Could the real inventor behind Monopoly please stand up?

imgresWho hasn’t played Monopoly?  It is one of those games that truly bring out some interesting dynamics with the players around the board.  The competition, the real estate moguls, the business smarts, etc.

There has been a few articles written recently about the real inventor behind the game Monopoly was not Charles Darrow but Elizabeth Magie.  Magie was a 30 years old single woman in 1903 who was able to get a patent on what she called The Landlord’s Game.  She was an avid supporter of Henry George who was an outspoken tax reformer who wanted to keep more money in the hands of the working class.  The game was about crushing your opponents through monopolies and that the creation of wealth benefited all.  Keep in mind that at that time women rarely were approved for patents, most of them were given to their husbands.

She began to manufacturer the game and in 1935 Parker Brothers paid her a mere $500 for the patent.  The game itself explored the economic and political shifts of that day.  What is amazing is that Charles Darrow, not the inventor of the game got a friend to take the Landlords Game, reinvent the names and look and then sold the new product to Parker Brothers $7k including residuals that amassed him a fortune.

What is fascinating is that the game was intended to create wealth for all but it ended up being a game to learn about money and entrepreneurship.  Even Parker Brothers sued people over the years based on trademark law so that nobody could ever use the Monopoly Game concept without paying something to Parker Brothers.  Yet, all along the person who really invented the game was a woman and a man got credit for it.  Damn..I have seen that story before.

Lots of articles due to this book that just came out called The Monopolists:  Obsession, Fury and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon  I plan on reading it.  I hope that through this book that the Magie family gets what should have been coming to her all these years instead of the incredible about cash and fame that Darrow has received.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Great story. Hope they get it too. Not hopeful. I have heard via my friend Robert Edsel what mostly European Jews (and other art collectors) victimized by the Nazi’s and Russians have gone through to try to reclaim art that they owned. It’s not pretty. Have you played Settlers of Catan? Interesting game. Of course, there is Cards Against Humanity….

    1. Gotham Gal

      the art thing is unbelievable.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Robert did a documentary, “The Rape of Europa” which is chilling to say the least. Then he wrote two books, Monuments Men and Saving Italy. Monuments Men was made into a campy movie, but at least the point was made. The books are very thorough in their description, and show the provenance of a lot of the art. Ironically, the Russians captured lots of paintings and simply took them back to Russia. Felt it was owed to them by the Nazi’s after what they went through. Ironically, the entire treasure trove of finding the Nazi art turned on a key character at the Louvre; and it was a woman. Without her, it would have been lost. Hope the Magie’s get a small piece.

    2. Brandon Burns

      Settlers and Catan and Cards Against Humanity are almost always with me on weekend getaways.

  2. Laura Yecies

    So many stories of men taking credit for women’s work. One of the more important ones was the discovery of the DNA double helix. Rosalind Franklin was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of DNA – including the key pictures taken and of course we know Watson & Crick got the credit. At least most biology textbooks now recognize her as the key discoverer.

    1. Gotham Gal

      This could be a book in the making…

  3. Brandon Burns

    A friend who writes for Collectors Weekly sent me this rather well researched article on the history of board games:http://www.collectorsweekly…Interesting tidbits:Elizabeth Magie and Charles Darrow’s version of the game had a big difference: Magie’s was about, like you said “wealth for all,” while Darrow’s version was about the fun of greed.Darrow’s version came 30 years later, after Parker Brothers already published The Landlord Game.Darrow was originally turned down by Parker Brothers, because Monopoly was about greed and it took long to play. They only decided to publish Monopoly after Darrow got it into a department store and it sold well.Magie definitely got a raw deal but, via this account, it seems Darrow had little to do with it.But history changes based on who’s telling the story. I’m curious what Mary Pilon’s book has to say!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Fascinating.I am interested in too. It is next up on the Kindle.

  4. awaldstein

    Those of us raised in typical Jewish lower middle class immigrant households where our mom’s quit school to support her parents family, then took secretarial jobs so that they could work and still create a household and support the men working, were raised to innately understand the power behind and the strength of women as doers and creators.Honestly as I get older I see myself as so lucky to have been brought up this way. Dynamics where the common good ruled for the family structure and within it there was no real hierarchy of power except with the grandparents but dint of respect always on top.

    1. Gotham Gal

      well said.

      1. awaldstein

        thanks…With my mom now turning 96, the last of the generation left, and finally getting old, I’ve thought about this time and again lately.Growing up in their home was just a happy time. Genuine, wonderful people. They led with their hearts.