Another Lottery Humbug
The readiness with which people will send off their money to a swindler
is perfectly astounding. It does really seem as if an independent
fortune could be made simply by putting forth circulars and
advertisements, requesting the receiver to send five dollars to the
advertiser, and saying that "it will be all right."
I have already given an account of the way in which lottery dealers
operate. From among th
same pile of documents which I used then, I have
selected a few others, as instances in part, of a class of humbugs
sometimes of a kind even far more noxious, and which show that their
devisers and patrons are not only sharpers or fools, but often also very
cold-blooded villains or very nasty ones. Some of them are managed by
printed circulars and written letters, such as those before me; some of
them by newspaper advertisements. Some are only to cheat you out of
money, and others offer in return for money some base gratification. But
whatever means are used, and whatever purpose is sought, they are all
alike in one thing--they depend entirely on the monstrous number of
simpletons who will send money to people they know nothing about.
Of the nasty ones, I can give no details. Vile books, pictures, etc.,
are from time to time advertised, sold, and forwarded, by circular, and
through the mails, and for large prices.
There have been some cases where a funny sort of swindle has been
effected by these peddlers of pruriency, by selling some dirty-minded
dupe a cheap good book, at the extravagant price of a dear bad one. More
than one foolish youth has received, instead of the vile thing that he
sent five dollars for, a nice little New Testament. It is obvious that
no very loud complaints are likely to be made about such cheating as
that. It is, perhaps, one of the safest swindles ever contrived.
The first document which I take from my pile is the announcement of a
fellow who operates lottery-wise. His scheme appeals at once to
benevolence and to greediness. He says: "The profits of the distribution
are to be given to the Sanitary Commission;" and secondly, "Every ticket
brings a prize of at least its full value, and some of them $5,000."
If, therefore you won't buy tickets for filthy lucre's sake, buy for the
sake of our soldiers.
"But," somebody says, "how can you afford this arrangement, which is a
direct loss of the whole cost of working your lottery, and moreover of
the whole value of all prizes costing more than a ticket?"
"Oh," replies our benevolent friend, "a number of manufacturers in New
England have asked me to do this, and the prizes are given by them as
friends of the soldier."
One observation will sufficiently show what an impudent mess of lies
this story is, namely;--If the manufacturers of New England wanted to
give money to the Sanitary Commission, they would give money; if goods,
they would give goods. They certainly would not put their gifts through
the additional roundabout, useless nonsense of a lottery, which is to
turn over only the same amount of funds to the Commission.
The next document is a circular sent from a Western town by a fellow who
claims also to be a master of arts, doctor of medicines, and doctor of
laws, but whose handwriting and language are those of a stable-boy. This
chap sends round a list of two hundred and fifty recipes at various
prices, from twenty-five cents to a dollar each. Send him the money for
any you wish, and he promises to return you the directions for making
the stuff. You are then to go about and peddle it, and swiftly become
independently rich. You can begin with a dollar, he says; in two days
make fifty dollars, and then sweep on in a grand career of affluence,
making from $75 to $200 a day, "if you are industrious." What is
petroleum to this? It is a mercy that we don't all turn to and peddle to
each other; we should all get too rich to speak!
The fellow, out of pure kindness and desire for your good, recommends
you to buy all his recipes, as then you will be sure to sell something
to everybody. Most of these recipes are for sufficiently harmless
purposes--shaving-soap, cement, inks--"five gallons of good ink for
fifteen cents"--tooth-powders, etc. Some of them are arrant nonsense;
such as "tea--better than the Chinese," which is as if he promised
something wetter than water; "to make thieves' vinegar;" "prismatic
diamond crystals for windows;" "to make yellow butter"--is the butter
blue where the man lives? Others are of a sort calculated to attract
foolish rustic rascals who would like to gain an easy living by
cheating, if they were only smart enough. Thus, there is "Rothschild's
great secret; or how to make common gold." My readers shall have a
better recipe than this swindler's--work hard, think hard, be honest,
and spend little--this will "make common gold," and this is all the
secret Rothschild ever had. A number of these recipes are barefaced
quackeries; such as cures for consumption, cancer, rheumatism, and
sundry other diseases; to make whiskers and mustaches grow--ah, boys,
you can't hurry up those things. Greasing your cheeks is just as good as
trying to whistle the hair out, but not a bit better. Don't hurry; you
will be old quite soon enough! But this fellow is ready for old fools as
well young ones, for he has recipes for curing baldness and removing
wrinkles. And last, but not least, quietly inserted among all these
fooleries and harmless humbugs, are two or three recipes which promise
the safe gratification of the basest vices. Those are what he really
hoped to get money for.
I have carefully refrained from giving any names or information which
would enable anybody to address any of these folks. I do not propose to
cooperate with them, if I know it.
The next is a circular only to be very briefly alluded to: it promises
to furnish, on receipt of the price, and "by mail or express, with
perfect safety, so as to defy detection," any of twenty-two wholly
infamous books, and various other cards and commodities, well suited to
the public of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. The most honest and decent things
advertised in this unclean list are "advantage-cards" which enable the
player to swindle his adversary by reading off his hand by the backs of
The next paper I can copy verbatim, except some names, etc., is a letter
"Dear Sir--There is a Package in My care for a Mrs. preston New Griswold
wich thare is 48 cts. fratage. Pleas forward the same. I shall send it
Per Express Your recpt."
It is some little comfort to know that this gentleman, who is so much
opposed to the present prevailing methods of spelling, lost the three
cents which he invested in seeking "fratage." But a good many sensible
people have carelessly sent away the small amounts demanded by letters
like the above, and have wondered why their prepaid parcels never came.
Next, is an account by a half amused and half indignant eye-witness, of
what happened in a well known town in Western New York, on Friday,
January 6, 1865. A personage described as "dressed in Yankee style,"
drove into the principal street of the place with a horse and buggy, and
began to sell what is called in some parts of New England "Attleboro,"
that is, imitation jewelry, but promising to return the customers their
money, if required, and doing so. After a number of transactions of this
kind, he bawls out, like the sorcerer in Aladdin, who went around
crying new lamps for old, "Who will give me four dollars for this
He found a customer; sold a one-dollar greenback for ninety cents; then
sold some half-dollar bills for twenty-five cents each; then flung out
among the crowd what a fisherman would call ground bait, in the shape of
a handful of "currency."
Everybody scrambled for the money. This liberal trader now drove slowly
a little way along, and the crowd pressed after him.
He now began, without any further promises, to sell a lot of bogus
lockets at five dollars each, and in a few minutes had disposed of about
forty. Having, therefore, about two hundred dollars in his pocket, and
trade slackening, he coolly observes, with a terseness and clearness of
oratory that would not discredit General Sherman:
"Gentlemen--I have sold you those goods at my price. I am a licensed
peddler. If I give you your money back you will think me a lunatic. I
wish you all success in your ordinary vocations! Good morning!"
And sure enough, he drove off. That same cunning chap has actually made
a small fortune in this way. He really is licensed as a peddler, and
though arrested more than once, has consequently not been found legally
I will specify only one more of my collection, of yet another kind. This
is a printed circular appealing to a class of fools, if possible, even
shallower, sillier, and more credulous than any I have named yet. It is
headed "The Gypsies' Seven Secret Charms." These charms consist of a
kind of hellbroth or decoction. You are to wet the hands and the
forehead with them, and this is to render you able to tell what any
person is thinking of; upon taking any one by the hand, you will be able
to entirely control the mind and will of such person (it is unnecessary
to specify the purpose intended to be believed possible). These charms
are also to enable you to buy lucky lottery-tickets, discover things
lost or hid, dream correctly of the future, increase the intellectual
faculties, secure the affections of the other sex, etc. These precious
conceits are set forth in a ridiculous hodge-podge of statements. The
"charms," it says, were used by the "Antedeluvians;" were the secret
of the Egyptian enchanters and of Moses, too; of the Pythoness and the
heathen conjurors and humbugs generally; and (which will be news to the
geographers of to-day) "are used by the Psyli (the swindler mis-spells
again) of South America to charm Beasts, Birds, and Serpents." The way
to control the mind, he says, was discovered by a French traveler named
Tunear. This Frenchman is perhaps a relative of the equally celebrated
Russian traveller, Toofaroff.
But here is the point, after all. You send the money, we will say, for
one of these charms--for they are for sale separately. You receive in
return a second circular, saying that they work a great deal better all
together, and so the man will send you all of them when you send the
rest of the money. Send it, if you choose!
Now, how is it possible for people to be living among us here, who are
fooled by such wretched balderdash as this? There are such, however, and
a great many of them. I do not imagine that there are many of these
addlepates among my readers; but there is no harm in giving once more a
very plain and easy direction which may possibly save somebody some
money and some mortification. Be content with what you can honestly
earn. Know whom you deal with. Do not try to get money without giving
fair value for it. And pay out no money on strangers' promises, whether
by word of mouth, written letters, advertisements, or printed circulars.