Monopoly the Board game

Monopoly, you’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of it. The board game has a more intricate history than the average player will know. Loosely based on a game created in the early 1900s and then finalized during the Great Depression, Monopoly is now one of the best-selling board games in history. It went through many stages until reaching the game we know today, and it is still being updated with electronics to engage more players. So, where did it start?

The first version of Monopoly was created around 1900, named The Landlord’s Game, by a young woman named Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie. Based on Henry George’s system of political economy, the game was created to try and teach others about the exploitation of tenants by landlords. At the time it was considered that land speculation was a reason for economic injustice, as expressed in Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, basically meaning that Landlords weren’t being taxed as they should. The game illustrated how George’s idea of single tax would work in real life. 

This version of the game, while similarly set up, did not have anything to do with the concept of monopoly like the game today. This was developed by university students sometime around the 1910s and became relatively well known amongst students. This enhanced version reached Charles Darrow and in 1933 he secured a copyright for his, albeit very similar version of the game. Though it is thought that Darrow stole his version from that of Charles Todd’s, the friend that introduced him to the game. Regardless, with the copyright secured  a patent was granted in 1935 as well. Once the demand for the game increased and he couldn’t keep up with production, Darrow did his best to convince the company Parker Brothers to buy it from him. Once acquired, the game was advertised as an affordable way to entertain oneself, especially during the Great Depression. Today known as Hasbro, Parker Brothers became a major company from the profit generated by Monopoly. 

Eventually, the Landlord’s Game was bought by Parker Brothers as well, under the condition that it would continue to sell as the Landlord’s game and not Monopoly. While the promise was technically kept, new editions of the game were not promoted and any unsold copies were destroyed, to the point that very few copies exist today. Those copies that sold did not contain the original set of rules set by Magie although ironically, the original rules for The Landlord’s Game can today be found on Hasbro’s website. 

It is definitely fun to realize that one of the world’s most famous board games was created to make players aware of tenant exploitation. From there the game was taken from university students to become a mass-produced, high grossing board game. On the way it made several people rich, but not the person who made the very first version of it, nor the people that made the major edits to it. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the game’s true meaning in trying to find a fun game to play as a family. That is, if your family can play it without starting a generational feud.