Benjamin Franklin Papers

Scheme of the First Academy Lottery, 3 October 1754

Scheme of the First Academy Lottery

Printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 3, 1754.

Scheme of a Lottery, for raising 3000 Pieces of Eight, for the Use of the Academy at Philadelphia.2

The Purchase of Ground and Buildings for the Academy, the Alterations and Improvements that were necessary to accommodate the Scholars, and the furnishing of the several Schools, having, all together, prov’d an Expence far beyond their first Expectation, the Trustees, desirous as soon as possible to compleat their Plan, for the Good of the Publick and of Posterity, find themselves under a Necessity of obtaining some Assistance by way of Lottery: And as several Lotteries have, since the Founding of this Academy by Subscription, been carried on and encouraged here for the Benefit of Schools and Colleges in the neighbouring Provinces,3 ’tis hoped it will not be thought less reasonable that we should at length have one for the Benefit of our own. Those who in this way have lately contributed liberally to Matters of mere external Ornament to the City,4 will doubtless more chearfully encourage the Academy; an Undertaking which aims at adorning the Minds of our Youth with every Excellence, and rendering them really useful and serviceable Members of Society.

Prizes. Dollars. Dollars.
3 of 100 each, are 3000
6 of 500 are 3000
12 of 250 are 3000
24 of 125 are 3000
48 of 62 & a half, are 3000
1000 of 5 are 5000
1093 Prizes,
3907 Blanks,
5000 Tickets, at Four Dollars each, are 20,000

The Money to be paid to the Possessors of Prizes as soon as the Drawing is finished, Twenty per Cent. being first deducted from the 93 larger Prizes; but the 1000 small Prizes to be paid without any Deduction, which reduces the Deduction on the whole to Fifteen per Cent.

The Drawing to begin punctually on Monday the 20th of January next, or sooner if sooner full. The Prizes to be published in this Gazette.

The following Persons are appointed Managers of this Lottery, viz. Messieurs William Allen, John Inglis, William Masters, Samuel M’Call, junior, Joseph Turner, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Leech, William Shippen, Philip Syng, Phineas Bond, Richard Peters, Abraham Taylor, William Plumsted, Joshua Maddox, Thomas White, and Thomas Cadwallader, who are to give Bond, and be on Oath for the faithful Performance of their Trust.

Prize-Money not demanded within six Months after the Drawing is finished, to be deemed as generously given to the Academy, and applied accordingly.

Tickets will begin to be sold by the Managers at their respective Dwellings on the 22d of October instant.5

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2On the organization of lotteries, see above, III, 220–4, 229–31. This and subsequent lotteries of the College and Academy of Philadelphia are fully described and analyzed in Philip G. Nordell, “The Academy Lotteries,” Univ. of Pa. Lib. Chron., XIX (1952–53), 51–76.

3The trustees of the College of New Jersey at Princeton, for example, had advertised a lottery in 1748. A New Jersey law of that year prohibited lotteries, but allowed those already begun to continue. 1 N.J. Arch., XII, 468–9, 517, 593. Another lottery for Princeton, to be conducted in Philadelphia, was advertised in Pa. Jour., Dec. 12, 1749, and was drawn in May 1750. Ibid., 590–2, 623, 642–3, 656.

The Pennsylvania law and practice about lotteries were curious. Though forbidden by law, it was well understood how lotteries for worthy causes could evade the prohibition: one of the sponsors would sue the lottery managers; the court would fine them £100; and the informer would turn over his half of the fine to the managers, while the governor of the province would remit the other half. Thus the lottery managers lost nothing. Asa E. Martin, “Lotteries in Pennsylvania prior to 1833,” PMHB, XLVII (1923), 307–27. When the Assembly in 1759 enacted a law to suppress plays and lotteries, the Council declared that the bill was “principally intended to destroy the College, Academy, and Charity School of this City, which was a most Noble and useful Institution,” now mainly supported by lotteries which had been honestly managed and punctually paid. Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 339–41.

4The steeple of Christ Church was such an “external Ornament,” toward whose construction BF subscribed (see above, IV, 116).

5The Scheme was printed in the Gazette for some weeks; beginning with the issue of December 5 the names of William Franklin and David Hall were added to the list of ticket-sellers. The Philadelphia Council voted, March 1, 1755, to purchase up to 55 tickets. Minutes of the Common Council of … Philadelphia, 1704 to 1776 (Phila., 1847), pp. 584–5. The drawings were announced in Pa. Gaz., March 25.

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