Sunday, 22 July 2012

G is for Golden Casket

Every Queenslander knows the Golden Casket even though Lotto has gained more prominence now.

The Casket started in 1916, when the Queensland Patriotic Fund asked if they could run an Art Union for the Repatriation Fund of the Queensland War Council. The first Casket went on sale in December 1916.

It was successful in raising funds and a second Casket was also run for the Patriotic Fund, then three Caskets were run to fund the building of homes for War Widows by the Anzac Cottage Committee.

The sixth Casket run gave the profits to the Hospital for Sick Children (now known as the Royal Childrens' Hospital).

The Hospital was in urgent need of funds for repairs and further development at a time when donations from the public were more difficult to obtain.

From  1920 the Government took over the running of the Casket with the profits being used for funding Public Hospitals, Maternity Hospitals and  Baby Clinics. 

The Royal Women's hospital was funded by the Casket at a  cost of 200 thousand pounds. By 1938, 93 maternity hospitals and 122 baby clinics had been provided by the profits of the Casket.

The money was used to provide free hospitals in Queensland and this was important as previously hospital care was not free. Previously the richer persons provided charitable entry or you paid for the services provided. The hospitals were always trying to gather donations. With the Casket there were many small donations from many people rather than larger donations from the few.

The general public embraced the concept of the Casket, as not only was there a possibility of winning the first prize, which was a number of years of wages for a tradesman for a small investment, it didn't matter if you didn't win, as after all "you still got the hospital!"

100 000 tickets were sold in each Casket. You could buy a quarter or half share in a ticket and originally a barrel containing a 100 000 marbles was used to draw the prizes. Then, in 1932, a new machine invented by a Brisbane engineer, John Lund was put into use.


The new machine (shown in the illustration) stood over six foot tall with a rectangular barrel divided into five compartments. Each compartment contained ten discs from 0 to 9. 

The barrel is turned by a handle, three turns of the handle rotated the barrel once, thoroughly mixing the discs. At the end of the revolution a disc in each compartment falls into the slot and a five figured number is shown in a clear window. (For the mathematicians amongst you, the number 100 000 was represented by five zeros showing in the window). This system stayed in place until the introduction of computers.

It was possible for the same number to win multiple times in the same drawing.

All drawings were open to the public.

In the first fifty years of the Casket's operation, it contributed significantly to the sick and needy with $73 million dollars being used for the hospital and health system and $200 million being returned as prizes.




I don't know precisely when grandma Myrtle Doris Weeks bought this ticket but guess it to be in the early 1950s. At this time the top prize was 15 000 pounds. Each full ticket cost ten shillings. My grandparents never won the top prize but regularly bought tickets, as after all, "you got the hospital!"