740s to raise money for military operations. In 1765, the General Court passed the first legislation allowing Harvard College to run a lottery to support dormitory building projects.In the late 1700s, lotteries were popular in Massachusetts and generally followed a "scheme" in which serially numbered tickets were sold in successive classes of twenty thousand or more tickets. Tickets were printed and distributed by managers of the lottery both to private buyers and lottery offices; among the most successful lottery offices in Boston were Gilbert & Dean and W. & T. Kidder. Both the offices and the managers paid for newspaper and broadside advertisements and drawing announcements. The ticket sales funded the prizes, usually 7/8 of the total, with the remaining 1/8 left for the original cause and the managers' commissions.On June 25, 1765, the Massachusetts General Court passed “An Act for raising by Lottery the Sum of Three Thousand two hundred Pounds for building another Hall for the Students of Harvard College to dwell in” (Chapter 21 Acts of 1765). The legislation named seven managers of the lottery and designated them to design and carry out the lottery, and to transfer the proceeds to the treasurer of the province for disbursement. The plan stalled, and on July 2, 1772 at the request of the Corporation, the General Court passed an additional act appointing new managers (Chapter 16 Acts of 1772).Lottery tickets were distributed in 1772, but many were left unsold and on February 14, 1775 the Corporation underwrote approximately 2,000 tickets. The Revolutionary War soon interrupted the lottery, and the June 1, 1775 drawing was canceled. A note was added to the February 14th Corporation minutes: " The managers of the aforesaid lottery afterw'd gave it up, the war breaking out." In 1788, the managers successfully carried out a lottery to fund the purchase of an orrery made by Joseph Pope.The College relied on the managers appointed by the General Court to execute lotteries, but this was delayed by vacancies. On June 3, 1793, the Corporation presented a petition to the General Court requesting that new managers of the lottery be appointed to reestablish the lottery to fund a dormitory. The General Court passed new legislation on June 14, 1794 granting permission for a lottery to raise £8000 and appointing Benjamin Austin Jr., George R. Minot, Samuel Cooper, Henry Warren, and John Kneeland as managers (Chapter 1 Acts of 1794). The College would deduct 12 1/2 percent of the proceeds for the building fund and the managers' commissions.The drawing of the first class of the Harvard College lottery sanctioned by the 1794 General Court Act began on November 13, 1794, and subsequent classes continued through January 1797. Though the College Treasurer recorded a net amount of $18.392.61 raised towards the building of the second Stoughton Hall, the College became entangled in a legal suit with one of the lottery's managers. Colonel Silvanus Reed held a $20,000 winning ticket in the fourth class of the 1794 Lottery, but was unable to collect the full amount from manager Benjamin Austin Jr. In response to Reed's attempts to collect the prize, Austin sued the College for commissions and expense reimbursement. In 1798, the Court of Common Pleas for Suffolk County sided with the College, and Austin's appeal before the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County was settled without a trial in 1800.In the 1800s, Harvard again used the lottery to raise money for the building of Holworthy Hall. The General Court act passed March 14, 1806 (sanctioned the Harvard lottery, but varied from earlier lottery-granting legislation by permitting the Harvard Corporation to select the lottery managers (Chapter 115 Acts of 1805). The drawings continued through 1812. By the 1830s, the use of lotteries by academic institutions was waning throughout the country.
- Noble, John. "Harvard College Lotteries," in Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts Transactions, Volume XXVII. Boston, 1932.
The records of the Harvard lotteries are comprised of materials created in the process of administering the Harvard College lotteries sanctioned by Massachusetts General Court Acts of July 2, 1772, June 14, 1794, and March 14, 1806 to raise money for dormitory-building projects. The collection consists of five series containing lottery tickets, newspaper and broadside lottery announcements, accounting records, and administrative lists used to manage the lottery drawings.Most of the documents were created by the managers of the lottery in organizing, publicizing, and drawing the lotteries, and the bulk of the items relate to the 1806 lottery. The lottery records and tickets provide a resource for studying the operations of state-sanctioned lotteries in late 18th and early 19th century Massachusetts, and provide evidence of the members of the local community who purchased and sold tickets, as well as the role of lotteries in Massachusetts' early economy.Items dating from after 1800 are listed in the finding aid, but are not described in detail.
The call number for all of the records of Harvard lotteries is now UAN 1. To assist researchers in identifying materials noted in previous citations, the list below provides references from obsolete call numbers to new box and folder numbers. Please use the current call number, UAN 1, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.
Formerly HUA 630 PF Oversized and broadsides re: lottery
- See UAN 1 Box 8
Formerly UAI 70.27.72 Box 1 Tickets for the Lottery of 1772
- See UAN 1 Box 1
Formerly UAI 70.27.72 Box 2 Tickets for the Lottery of 1772
- See UAN 1 Box 2
Formerly UAI 70.27.94 Tickets for the Lottery of 1794
- See UAN 1 Box 3
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.4 Lottery of 1807, miscellaneous papers
- See UAN 1 Box 9
- See UAN 1 Box 8, Folder 5. Circular, 1806
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.4.5 A list of prizes and fortunate numbers
- See UAN 1 Box 10
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.5 Holworthy lottery papers, drawings
- See UAN 1 Box 13
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.6 PF List of prizes
- See UAN 1 Boxes 14-17
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.7 Box 1 Harvard College Lottery tickets, 1806-1812
- See UAN 1 Box 4
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.7 Box 2 Harvard College Lottery tickets, 1806-1812
- See UAN 1 Box 5
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.7 Box 3 Harvard College Lottery tickets, 1806-1812
- See UAN 1 Box 6
Formerly UAI 70.28.06.8 Selection of framed lottery tickets, 1807-1811
- See UAN 1 Box 7
Formerly UAI 22.214.171.124 Harvard College lottery ledger
- See UAN 1 Box 12
Formerly UAI 126.96.36.199 Journal of the Harvard College Lottery of 1811-1813
- See UAN 1 Box 11