We have all played Monopoly in one or it’s other forms. It is one of the few games to have stood the test of time. For many people, it’s how they first learnt to handle money, count change and understand some basics of how banks work. What you have enjoyed about it so far are laugh riots, fights and the excitement around the board. But did you know the long and strange history behind the beloved board game? Let’s explore that today!
A lady named Elizabeth Magie Phillips from Illinois is the creator of this game. She named it “The Landlord’s Game”. Her idea behind the game was to educate people about the demerits of a Monopolist economy, that is a system where one company/person has all the power and money, such that nobody else could question their ways of doing business.
She developed two versions of this popular game. In the first version, every time one player made money, every other player would also be rewarded. In the second version, similar to how it is played today, every player fought against each other, the one making the most money won. Elizabeth’s idea to give two sets was to demonstrate to the players that the first set was better and morally superior. Unfortunately for her, the second set became more popular. She got the game patented in 1904. At the time, The landlord’s game gained some popularity in the state of Illinois and surrounding areas.
Many variations of The Landlord’s Game were published between 1905 to 1935. In the year 1932, a man named Charles Darrow learnt about it. He got so fascinated by the game, that he made some changes to it and went on to publicize it as his own. Later on, he sold the copyrights of his version to Parker Brothers, the famous American toy and game manufacturer. In 1935, Parker Brothers started selling the game in the US market by the name as we know it today – Monopoly. It was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
From 1960 onwards, Parker Brothers started selling the game outside of the United States and it reached United Kingdom. The British came up with a UK version of the game and the Dutch created their own version, demonstrating to the world just how adaptable the game was.
An economics professor Ralph Anspach from San Francisco State University developed an ‘Anti-Monopoly’ game in 1973 similar to the first version of The Landlord’s game. The Parker Brothers sued him in 1974. After a long legal battle, Parker Brothers and Mr Anspach entered a deal to publish the Anti-Monopoly game under the banner of Parker Brothers. It was Mr Anspach who brought the real inventor of the game – Ms Elizabeth Magie to the spotlight, exposing Charles Darrow’s deception.
1980 – present
In 1991, Parker Brothers was taken over by its parent company Hasbro and so was Monopoly. Since then, many monopoly versions have been identified by Hasbro. In the year 1987 Funskool got licensed by Hasbro to make Monopoly board games in India. It was only in 2008 that Funskool came up with the Indian version of Monopoly.
Over the years the game has become a part of popular culture all across the world. It has been licensed locally in over 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.
Learning about the game’s true history can prove to be a little heartbreaking. Mary Pilon, author of the book Monopolist writes –
“Games aren’t just relics of their makers — their history is also told through their players”
And so in many ways every time someone plays Monopoly, they live the story that Ms Elizabeth Magie wanted to tell the world i.e. the dangers of a Monopoly economy. And the best part is that the game has much more to offer than that.
Brian Valentine, one of the runners-up of The Monopoly World Championship 2015 says playing this game lets you know the people you’re playing with on many deeper levels. It tells you how they handle success and adversity among other things. Overall in a span of 60-90 minutes, you know a person a lot better than you knew them before!
Image credits: Wikipedia
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