Winning the Lottery
History of Winning the Lottery
Winning the lottery has a long and ancient history. The word “lottery” comes from the Italian “lotto”, meaning fate or destiny. Many lottery games in the English speaking world are referred to as lotto games. How to win the lottery has been a world wide question for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Lotteries have an ancient, venerable and somewhat checkered history. There are many biblical references to the drawing of lots to award ownership and in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 26, Moses uses a lottery to award land west of the River Jordan. In the New Testament, Roman soldiers drew lots to decide who would get Jesus’ cloak after the crucifixion.
In 100 BC, the Hun Dynasty in China created the lottery game known as Keno. Most of the funds raised were used to finance the construction of the Great Wall, intended as a perimeter defense. Winning the lottery was less important than defending the country.
Origin of Modern Lotteries
The first recorded European lottery was held in 1446 by the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck to dispose of his remaining paintings. Winning this lottery would have given you a prize worth mega millions today!
Encyclopedia Britannica states that the lottery as we know it dates back to 15th century France where it was used by individual towns to raise money for strengthening the town’s defenses (Europe has a strong tradition of citizens considering themselves as belonging to a city rather than a state or even a country, for example, a citizen would think of him or herself as a Roman, rather than an Italian.) King Francis I of France allowed lotteries to operate from 1520, and the first municipal lottery to offer money as a prize was La Lotto de Firenze, run by the city of Florence in 1530. Other cities in Italy soon followed suit.
In 1567, Queen Elizabeth I established the first English state lottery, with prizes including cash, gold and silver plate, and tapestries. 400,000 tickets were offered for sale. For a while, how to win the lottery was a question on all the citizens’ lips.
In 1612, King James I of England created a lottery in London by royal decree. The proceeds helped to finance the first British colony in America at Jamestown, Virginia. Anglican churches held two of the three winning tickets in the first draw!
Winning the Lottery: The First National Lottery
In the middle 18th century, a notable event occurred in France. Because of the potential for fixing the results in privately operated lotteries, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725 – 1798) persuaded Louis XV of France to found the first state-owned monopoly lottery, the Loterie Royale of the Military School, which became the forerunner of the Loterie Nationale. All other lotteries in France were outlawed. The lottery was a Keno style game, where players could select 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 numbers between 1 and 90. (Incidentally, Casanova owned an interest in the new lottery and became wealthy as a result, but sold his interest shortly afterwards and lost the proceeds through unwise investments; sounds just like some modern lottery winners, doesn’t it?)
Origin of American Lotteries
In the 18th century, lotteries were well under way in America, primarily to fund some venture or as a way out of debt. The first began in Massachusetts in 1744 because of military debts. The first national lottery was started by the Continental Congress in 1776 to raise funds for the American Revolution. The Founding Fathers were concerned not so much with how to win the lottery but with how to raise funds using lotteries. Many of the Founding Fathers played and sponsored lotteries:
Benjamin Franklin used lotteries to finance cannons for the Revolutionary War.
George Washington financed construction of the Mountain Road, which opened expansion West of Virginia, by operating a lottery.
Thomas Jefferson, who was $80,000 in debt at the end of his life, used a lottery to dispose of most of his property. Winning this lottery would have given you a priceless piece of American heritage!
John Hancock operated a lottery to finance the rebuild of historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
In addition, public lotteries helped build several American universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Brown and Dartmouth. Winning these lotteries was a major contribution to the future of American education.