CHAPTER LXXII. GIFT ENTERPRISES.

There are more than two thousand persons in the city of New York, who make their living by conducting gift enterprises. These schemes have various names, but are conducted substantially on the same plan.

                     THE SYSTEM.

The parties engaged in the swindle open an office in some conspicuous place in the city, and announce a grand distribution of prizes for the benefit of some charitable association, such as "The Gettysburg Asylum for Invalid Soldiers and Sailors," "Southern Orphans' Aid Association," etc., etc.; or they announce a grand gift concert, to take place at some public hall at a given time. The tickets to this concert are sold at prices ranging from one to five dollars, the former being the usual price. Directions of other cities are procured, mailing clerks of newspapers are paid for copies of the list of subscribers to their journals, and country newspapers are procured for a similar purpose. A large number of names is thus obtained, and a circular issued, setting forth the scheme, the list of prizes, and the manner of procuring tickets. There is scarcely a place in the United States to which these circulars are not sent. Each of the persons so addressed is requested to act as an agent; and is promised a prize in the distribution if he will use his influence to sell tickets and say nothing of the inducements offered to him, as such knowledge would make others dissatisfied. The prize is said to be worth a great deal, and the party requested to act as agent sets to work promptly, and generally succeeds in getting a number of names and dollars, which he forwards to the managers of the grand concert. No concert is ever held, and no drawing takes place. The money is lost to the senders and pocketed by the swindlers who receive it.

               THE BANKERS' AND BROKERS' GIFT ENTERPRISE.

During the winter of 1867-68, a swindler or set of swindlers opened an office in the lower part of Broadway, under the title of "The Bankers' and Brokers' Gift Enterprise." The affair was ostensibly managed by the firm of Clark, Webster &Co. As many thousand persons were victimized by these villains, it is possible that some of our readers may be able to vouch for the statements contained in the following extract concerning the affair, from the Missouri Republican, published in St. Louis.

For some months, certain papers, both in the East and West, have been displaying an enormously large advertisement, of the Bankers' and Merchants' First Grand Presentation Enterprise, to be commenced on Thursday, October 24th, and continued for 'one hundred and fifty days from the date of commencement, at the rate of ten thousand tickets per day.' The scheme was a magnificent one; every ticket holder was entitled to such a premium as would fully insure him against loss - that is, he would draw a prize equal to the money invested, minus five per cent., and would run a risk of winning an enormous prize, of which there were several 'on the bills.'

Of course this spread like wild-fire, the cholera, or yellow fever; hundreds, who should have possessed some discretion, sent their dollars to Clark, Webster &Co., 62 Broadway, New York, expecting to realize handsome fortunes. How they supposed that the proprietors could ever give such premiums, we cannot say; but certain it is they did, and hundreds and thousands have been most fearfully victimized; how, will be easily explained.

The enormous prizes were not in money; they were stocks, and the like, in fancy companies, somewhere - where, we do not know; where a nominal half a million would not be worth half a dollar.

But it was not in the dollar paid for the original ticket that the chief swindle lay. Nearly every man drew a 'prize' and was at once notified, on receiving the sum of five per cent. of the value, it would be forwarded; and as the nature of the prize was not stated, but only its nominal value in money, thousands of persons have, doubtless, sent the five per cent., and will continue to send it, and receive in exchange some worthless oil stock, or a similar valueless piece of paper.

Even in this city, where the people should read the daily papers, and be posted in such swindles, a large number have been victimized, two of whom have furnished us with their experiences, which we give below:

The first is a young man, the son of a well-known politician in this city, but who requests us to suppress his name. A few days since he received the following note:

'You are hereby notified that one of your tickets has drawn a prize valued at two hundred dollars. Five per cent. on this amount will be ten dollars. This amount of assessed per centage must, in all cases, be sent on receipt of this notice, with directions by what express you wish the prize sent. Yours, very respectfully, 
                     'CLARK, WEBSTER &CO.'

The young man, 'green' as he must have been to invest a dollar in the swindling concern of the fictitious Clark, Webster &Co., was yet too sharp to send the ten dollars without an investigation, and accordingly went to a friend, a well-known banker of this city, and requested him to correspond with reliable parties in New York, and ascertain the responsibility of the parties, and, on doing so, Mr. Davis received the following reply: 
                     'Office of Gwynne &Day, No. 7 New Street, 
                     'New York, Nov. 12, 1867.

'Messrs. - - &Co., Cincinnati, Ohio:

'Gentlemen: We have received your favor of the 9th, with enclosure as stated.

'In regard to the prize drawn by - - - - , we went to Clark, Webster & Co., to see about it. The prize consists of two hundred shares in the Sand River Petroleum Company. We did not get it, as we do not know the market value of the stock (and probably never will). We enclose it to you, as we do not think it is worth ten dollars. 
                  'Yours respectfully, 
                     "'GWYNNE &DAY.'"

Another correspondent tells his story as follows: 
                     CINCINNATI, November 15.

Messrs. Editors: Last summer I was foolish enough to place sufficient confidence in an advertisement of a "Grand Presentation Enterprise of Merchants and Bankers of New York," that appeared in a Cincinnati paper a number of times, as to invest one dollar in a ticket. The prizes consisted of greenbacks, diamonds, watches, sewing machines, etc., to be drawn October 24. A few weeks afterward I received a letter in which I was requested to act as their agent in this city, for the sale of their tickets, promising, in consideration thereof - in case my ticket drew a blank - they would insure me a handsome present. But I did not bite this time. Two or three other circulars were sent me after this; one announcing the postponement of the drawing, to enable them to dispose of all their tickets; another postponement was announced in September, because their 'agents had sold more tickets than were issued, so that now they were compelled to increase the number of tickets from 1,300,000 to 1,500,000.' All this was announced in staring capitals.

In the latter part of October another circular was received, announcing the commencement of a drawing on October 24th, and that it would take two or three months to complete it, as they could draw and register but 10,000 per day; and also informing the 'lucky' ones, that upon being notified that their ticket had drawn a prize, they were to remit immediately five per cent. of the value of the prize, if under $500, and ten per cent. if over $500; the money obtained in this way was to be used to meet the extra expense incurred in printing the additional tickets and in their distribution.

Soon after this I was notified my ticket had drawn a prize, valued at $200, and I must remit them five per cent. of this within ten days, or forfeit the prize. I wrote to a friend of mine in New York, to call at 62 Broadway, and ascertain if such a firm as Clark, Webster &Co. - the firm name signed to the circular - held forth there, and, if so, to present my ticket, and claim the prize.

He called, as requested, and writes me that there is no such firm there. The 'Merchants' and Bankers' Grand Presentation Enterprise' is a grand swindle, carried on by one Hill, who has been arrested a number of times for swindling the public in this manner, but has, so far, by the aid of money, freely used, managed to keep out of the Penitentiary. When my friend presented the ticket, and demanded the two hundred dollar prize, they offered him stock in an oil well out West, which (well) is all a myth. So I concluded to retain the percentage, and forfeit the 'prize.' In one of the circulars it is announced that a second 'grand distribution' will take place this winter, and I make this matter public that none of your readers may be deceived. 
                     "ALMOST A VICTIM."

Complaints from the victims of this infamous swindle, became so numerous, that the police authorities seized the premises of Clark, Webster &Co., and all their books and papers. These last comprised six truck loads, and contained printed or written directories of every city and town in the Union. No such persons as Clark, Webster &Co., could be found. A man calling himself William M. Elias, claimed to be the owner of the books and papers, and endeavored to regain possession of them by legal process. The Police Commissioners, knowing what use he intended to make of them, refused to surrender them, and gave bonds. Elias was arraigned before the Tombs Police Court, on a charge of swindling, by some of his victims. The Court room was full of those who had suffered by the grand lottery. The proceedings amounted to nothing, and as the man left the Court room, he was followed by the excited crowd, and severely pelted with snow balls, until the police came to his assistance.

Messrs. Reade &Co., who profess to do business at No. 6 Clinton Hall, Astor Place, are extensive swindlers. The police have made rigid searches for them several times. They have arrested the clerks and managers, but have failed to discover the principals, who, doubtless, have no real existence.

                     A CLEVER SWINDLE.

Many of these swindlers adopt the following system. They send a circular to some one in the country, notifying him that he has drawn a prize in their lottery. The circular used by one of these firms is as follows:

MR. - - , 
   ROCHESTER, NEW YORK.

DEAR SIR: You are hereby notified that ticket No. 5,114, has drawn a gold watch, valued at two hundred dollars. Five per cent. on the valuation is ten dollars. The percentage must be paid or forwarded within twelve days from the date of this notice.

Those receiving prizes, in the preliminary drawing, receive them with this understanding, that they will either buy tickets in our grand distribution that takes place in November, or use their influence in every possible way to sell tickets. Any parties receiving this notice, who are not willing to assist in our grand enterprise, will please return the ticket and notice as soon as received. 
                     HALLETT, MOORE &Co., 
                     Bankers and Financial Managers, 
                     575 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.

By Order of the 
   NEW YORK JEWELLERS' CO-OPERATIVE UNION.

N. B. - No prizes will be shipped until the percentage is received.

We shall be ready in fifteen days to fill orders for tickets in the grand distribution of five millions of dollars' worth of goods, the drawing of which is to take place in the building of the New York Jewellers' Cooperative Union, November 16, 1868. 
                     By order of the BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

The person receiving this circular well knows that he has purchased no ticket in the above concern, and at once supposes that he has received through mistake the notification intended for some other man. Still, as the parties offer to send him, for ten dollars, a watch worth two hundred dollars, he cannot resist the temptation to close with the bargain at once. He sends his ten dollars, and never hears of it again.

Another plan is to notify every one who has bought a ticket that he has drawn a prize, and demand five per cent. on it. The value is always stated at two hundred dollars, and the amount asked is ten dollars. Strange as it may seem, this ruse succeeds in a majority of instances. The luckless ticket holders are delighted with their good fortune, and send the assessment at once. They never see their money or their prize.

The scoundrels who carry on these enterprises feel perfectly safe. They know that their victims dare not prosecute them, as by purchasing a ticket a man becomes a party to the transaction, and violates the laws of the State of New York. No one cares to avow himself a party to any such transaction, and consequently the swindlers are safe from prosecution.

The post-office authorities of the city state that over five hundred letters per day are received in this city from various parts of the country, addressed to the principal gift establishments of the city. Nearly all of these letters contain various sums of money. Last winter these mails were seized and opened, by the Post-office Department, and some of the letters were found to contain as much as three hundred dollars.

The profits of these swindlers are enormous. Those which are well conducted realize half a million of dollars in three or four months. Instead of resting satisfied with this amount, the rogues close up their business, and start a fresh enterprise.

From this description the reader will see how the various gift enterprises, under whatever name they are presented, are managed, and how certain he is to lose every cent he invests in them. The description applies also to the various Manufacturing and Co-operative Jewelry Associations, and all schemes of a kindred nature.

                     JEWELRY ASSOCIATIONS OR UNIONS.

A recent publication contains the following clever description of the way in which these associations are managed.

No doubt these enterprises are of the purest benevolence - at least such is the impression their projectors seek to convey. That everybody who wants a gold watch for a dollar may know how to get it, we copy the following extract from the advertisement - without charge, on this occasion:

'One million certificates, bearing upon their face the names of the articles as above enumerated, are each inclosed in plain envelopes, and sealed, undistinguishable one from another, mixed and placed in a repository, without choice, and they are drawn as ordered. The sealed envelopes, containing certificates marked with the name of the article, description, and marked price it entitles the holder to, will be sent by mail to any address at twenty-five cents each; on receipt of the certificates, the purchaser ascertains the exact article he is entitled to, which he can obtain upon the return of the certificate and one dollar to the office of the Association.'

Not wishing, however, to encourage too sanguine hopes, we would add an account of the success of an experiment made last year by an incredulous individual, who was so curious as to find out how it was these people made money by selling gold watches for a dollar. He spent a hundred dollars for the 'certificates' above referred to, and found himself the lucky possessor of a lot of paper tickets purporting to represent property to the value of two thousand one hundred and fifty-three dollars, and this property he was entitled to receive on the further payment of four hundred and fifty-eight dollars. Not wishing, however, to impoverish these rashly-benevolent Samaritans, and reflecting, perhaps, that he had already spent one hundred dollars, for which he had as yet received nothing but 'certificates,' he selected a hundred of those that promised the most valuable articles, and sent them for redemption - paying another one hundred dollars for the articles. He received a lot of watches, jewelry, gold pens, etc., of which the nominal value was five hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

Very good investment of two hundred dollars, was it not? But stop a minute. We said nominal value. As the articles were all gold and silver - at any rate, professed to be - it was easy to ascertain their actual value; so they were sent to the United States Assay Office, melted up, and a certificate of the net proceeds returned. And how much does the ingenious reader suppose this five hundred and ninety-nine dollars of gold and silver proved to be worth? Just nine dollars and sixty-two cents ($9.62)! That was what our friend got for the two hundred dollars cash he had invested. And that is about what anybody will get who chooses to invest money in enterprises of this kind.

The certificate jewelry business is, in fact, under whatever name carried on, nothing but a gigantic fraud, extending far and wide over the country, and causing many innocent but rather green people losses they can ill afford. During the war, the soldiers were cheated enormously by it. Millions of dollars have been paid for utterly worthless stuff.

But it is not only in bogus jewelry that prizes are warranted. Gold pens are held out as an inducement. What village poetaster or scribbler for the weekly journal - enjoying a reputation among his acquaintances for 'smart writing' - imagining himself a second Byron or another Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., but what likes to sport a gold pen with 'silver case' before the admiring eyes of friends or the envious glances of rivals, as the instrument with which the flow of melody or pathetic romance in the 'Trumpetown Blower' is produced. By such the circular of the ' - - -Gold Pen Co.' sent through the post-office, is warmly welcomed. A careful perusal, a comparison of the different styles and prices, and then, of course, a remittance. The pen arrives in a handsome velvet-lined box. A glance and the possessor is entranced; he tries it, it writes smoothly, and forthwith it is cleaned, placed in the pocket and carelessly shown by accident' to friends. Another trial - alas! the ink sticks; the pen corrodes; the gold comes off; the silver holder turns black; polishing fails to produce a shine, and eventually it is apparent that a swindle has been perpetrated and that the 'cheap gold pen' is, after all, but copper or brass; thousands of these pens are sent in a week by express to all parts of the country and as many dupes made to pay fifty times their value to the adroit swindlers who manufacture them.

"The postmaster at Wakeman, Huron county, Ohio, having heard of this - Pen Co., sent for a circular, which was at once forwarded. Selecting a certain pen he remitted the money for it; in reply he received an old copper pen not worth three cents; he immediately remonstrated in a second letter, and a third, of which no notice was taken, and the unfortunate United States official was obliged to consider himself swindled. This is but an instance of many."

Remember, dear reader, there is no royal road to fortune. Keep your money, or invest it more sensibly, for there is not one single gift association in the world in which you will meet with anything but the vilest deceit and dishonesty. You will be robbed in any and all of them.

                     DOLLAR STORES.

The Dollar Stores of the land are mere humbugs. The articles sold are dear at the prices asked. The watches are worthless, the diamonds and other jewels are paste, and the gold is pinchbeck or Dutch metal. An article for which they ask one dollar is worth in reality about ten cents. On higher priced articles their profit is in proportion. A few weeks' use will show the real value of a purchase made at one of these places.