Having been published in more than 100 countries around the world, Monopoly has long been firmly established as one of the go to names in board gaming. The property management game, which blends elements of pure chance with actual strategic thinking and problem-solving skills, is one of the most recognizable brands in gaming history.
Though Monopoly was first published by Parker Brothers in 1935, the game can trace its roots to nearly three decades earlier, to a similar title called The Landlord’s Game. This original game was developed by Elizabeth Magie, an ardent supporter of the economic ideas of Henry George. She designed The Landlord’s Game to illustrate Georgist ideas in a simple format – to highlight the downfalls of land monopolism and how it can be fixed by way of the land value tax. The goal of the game was really to be an instructional tool to explain why the vast income inequality at the time was a negative thing. Her original patent on the game was granted in the U.S. in early 1904; she soon formed the Economic Game Company with like-minded individuals, and started publishing The Landlord’s Game in 1906. She also took her game to Parker Brothers in 1909 in an attempt to get more wide publication – however, they dismissed it as being too complicated at the time.
Magie would make some changes and updates to her original game in the ’20s, such as adding named streets and eliminating the second round that focused on the land value tax. This version was called Auction Monopoly, and added a rule that auctioned unowned property to all game players when it was first landed on.
Another predecessor to Monopoly was The Fascinating Game of Finance (also known as simply Finance, or Finance and Fortune). This game was first published in 1932 and itself was based on The Landlord’s Game; it notably added railroads to the board. Both Finance and The Landlord’s Game proved to be popular, particularly among a college age crowd, in the ’20s and early ’30s.
The Monopoly we know today was pitched to Parker Brothers in 1934 by Charles Darrow, an American salesman. Darrow had been familiar with both The Landlord’s Game and Finance, having been introduced to their game mechanics by a family friend, Charles Todd. The version of the game that Todd had taught Darrow was that played by a specific group of Quakers in Atlantic City; the game board was modified with street names and locales around Atlantic City. The version of the game that Darrow would then go on to pitch to Parker Brothers – where he claimed it was an original invention of his – was nearly identical to the variation Todd taught him in the first place, right down to the misspelling of Marven Gardens as “Marvin Gardens.”
Learn more about Monopoly and numerous other classic board games in The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Tabletop Games, available this June.