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October 26, 2007

Unrecorded Wyoming Territory Imprint by the King of Swindlers

263. [WYOMING TERRITORY]. PATTEE, James Monroe. Wyoming Monthly Lottery by Authority of an Act of the Legislature Draws on the 30th of each and every month during the year 1876...Tickets $1 each, or 6 for $5. 1 Chance in Every 3. Capital Prize $50,000...70,755 Prizes amounting to $275,000.... [at end] James Monroe Pattee, Laramie City, Wyoming. N.B. The money must accompany all orders for Tickets to the Monthly Drawing. These monthly drawings never fail to take place at the time set. [Laramie City: Daily Sentinel Print, 1875]. Broadside (29.2 x 15.3 cm). Creased where formerly folded, a few light stains and dustsoiling, small ink dot at lower right blank margin, some folds strengthened, and with a few tiny losses. Rare and unrecorded. Early unrecorded Wyoming Territory imprint.

            The present imprint is an ad for James Monroe Pattee’s lottery, which was a complete scam for the most part, having only a few winners at the lowest levels of play. Before landing in Laramie City, Pattee, who retired from being a writing instructor in New Hampshire to become the king of lottery sales, migrated to California and then moved his operation to Omaha, Nebraska, where he ran a similar lottery. In 1872 he was arrested in Leavenworth, Kansas, on his way to Europe. After the Civil War he engaged in the land scam of “Monroeville” in Illinois. Nebraska outlawed lotteries in 1873, and Pattee moved to Wyoming, where one could run a lottery by buying a cheap license. It is said that he sold most of his tickets in the East to avoid local trouble and that he raked in millions of dollars, which, of course, he never paid out. By 1876, he was residing in New York City, where he not only continued his lottery but also sold fraudulent shares in western mining companies to gullible investors in the East and in Canada. He was furiously denounced by the New York Times on December 18, 1876, in which article he was declared to be the chief swindler of the time. Overall, Pattee is a fascinating example of the type of sharpie that the West often attracted. ($1,000-2,000)

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