|What was your favorite piece? I liked the shoe.|
Those were the days when most Moms only worked part-time or not all. They were happy to get a break from the kids, and Monopoly was safe entertainment. They knew right where to find us, either in the backyard or at the neighbor's when the weather was nice. I got pretty good at this game. Is it any wonder, we grew up fascinated with real estate and property as an investment?
Charles Darrow often gets credit for inventing Monopoly. During the Great Depression he was introduced by a friend to a board game called "The Landlord's Game," which he and his wife grew to love. His friend even made the couple a personal board. When Darrow asked his friend for the rules, he was told the rules had simply been passed down. The origin of the game had apparently been lost over the years. Unemployed and desperate to support his family, Darrow took a chance. He wrote out the rules, changed the game title to "Monopoly" and filed a patent in 1935 as the game's inventor. He later sold the rights to Parker Brothers, still claiming to be the game's inventor, and it made him a millionaire.
Back up thirty years . . .
|Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie |
As an independent woman, Lizzie took her teaching seriously and thought a board game could better illustrate the unfairness of wealth distribution in America. She was tired of the super rich, men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, monopolizing the country's wealth, while everyone else struggled with income inequality. A patent was approved in 1904 for her new board game, "The Landlord's Game," which was published a year later. The game became the rage on college campuses, among left wing intellectuals, and later among a community of Quakers (Atlantic City) who added names of local neighborhoods to the board.
|Original game board from 1904 patent: filed as Lizzie J. Magie|
Lizzie's game came with two sets of rules:
- Version #1: The anti-monopolist - players were rewarded when wealth was created (the morally superior version).
- Version #2: The monopolist - players could create a monopoly and crush their opponents (the morally corrupt version).
Despite Lizzie's best intentions, the Monopolist version was the most popular of the two, and the one that Darrow took credit for in 1935. Lizzie fought back, claiming she was the inventor. The 1935 version had become even more popular, but Lizzie only made $500 in the end. Parker Brothers paid her off, absent any royalties. The Washington Press wrote, ". . . if one counts the lawyers’, printers’ and Patent Office fees used up in developing it, the game has cost her more than she made from it.”
It was not until 1973, when Ralph Anspach took Parker Brothers to court, concerning his own Anti-Monopoly game, that Lizzie's game became part of a lawsuit. The case lasted for ten years and was finally won, proving Lizzie's role in the game's creation. Unfortunately, Hasbro (a subsidiary of Parker Brothers) still acknowledges Darrow as the game's inventor.
It could be said Lizzie did so much more in her life that her contribution to the board game industry is perhaps 'small potatoes' in comparison. In the late 1800s, with many Americans worried about making a fair wage, the anti-monopoly movement was definitely growing, as was the call for women's rights. Lizzie used whatever creative means she could to express her political outrage . . . including, a robust sense of humor. As an unmarried woman, and seeing marriage as the only viable option women had to support themselves, she placed an advertisement in the newspaper, offering herself up for sale as a "young woman American slave" to the highest bidder. It created quite a stir in the gossip column, and she later made a statement to reporters, taking full advantage of the moment: "We are not machines," Lizzie said. "Girls have minds, desires, hopes and ambition."
For more information about Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie, you might be interested in Mary Pilon's new book, The Monopolists.
Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl