Tuesday, April 10, 2018
A&P “Irish Sweepstakes” Ad – April 8, 1968
I’ve heard of the Irish Sweepstakes many times through the years, usually as a plot device in movies, TV shows or comic strips. (Jiggs in Bringing Up Father became rich after winning the Irish Sweepstakes.) So what was the Irish Sweepstakes anyway?
According to this Wiki entry, the Irish Sweepstakes was a lottery established by the Irish Free State in 1930 to finance hospitals. It notes, "Potentially winning tickets were drawn from rotating drums, usually by nurses in uniform. Each such ticket was assigned to a horse expected to run in one of several horse races, including the Cambridgeshire Handicap, Derby and Grand National. Tickets that drew the favorite horses thus stood a higher likelihood of winning and a series of winning horses had to be chosen on the accumulator system, allowing for enormous prizes.”
The A&P contest was similar in that the results of weekly steeplechase races determined the winners of the cash prizes.
How did it work? Free game cards were available at the store each week. Each card contained numbers corresponding to a horse in each of five races, with a cash prize designated for a first place finish for each. Cash prizes varied, with amounts from $5 to $1,000. (If your horse finished second, you won a buck.)
It was a clever promotion. If there’s one thing that never goes out of style, it’s the opportunity of winning good ol’ American greenbacks in a contest.
I love the look of pure, unadulterated avarice in the eyes of the people in the illustration. I also like the June Cleaver-like Mom with pearls, wearing a jockey hat and clutching her winnings.