History and Facts About the Monopoly Game

Do you remember the time when you owned a chain of hotels, fancy houses across the famous New York Streets Avenue, St. James Place and Tennessee Avenue? Or the time when you had ownership over the Electricity Company, the Railroads and the Water Works? Then at one point, you had to go to jail, pay for bail, or pay your dues. And when bad luck strikes, there’s not a single silver lining on the sky. The mortgage for your properties got too big for your pocket and you had to start selling your buildings, houses and hotels survive the depression. Your corporate world slowly started to fall apart before your eyes and finally, you had to declare a bankrupt. If you remember any of these situations, you must have had at least one monopoly marathon when you were a kid. Or maybe you were playing with your kids to teach them how not to be sore losers. Although the monopoly game is not fancy or modern, where you have to use your imagination to experience the game’s essence, it’s still one of the most popular platform games of all times. It’s a game where you can easily lose yourself, especially if you have a winning streak, but play long enough and you will have to face some cutbacks. Just like in real life.

The Success Story about the Monopoly Game

If you search for the official history of the Monopoly game you will find out it was invented by Charles Darrow. Darrow was an unemployed radiator repairman, a salesman, and a part time dog walker when he invented the game. During the years of the stock market crash in 1929, he had a hard time providing for his family. Remembering the times when he summered in Atlantic City as a kid, he started painting the streets of New Jersey on his kitchen table cover. With the help of local merchants he built the board further, adding bits of wood, painting it in different colors and adding pieces as players. The Monopoly game was already formed in his mind and soon, everyone who would come to his house would play a game of Monopoly. His friends wanted their own game, so he started making Monopoly boards for his friends. Shortly after Charles Darrow grasped the idea that this invention of his could make him a lot of money; he made many copies and offered them in Philadelphian department stores. Orders about the game started to increase and when Charles Darrow realized he couldn’t do the full scale manufacturing process by himself, he decided to sell the idea to a big game company. He contacted Parker Brothers, to offer them the rights of the game that can be sold on an international basis, but the company refused his offer, saying that the game his had many fundamental errors. A few of the mentioned errors were that there were no engaging goals for the winner, the game took too long to play and the rules were too complicated.

Regardless of what the Parker Brothers said about Darrow’s invention, he continued making copies of Monopoly and filling department stores. When a friend of George Parker’s daughter, the owner and founder of Parker Brothers, bought the game and played with Parker’s daughter, they told Mrs. Parker how much fun the game actually is. Mrs. Parker convinced George Parker to buy a copy and soon the Parker corporation arranged another meeting with Charles Darrow. Parker Brothers suggested that a few rules should be changed if Darrow wants to sell the game, and he agreed. By the 1933, Darrow has secured a copyright for his game. In 1935, he submitted his invention to the Patent Office in the United States, which grants him as the patentee of the famous Monopoly game. In the following years, the cardboard platform was distributed in white boxes throughout Philadelphia, making the Parker Brothers a major company and Charles Darrow a millionaire.


The Real Origin of the Monopoly Game

To understand the true philosophy and objective of the Monopoly game, we would have to go back in the 19th century. The famous politician, writer and political economist, Henry George have influenced or inspired the economic philosophy with the idea known as a single tax. He was from Philadelphia as well, worked in India and Australia and relocated to California by the age of twenty. There, he started working as a rice weigher, tramp farmworker, and a printer’s apprentice. He wasn’t very interested in politics or economics until he got married and felt the shortcomings on his family’s back. He noticed that whenever a capital is accumulated or an industry built, more people are living in desperate conditions. After he published his proposals about systems that will beat poverty, he became a famous New York journalist. He published the book “Progress and Poverty”, where he explains how poverty is directly connected to land monopoly. His prominent views and the political philosophy he inspired are known today as Georgism. His theories were observed and debated through all colleges and universities, where many people agreed that it is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent. He had and still has many followers who believe that the land value is determined by the working individuals, not the owner, in the form of building constructions, property improvements and cultivation of fields, therefore it belongs to the society.

Encouraged by his ideas, Elizabeth Magie (McGee) created the Landlord’s Game, to explain the Henry George’s system of political economy better. In 1904 she received a patent for her game invention, but within her Single Tax enclave, she continued developing the game board in the next couple of years. Her idea was to inform the players how the system of land grabbing would work in the real life, together with the consequences and outcomes. The earliest copies of the Landlord’s Game suggested that Magie’s idea to teach Georgism with the help of a game were very successful. You could buy a land, but you couldn’t build houses and hotels. If the treasury chest reached 50 dollars, the owner of the lighting utility was forced to sell it, releasing the rest of the players from rents when they stomp on the property. The same rule applied to the railroads and the Slambang Trolley. Similarly, the jail box was transformed into a college, which provided extra earnings for the players at the end of the game. Every 50 dollar deposit in the bank would add 10 dollars to each player's account and a win was considered to be when a player with the least amount of money, doubles his or her initial capital.

How the Game Got to Charles Darrow

At the time when Magie invented the Landlord’s Game, the board was copied (drawn on a piece of cloth) instead of being purchased, usually among Single Tax proponents, college and university students and Quakers. Every new Landlord’s Game owner could add his favorite street names, apply his own rules and paint the board however they want. In the following years, every game player who got the board in his ownership changed a couple of rules and outlines. Houses and buildings were allowed to be built, the rent the player pays when he steps on the property got bigger and the rules of the gameplay were changed too. By the end of the 1924, the game was famously recognized as Auction Monopoly, and later as just Monopoly. During the late 20’s, Dan Layman was a proud owner of a famous Monopoly board. He scooped the copy from his college days at Williams College in Reading, and took it back with him to introduce the game to the market as “Finance”. A friend of Layman, Ruth Hoskins also made a copy of the game board and when she moved to Atlantic City, she introduced the new game to all of her friends. She claims that she and her friends, while playing the game, changed the street names with Atlantic City street names. Then her friends, Ruth and Eugene Raiford showed the game to a hotel manager in Pennsylvania, who knew Charles Darrow and his wife Esther, because they were guests at the hotel and personal friends of the manager Charles E. Todd. The rest is the history about the Monopoly Game as we know it.

Interesting Facts about the Monopoly Game

To protect the investment that saved the Parker Brothers from bankruptcy they purchased the rights from all former inventors who created anything similar to the original Landlord’s Game. They paid Magie 500 dollars and absolutely no royalties from the sales of the Landlord’s Game. She requested that no rules should be changed if the company wants to buy her educational tool and she stated that she doesn’t want to profit from her invention, only to create a fun, gaming rebellion against the era of monopolizing titans. The company agreed, but after producing a hundred sets, the manufacturing process was discontinued. Dan Layman sold his game Finance to David W. Knapp, which the Parker Brothers later bought for 10,000 dollars. Luis Thun, friend of the Darrow’s was paid 50 dollars for each early copy of the Monopoly Game. In the 30’s, Rudy Copeland patented a game called Inflation, after which the Parker Brothers sued and bought the rights to the game for 10,000 dollars. After decades of producing a game that had nothing to do with Georgism, a man named Ralph Anspach finally stand up to the corporate Parker Brothers. He invented the game Anti-Monopoly, a more just and smarter version of the Parker’s Monopoly Game. Soon after, the Parker brothers sued him for copyright infringement. During the process, 40 thousand copies of the Anti-Monopoly game were burned in a garbage dump. Anspach says that the hunter became the hunted, when the judge opened an argument about the Parker Brothers Monopoly Game true origins. The case was not settled from 1974 to 1979, when the court decided to let Anspach market his invention.

Nowadays, when you play the game you could pick Chance cards like: Bank pays you dividend of $50, get out of jail free, go directly to jail – do not pass Go, do not collect $200 or make general repairs on all your property – for each house pay $25 – for each hotel $100, but in the days of Megie you could pick the quotes of Thomas Jefferson like: The earth belongs in usufruct to the living, or Andrew Carnegie’s: The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich. Still, over 480 million people have played this game from the time it was invented. The longest game ever held was 70 days long and 5,120,000,000 little green and red boxes were manufactured to serve as game houses and motels. The most visited lands are the Illinois Avenue, B & O Railroad, the Go box and the jail box, where you will be hailed by Jake the Jailbird. Over 275 million Monopoly game boards have been sold, and they are available in 43 languages in 111 countries around the globe. In the 50’s, the purse, lantern, and rocking horse would have been your playing tokens, later replaced by the horse, dog, rider and wheelbarrow. Nowadays you can play with the Paramount Pictures movie clapboard, 2014 Corvette Stingray or an Xbox controller. It doesn’t matter whether you care about the Monopoly game inventors or not, because the game’s purpose is still to demonstrate all failures and success elements in the real life. And since the general objective of all human existence revolves around accumulating more wealth, make sure you share your money, at least to make the game last longer.


1. MONOPOLY History & Fun Facts http://www.hasbro.com/monopoly/en_AU/discover/about.cfm

2. The World of Monopoly http://www.worldofmonopoly.com/history/

3. The Little-Known Origins of Monopoly, the Board Game http://bollier.org/blog/little-known-origins-monopoly-board-game

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