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Robert L. Brown History of Medicine

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First Lottery for the Promotion of Medical Science

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Lottery Tickets 1815

Lottery Tickets 1815

Recently the Buffalo History Museum generously donated two New York State lottery tickets dated 1815 to the History of Medicine Collection.  These two small pieces of ephemera sparked curiosity that prompted a search of New York State history that lead to some intriguing information involving lotteries, Dr. David Hosack, Alexander Hamilton, and botanical gardens in New York City.   Printed on the tickets was the following:

” State of New York Medical Science Lottery.” “This ticket will entitle possessor to such prize as shall be drawn to its number, in the First Lottery for the PROMOTION OF MEDICAL SCIENCE, agreeably to an act of the Legislature of this State, passed March 12,1810.  Subject to a deduction of 15 per cent.”  New-York, March, 1815.

As it turns out, the seemingly intended purpose for establishing such a lottery was stated in the Public Laws of the State of New-York on March 12, 1810 as follows:

“WHEREAS the medical society of the city and county of New York the common council of the said city the governors of the New York hospital the medical society of the state of New York and divers respectable citizens are deeply impressed with an opinion that the botanic garden established and owned by David Hosack of the said city physician at a place called Elgin near the said city may become a great public benefit by being applied to promote medical science in this state and under the influence of this opinion they have strongly recommended it to the legislature to purchase the said botanic garden in behalf of the state And whereas the legislature as well from a respect to the said recommendation as from a persuasion that the said botanic garden in the hands of the state will essentially conduce to the advancement of medical knowledge are desirous that the said purchase may be made….”

Once the deed for the garden was in the hands of the Secretary of State, the money to be paid to Dr. Hosack was to be raised by a lottery overseen by a group of managers and

“…the said managers as often as they shall receive five thousand dollars from the sales of tickets shall deposit the same for safe keeping in one of the banks established within this state … after drawing of each class of the said lottery shall forthwith pay the net amount or avails of the class so drawn to the said David Hosack towards satisfaction of the consideration money expressed in the deed above mentioned.”

Interested in knowing more about Dr. Hosack and what happened with his botanical garden and the lottery?  Stay tuned for Part II!

Elgin Botanic Gardens

Elgin Botanic Gardens

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