Claim your prizes! On January 10, 1569, the first recorded lottery took place in England—and everyone was a winner!
The lottery was chartered in 1566 in an effort to raise money for public works (sadly, not to fund a very early production of Downton Abbey). Tickets were sold over a three-year period, and everyone who bought one got a prize in the form of silver plate and other commodities. The money collected essentially worked as an interest-free loan over the three-year lottery period. The lottery was promoted by—no kidding—scrolls with images of the prizes on them, which were posted throughout the country. Kind of makes Elizabethan England sound a bit like a fantasy role playing game, doesn’t it?
The lottery was sufficiently successful for others to be held in subsequent years. Later, ticket rights were sold to brokers, who would eventually become modern-day stockbrokers for commercial ventures. As most people couldn’t afford the cost of an entire lottery ticket, they bought shares of one. Lotteries helped fund the Jamestown settlement, the foundation of Princeton and Columbia Universities, and the American Revolution.