The Lottery 1827

Some time either in 1826 or 1827 a lottery office was opened here, chartered by the state. The office was directly opposite the old Brattleboro house, a famous hostelry at that time, and for many years thereafter. A large sign hung over the door with a painting representing a woman holding in her hand a cornucopia from which was flowing a perfect avalanche of dollars. In those days the most reputable people of the town as well as all others, patronized the lottery office and without the least suspicion that it was anything like gambling, or at all reprehensible to "try your luck." People thought no more of walking up to the counter to buy a lottery ticket than of going to the grocer's for a pound of tea and if tradition can be believed the lottery had the call two to one. The townspeople evidently thought they stood a little better chance of getting rich by laying out $2 or $3 for a ticket than in any other way, but it seems to have taken but four or five public drawings to change their minds, and after all had a few chances at "fortune's wheel" even the promise of a 20 per cent dividend in the "Brattleboro typographical company" did not seem to lure shy capitalists.

One of the old-time spectators thus describes the drawing: "When the day arrived for revolving the glass cylinder to decide who was to get $3,000 or $5,000, a stage was built just in front of the hotel, on which stood the city fathers looking as wise and solemn as the bird of wisdom. They surrounded the cylinder with the exception of the side to the crowd."

The prize numbers and blanks were inclosed in little tin boxes, something like a pill-box, when they were thrown promiscuously into the cylinder, which was hung with a crank, like a grindstone or Chinese praying-machine. When the word was given the awful cylinder, loaded with so many different fates, was revolved a few times and then stopped, when James Elliott, then clerk of the county, would proceed to take out one of the little boxes, open it and proclaim its contents at the same time holding before the gaze of a multitude that filled the streets, and whose haggard looks and almost breathless anxiety told of the great interest, the "prize winner." Many a Micawber and wife stood there at every drawing, waiting for something to "turn up," having spent their last available dollar, in expectation of drawing an everlasting fortune, when any one of them were 10 times more likely to have been struck by lightning than to get back the amount paid for their ticket. Finally when the scene was over, people seemed to breathe easier, and those who did not find themselves rich at the conclusion of the performance had only to step up to the bar, and with an old-fashioned fourpence, if he was so fortunate as to have saved even that amount, get what would make them realize the truth of at least one scriptural assertion, "As a man thinketh so is he." It was certainly a relief when the thing was settled, but whether it took more old rum to support a disagreeable reality than to brace up the crowd during the frightful suspense is not clear. Any how, it required but few repetitions of the scene, but a few more turns of the old crank to effect a radical cure of the lottery craze, following which religion and temperance grew apace.


Brattleboro Lottery ticket
Source: Vermont Phoenix, January 30, 1920, "Lotteries Once Common Here - - - Craze Short Lived"

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