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The hopes and dreams of lottery winners in the midst of the Great Depression

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lotteries were banned throughout most of the US, creating large markets for illegal interstate, international and underground lottery ticket sales, procured and purchased under circumstances rife with corruption. Still, as this oddly entertaining archival piece makes clear, that doesn’t mean no one ever came out ahead, or that lottery ticket prohibitions were enforced in any meaningful way. Compiled from Movietone newsreels from 1934, the video features interviews with several New York City residents – including children – who struck it rich playing lotteries and betting on horse races, a form of gambling that was legal in New York at the time. Although the winners interviewed are all (notably) white, the video builds a fascinating mosaic of the many immigrant communities living in New York City at the time. It’s also a telling glimpse into the often modest hopes and dreams of the newly wealthy during the depths of the Great Depression.

Editor: guy jones

7 March 2019

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