XXI

Lottery sharks⁠—​Boult and his brothers⁠—​Kenneth, Kimball and Company⁠—​A more central location wanted for business⁠—​Two seventeenth lies⁠—​Strange coincidence.

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 directions.

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 encloses a printed handbill 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 nothing!”

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 bank.’)

“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 postmark 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 enclose 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 overnight 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.