NPR’s Scott Simon Talks About His Mom’s Antique Lottery Tickets

Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, a well-loved Chicago native, received a very public farewell this past July when her son, National Public Radio’s Scott Simon, tweeted about his experiences in the hospital with her. Simon, host of Morning Edition Saturday, deeply touched his 1.3 million Twitter followers with his poetic bedside reports of his mom’s final hours. A working single mother in the 1960s, twice widowed, and thrice married, Newman, 84, had enjoyed a full life.

With part of her estate slated for auction next week, Simon had the opportunity to recall one of his mother’s hobbies: collecting rare lottery tickets. “My mother, who had a keen design sense, also thought that many of the lottery ticket designs were quite striking, especially compared to today’s flimsy computer-generated slips. For decades, lottery tickets were designed to look as respectable as currency, and included many of the same features,” Simon wrote via email. “She enjoyed thumbing through the various tickets and finding out about their stories. She said that people shouldn’t buy a lottery ticket because they expected to become millionaires: that (almost) never happens. They should buy one to help build something worthwhile. As she said, ‘That way you always win.’”

Lot51-10211937.jpgOn November 6, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will offer several lots of historical Americana from Newman’s collection, notably several lots of those antique lottery tickets. The oldest of the offerings are three exceptionally rare colonial lottery tickets signed by S. Watts from America’s first lottery, a drawing held at Boston’s Faneuil Hall in 1745. As a lot, it is expected to sell for $1,000-2,000. A grouping of later eighteenth-century tickets, including a 1762 New-York City-Hall lottery tickets, is likewise expected to realize $1,000-2,000. Another collection features eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tickets for lotteries relating to public works projects, for example eight 1781 Simsbury Bridge lottery tickets and an 1825 Providence and Worcester Road lottery ticket. Another lot features twenty-nine tickets related to the establishment of academic institutions (e.g., Rutgers, Dartmouth, William & Mary, and Harvard). The colorful tickets seen above are highlights of a selection of over 100 pieces of lottery ephemera, including two 1826 lottery tickets to raise funds for Thomas Jefferson, offered together for an estimated $1,000-2000.  

Newman shared an interest in collecting historic Americana with her second husband, Ralph G. Newman, an author, editor, book dealer, board president of the Chicago Public Library, and friend to poets and presidents. He also founded Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. They began acquiring their first tickets in the 1980s, said Simon. “Many states were debating the question of lotteries, and Ralph and my mother were delighted to discover that some of these debates were as old--in fact older--than the Constitution, and that many noted and worthy enterprises were built in part with proceeds from lotteries.” Ralph Newman died in 1998.

Also featured in the sale are several other historic documents from Newman’s collection, including a 1777 Journals of Congress, covering Sept. 5 1774 to Jan 1. 1776; an autographed note from James Monroe, and autograph signed letters by Horace Greeley, Andrew Carnegie, and Julia Grant (wife of Ulysses S.).

Images via Leslie Hindman.

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