The History of Monopoly

photo credit Mike Fleming

photo credit Mike Fleming

The Parker Brothers unveiled their board game, Monopoly, in 1935. Without a doubt it became a sensation almost overnight. There was no telling about the need for such a game so no one could have possibly foreseen that a game about buying, selling, banking, real estate and business could become so popular… yet it did. The game soon spread to other continents and it became a world-wide success. It is estimated that at least 750 people have played Monopoly, all over the globe since it was first released. This number has also been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records and Games Magazine has inducted it in it’s Hall of Fame since it first created it in 1984.

History

The roots of Monopoly predate way before 1935. In fact, we could say that the first real precursor to Monopoly was created in 1904 and it was called The Landlord’s Game. Created by a woman of the Quaker conviction, Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips introduced a board game which sought to educate people about the single tax theory of political economist Henry George.

After The Landlord’s Game came out, many other variations on the original game were created. Elizabeth Phillips was in fact forced to patent a newer version of her game in 1924, of fear that her invention would be reproduced without authorization. Ten years later, the Parker Brothers came out with their own version of the game called Monopoly. The design of the game has been altered and improved continually as the game grew in popularity. But despite the many changes that the original game suffered, the basics of the game have remained unchanged – a testament to the game’s genius.

In 1970 the history of Monopoly took downturn when a man by the name Charles Darrow filed suit against the Parker Brothers, claiming that he was the sole creator of the popular board game. Years of litigation followed and the name of Monopoly was tarnished by this fight. Many people who were associated with the Parker Brothers defected to Darrow’s side and Darrow’s rights as an author soon entered popular folklore.

Since then, historians and board game enthusiasts have studies the evolution of the world’s most played board game.

Monopoly and the Third Reich

It’s a little known fact but Monopoly was played even by prisoners of war held by the Nazis. The British Secret Service created a special version of the game in 1941 and distributed it with the help of the International Red Cross to those who were captured by the Nazis. This version included real banknotes, city maps, working compasses and other tools to help people escape.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

It is said that the mascot of Monopoly, the old dapper man who goes by the name of Rich Uncle Pennybags was patterned after financing giant and philanthropist J.P. Morgan.

Each place a different Monopoly

The Parker Brothers adapted their game to different cities and cultures. Thus, the London-based Monopoly will differ from the Atlantic City version of the game by having slightly different rules, street names and avenues. Some companies have even commissioned a version of Monopoly for promotional purposes, for example McDonald’s. There’s a version for kids called Monopoly Junior. However the most extravagant has to be the Monopoly version which is gilded, gold or silver plated sold for prices ranging up to $100,000.

Monopoly-themed video games and franchise adaptations have also been released with titles such as Monopoly Tycoon, Monopoly Casino and even Monopoly Star Wars. The original board game has also had several addons sold along it. In the 1990s, you could even watch a TV-version of the game on ABC (it lasted for only twelve consecutive Saturday nights however). Hollywood director Ridley Scott has also shown interest in creating a film based on the game.

The various versions and knock-offs of the game are testament to the game’s universal appeal. Closing on to almost 100 years since it’s inception, the game is as fresh as ever as it is played by both children and adults alike.