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Lottery Sharks

I have before me a mass of letters, printed and lithographed circulars,

and the like, which illustrate well two or three of the most foolish and

vicious swindles [it is wrong to call them humbugs] now extant. They

also prove that there are a good many more fools alive in our Great

Republic than some of us would like to admit.

These letters and papers are signed, respectively, by the following

names: Alexander Van Dusen; Thomas Boult & Co.; E. F. Mayo; Geo. P.

Harper; Browne, Sherman & Co.; Hammett & Co.; Charles A. Herbert; Geo.

C. Kenneth; T. Seymour & Co.; C. W. White, Purchasing Agency; C. J.

Darlington; B. H. Robb & Co.; James Conway; S. B. Goodrich; Egerton

Brothers; C. F. Miner; E. J. Kimball; E. A. Wilson; and J. T. Small.

All these productions, with one or two exceptions, are dated during the

last three months of 1864, and January 1865. They are mailed from a good

many different places, and addressed to respectable people in all


In particular, should be noticed, however, two lots of them.

The first lot are signed either by Thomas Boult & Co., Hammett & Co.,

Egerton Brothers, or T. Seymour & Co. When these four documents are

placed together, each with its inclosure, a story is told that seems

clear enough to explain itself to the greenest fool in the world.

These fellows--Boult and the rest of them, I mean--are lottery sharks.

Now, those who buy lottery tickets are very silly and credulous, or very

lazy, or both. They want to get money without earning it. This foolish

and vicious wish, however, betrays them into the hands of these lottery

sharks. I wish that each of these poor foolish, greedy creatures could

study on this set of letters awhile. Look at them. You see that the

lithographed handwriting in all four is in the same hand. You observe

that each of them incloses a printed hand-bill with "scheme," all

looking as like as so many peas. They refer, you see, to the same

"Havana scheme," the same "Shelby College Lottery," the same "managers,"

and the same place of drawing. Now, see what they say. Each knave tells

his fool his only object is to put said fool in possession of a handsome

prize, so that fool may run round and show the money, and rope in more

fools. What an ingenious way to make the fool think he will return value

for the prize! Each knave further says to his fool (I copy the words of

the knave from his lithograph letter:) "We are so certain that we know

how to select a lucky certificate, that if the one we select for you

does not, at the very least, draw a $5,000 prize, we will"--what? Pay

the money ourselves? Oh no. Knave does not offer to pay half of it.

"Will send you another package in one of our extra lotteries for


Observe how particularly every knave is to tell his fool to "give us the

name of the nearest bank," so that the draft for the prize-money can be

forwarded instantly.

And in return for all this kindness, what do Messrs. Boult and-so-forth

want? Why, almost nothing. "The ridiculously small sum," as Mr. Montague

Tigg observed to Mr. Pecksniff, of $10. You observe that Hammett & Co.,

in one circular, demand $20, for the same $5,000 prize. But the amount,

they would say, is too trifling to be so particular about!

I will suggest a form for answering these gentlemen. Let every one of

my readers who receives one of their circulars just copy and date and

sign, and send them the following:

"GENTLEMEN:--I thank you for your great kindness in wishing to make

me the possessor of a $5,000 prize in your truly rich and splendid

Royal Havana Lottery. I fully believe that you know, as you say,

all about how to get these prizes, and that you can make it a big

thing. But I cannot think of taking all that money from such kind

of people as you. I must insist upon your having half of it, and I

will not hear of any refusal, I therefore hereby authorize you to

invest for me the trifle of $10, which you mention; and when the

prize is drawn, to put half of it, and $10 over, right into your

own benevolent pantaloons-pocket, and to remit the other half to

me, addressed as follows: (Here give the name of the "nearest


"I have not the least fear that you will cheat me out of my half;

and, as you see, I thus place myself confidently in your hands.

With many thanks for your great and undeserved kindness, I remain

your obliged and obedient servant. ETC., ETC."

My readers will observe that this mode of replying affords full swing to

the expansive charities of Boult and his brethren, and is a sure method

of saving the expenditure of $10, although Boult is to get that amount

back when the prize is drawn.

I charge nothing for these suggestions; but will not be so discourteous

as to refuse a moderate percentage on all amounts received in pursuance

of them from Brother Boult & Co.

Here is the second special lot of letters I spoke of. I lay them out on

my desk as before: There are six letters signed respectively by Kimball,

Goodrich, Darlington, Kenneth, Harper, and Herbert. Now notice, first

the form, and next the substance.

As to form--they are all written, not, lithographed; they are on paper

of the same make and size, and out of the same lot, as you observe by

the manufacturer's stamp--a representation of the Capitol in the upper

corner. They are in the same hand, an easy legible business-hand, though

three of them are written with a backward slope. Those who sent them

have not sent me the envelopes with them, except in one case, so that I

cannot tell where they were mailed. Neither is any one of them dated

inside at any town or post-office. But, by a wonderful coincidence,

every one of them is dated at "No. 17 Merchants' Exchange." A busy mart

that No. 17 must be! And it is a still more curious coincidence that

every one of these six industrious chaps has been unable to find a

sufficiently central location for transacting his business. Every letter

you see, contains a printed slip advising of a removal, as follows:

"REMOVAL.--Desiring a more central location for transacting my business,

I have removed my office to No. 17 Merchants Exchange." Where? One says

to West Troy, New York; another to Patterson, New Jersey; another to

Bronxville, New York; another, to Salem, New-York, and so on! It is a

new thing to find how central all those places are. Undeveloped

metropolises seem to exist in every corner. Well, the slip ends with a

notice that in future letters must be directed to the new place.

Next, as to substance. The six letters all tell the same story. They

are each the second letter; the first one having been sent to the same

person, and having contained a lottery-ticket, as a gift of love or free

charity. This second letter is the one which is expected to "fetch." It

says in substance: "Your ticket has drawn a prize of $200,"--the letters

all name the same amount--"but you didn't pay for it; and therefore are

not entitled to it. Now send me $10 and I will cheat the lottery-man by

altering the post-mark of your letter so that the money shall seem to

have been sent before the lottery was drawn. This forgery will enable me

to get the $200, which I will send you."

How cunning that is! It is exactly calculated to hit the notions of a

vulgar, ignorant, lazy, greedy, and unprincipled bumpkin. Such a fellow

would see just far enough into the millstone to be tickled at the idea

of cheating those lottery fellows. And the knave ends his letter with

one more touch most delicately adapted to make Master Bumpkin feel

certain that his cash is coming. He says, "Be sure to show your prize to

all your friends, so as to make them buy tickets at my office."

Moreover, these letters inclose each a "report of the seventeenth

monthly drawing of the Cosmopolitan Art Union Association." You may

observe that one of these "seventeenth drawings" took place November 7

1864, and another December 5, 1864; so that seventeenthly came twice.

What is a far more remarkable coincidence is this; that in each of these

"reports" is a list of a hundred and thirty or forty numbers that drew

prizes, and it is exactly the same list each time, and the same prize

to each number! There is a third coincidence; that one of these two

drawings is said to have been at London, New York, and the other at

London, New Jersey. And lastly, there is a fourth coincidence, viz.,

that neither of these places exists.

Now, what a transparent swindle this is! how plain, how impudent, how

rascally! And all done entirely by the use of the Post Office privileges

of the United States. Try to catch this fellow. You can find where he

mailed his circular; but he probably stopped there over night to do so,

and nobody knew it. In each circular, he wrote to his dupes to address

him at that new "more central location" that he struggles after so hard;

and how is the pursuer to find it? Would anybody naturally go and watch

the Post Office at Bronxville, New York, for instance, as a particularly

central location for business?

Besides, no one person is cheated out of enough to make him follow up

the affair, and probably nobody who sends the cash wants to say much

about it afterward. He wants to wait and show the prize!

These dirty sharking traps will always be set, and will always catch

silly people, as long as there are any to catch. The only means of

stopping such trickery is to diffuse the conviction that the best way to

get a living is, to go to work like a man and earn it honestly.

Next: Another Lottery Humbug

Previous: The Peter Funks And Their Functions

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