History of the Game Monopoly

From LoveToKnow BoardGames

The history of the game Monopoly is a combination of stories – a home-made game becomes a worldwide seller, local inventor takes on a national game company and a depression era unemployed man becomes a millionaire.

A Lesson in Economics

The inventing of the game is usually attributed to Charles B. Darrow who invented the Monopoly game in 1933; however, the game really started with an educational game called "The Landlord's Game" which was patented by Lizzie Magie in 1904.

Lizzie developed the game to demonstrate the rental and tenant concepts of economist Henry George. The game was published in 1910 and was largely sold in the homes of Quakers, Georgists (followers of Henry George) and college students. Lizzie enhanced the game in 1924, for which she received a second patent.

History of the Game Monopoly: Charles Darrow

Charles B. Darrow was a salesman of heating and engineering equipment but lost his job during the Great Depression. He was unable to find a job, so he started inventing things such as toys and games. He and his wife had good memories of their favorite holiday place, Atlantic City. When he developed Monopoly in 1933, Darrow decided to name the streets after Atlantic City streets and the railroads after the three railroads that carried wealthy travelers to Atlantic City. He made the game board out of a piece of oilcloth, hand painting the properties around the "board," made the hotels and houses from cardboard, typed the title cards for the properties and used colored buttons for the tokens. A pair of dice and a lot of play money rounded out the game supplies.

The Darrows played the game with their friends on the kitchen table after which their friends requested their own game sets. Through word-of-mouth, orders for the game started to role in. Darrow produced two games a day and sold them for $4 each. He sold about 100 games which encouraged him to produce more and take them to Philadelphia, the nearest large city.

To keep up with the growing demand, a friend of Darrow started to print the game boards and title cards. Darrow still painted the colors onto the boards by hand. This printing plus painting method increased his production from two to six game sets a day.

Parker Brother Says "No"

When he could no longer meet the sales demand, he took the game to Parker Brothers which rejected the game based on 52 design errors which they had identified. After this turndown, Darrow registered the game under patent number 2,026,082 and started to present the game to retailers in Philadelphia and F.A.O Schwarz in New York - both of which placed large orders. To meet the growing demand, Darrow ordered 5,000 sets from his printer friend.

A family member of a Parker Brothers executive purchased the game at F.A.O. Schwarz and convinced Parker Brothers to reconsider purchasing the game. Based on the obvious commercial success that Darrow was receiving with his "handmade" version of the game, Parker Brothers reversed their decision and offered to purchase the game from Darrow.

By 1935, Monopoly had become the best selling game in America. Parker Brothers bought up the outstanding patent for The Landlord's Game for $500 and for $10,000 purchased the patent for another similar game, Finance, which had been marketed in Indianapolis.

A Worldwide Success

There are over 480 million Monopoly players worldwide. Monopoly tournaments are held at local, national and international levels. The World Championship started in 1973 and is played annually in a high visibility city each year.

Monopoly's Unusual Success

There are many theories as to why Monopoly has become the successful board game that it is. The former president of Parker Brothers attributes the game's success as "clobbering your best friend without doing any damage." Other theories center around the player's ability to build strategies and fantasize about purchasing real estate, watching families and friends go to prison, seeing a wife take all of her husband's assets or watching a brother, sister or friend acquire wealth or slip into bankruptcy.

Making Atlantic City Streets Famous

The street names used for the Monopoly properties are based on actual street names in Atlantic City. In the early 1970s, the Atlantic City Commissioner of Public Works proposed to change the names of Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues to Fairmont and Melrose Avenues. The Commissioner decided not to make the name change after vocal appeals from townspeople, Monopoly players worldwide and a written plea from the Parker Brothers President at the time.

Played in Unusual Locations

The history of the game Monopoly centers around many kitchen tables and living room coffee tables; however, history has also been made at many more "unusual" locations such as:

  • Underwater – In 1983, 350 divers from the Buffalo Dive Club played underwater for 45 consecutive days.
  • In a tree – A record of 240 hours was established for playing Monopoly in a tree house.
  • In an elevator – A record of battling the forces of gravity with a game by playing for 10 days in a moving elevator.

Specially-Designed Games

Several major retailers have capitalized on the wide-spread success by offering special holiday editions. Neiman Marcus offered a $600 chocolate Monopoly game in its 1978 holiday catalog. Franklin Mint, the maker of collectible coins and memorabilia, produced and sold a $550 version of the game with included gold and silver pieces.

Darrow Retires

The royalties from the sales of Monopoly made Darrow a millionaire. He retired at 46 and lived the rest of his life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, enjoying world travel and collecting exotic orchids.

Many families may not be aware of the interesting history of the game Monopoly, but the game continues to be enjoyed from one generation to the next..



Thanks for the comment Matt!-Susie

-- Contributed by: Susie McGee

Monopoly is the coolest board game ever, especially the here and now version

-- Contributed by: Matt

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