Who invented Monopoly?

Elizabeth Magie invented THE LANDLORD'S GAME-the game that eventually became Monopoly-in 1904. Ms. Magie, a devotee of Henry George's principles of economics, devised a game to teach the benefits of the Single Tax concept and sought to point out the folly of a system of property ownership in which all players attempt to become "monarch of the world." The game was even adapted for teaching economics at various schools, including Columbia University where the gameboard took on New York City street names. The game became a popular folk game at college campuses around the country, and the name "MONOPOLY" was ascribed to it sometime after 1910. However, through the passage of time, the game lost its original intent-the part of the game teaching the Single Tax system-and became the race for financial dominance that we know today.

Charles Darrow, thought by many to be the inventor of MONOPOLY, actually learned about the game from a friend. He made his own games, copying the board from the Atlantic City version, and copyrighted it in 1933. His only claim to fame is that he offered the game-as his own-to Parker Brothers. After Parker originally rejected the game, Darrow printed and sold MONOPOLY on his own and had some success with it; George Parker then reconsidered his decision, bought the rights from Darrow, and began manufacturing it in 1935.

Other well known games, including Parker's FINANCE and FINANCE AND FORTUNE, Milton Bradly's EASY MONEY, and Transogram's BIG BUSINESS, were all derived from THE LANDLORD'S GAME of Elizabeth Magie Phillips (her married name by the time these games were produced). In fact, some of these games share the same patent number given to Ms. Phillips for the revised 1924 version of her game. Parker Brothers touted Ms. Phillips as "the famous inventor" of other Parker games, but the company credited Ms. Phillips as the inventor of MONOPOLY only up until her patent expired.

For more detailed information:

The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle by Ralph Anspach; Palo Alto, CA: American Printing, 1998. Traces the history of MONOPOLY to its roots as a folk game and discusses the legal battles Anspach faced with Parker Bros. over his invention of ANTI-MONOPOLY.

Americanopoly: America as Seen Through Its Games by Bruce Whitehill, La-Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland: Musée Suisse du Jeu (Swiss Museum of Games), 2004. A history of America as viewed by the games it produced. Chronological entries and timeline, along with thematic chapters on such areas as Social Issues, Ethnic Games, Sports, Television, Politics and so on.

"Who Invented Monopoly?" by Willard Allphin, Games & Puzzles (London), March 1975; a detailed account of the history of MONOPOLY, commonly attributed to Charles Darrow, comparing the game with THE LANDLORD'S GAME, patented in 1904 by Elizabeth Magie Phillips; the article includes a reply (and refutation) from the Vice President of Marketing at Parker Brothers.