Jul 222012
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!”

  8 Responses to “G is for Golden Casket”

  1. My NSW friends never know what I'm talking about when I mention a casket ticket. My father had every ticket he ever purchased on a spiked stand. It reminds me of other words that differ between the states. I'm sure you know what cheerios are?

  2. Hi Sharon Of course I do. Doesn't everybody? But I do know what you mean. We went from Brisbane to Melbourne in 1978 and it was almost like going to a different country! It was funny the names that were different: a street directory wasn't a Refadex anymore it was a Melville's and a whole heap of other words.

  3. Golden Casket, cheerios, Refidex? Yes, Queenslanders do have their own lingo, I discovered that from my reli's who lived up there. Even so, I'd never heard of Golden Casket until reading your post Helen … so thank you. It's amazing that it's been going so long – but obviously it works, and is porfitable for the community too.

  4. I am sure you could come up with some South Australian terms! We are losing the diversity of language.

    Yes the Casket has done a powerful amount of good and even now, the money goes into medical research.

  5. I am loving your responses to this series Helen bringing to mind things I haven't thought of for years. True "maroon" Qlders and Brisbaneites too boot! Golden Casket for the hospital (always share the ticket), find the ball, refidexes, cheerios (my grandson had to have this explained to him last week…his father is a NSW-man!! and he lives in the NT…what did I do to deserve this I ask?). Thanks for the trips down memory lane.

  6. Helen, do you have any access or knowledge to/of archives containing past winners of the Golden casket? My great grandfather, Linus Herbert Cook had won the Casket at some time during the 1920s, according to family history. I'm trying to track this down.

  7. Hi Unfortunately the only thing I can suggest is a long slow crawl through the Casket lists in the newspapers. Remember though it won't be too bad as the Casket is not like today's lotto where it is drawn multiple times every week. They did publish lists of winners. Most of the time though it is by initial and surname. These types of lists can have problems with OCR when the papers are digitised. In a quick look on Trove I haven't seen an entry but it was not an exhaustive search.

  8. The other thing to remember is to search the Courier Mail (whatever it was called at the time) and also the Queenslander and any other paper of the 1920s.

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