Chances are you have heard of Charles Darrow. If you don’t know the name, then it’s likely you know his invention; the board game, Monopoly. But what if what everyone knows about the one of the most well known board games in the world is completely wrong?
Legend has it that at the height of the Great Depression, a down-on-his luck man developed a board game that lifted him from poverty to extreme wealth at one of the worst times in American history.
Eighty years later, people still play the game with zeal. But, here’s the problem. What everyone thinks they know about Monopoly is completely wrong.
Monopoly wasn’t actually invented by Charles Darrow. Instead a turn-of-the-century feminist activist Elizabeth Magie, who was looking for a way to educate people on economic principles, created it.
Elizabeth’s dad was a local newspaper publisher and abolitionist. He raised Elizabeth by exposing her to progressive ideas about economics and taxes. Her father believed that monopolies were the root of all economic problems in the United States.
Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, board games were becoming popular. The home was quickly becoming the center of leisure activity, as work shifted from farms to factories and the workdays got shorter.
Elizabeth started working on her own board game that would illustrate the principles that her father had taught her. In 1897, the Monopolist game was introduced, but later became known as The Landlord’s Game.
Though it was not the current version of the game we know today, the original included things like Public Parking, Jail, and chance cards. In a 1902 interview, Elizabeth Magie was quoted as saying; she should have called it the game of life, since it contained all the success and failures of real life.
The game was embraced on college campuses and spread from there. Unfortunately for Elizabeth Magie, her patent expired in 1924 and the market was flooded with local versions of the Landlord game.
Then, sometime around 1932, enter Charles Darrow, who was looking for a way out of the financial hardships of the Great Depression. Darrow was invited to a friend’s house, who was playing a version of The Landlord Game. Darrow asked if he could have a copy of the rules of the game written down and his host complied.
Charles Darrow then basically stole the game, renamed it and began marketing it to the world. But it wasn’t until Darrow got the game on the shelves at FAO Schwartz toy store in New York in 1934 that the game took off. Game maker Milton Bradley turned down an offer to buy the game, but eventually a struggling company named Parker Brothers bought the rights for $7,000 (about $125,000 today) and all future rights.
Within a year, 2 million games had been sold and Monopoly became America’s game.
Elizabeth Magie died in 1948, never having gotten recognition for the creation of the game. Parker Brothers continues to this day, to own the rights to Monopoly.
Today, people still recite the story of Charles Darrow as fact. So, just consider for a second, what if everything you know about real estate isn’t true either?
As a professional, I guarantee I’ll give you real answers.
Oh, and to this day, every classic version of Monopoly contains proof of the theft.
When Charles Darrow stole the idea for Monopoly from his host all those years ago, in addition to copying the rules, he also copied the property names. Except Charles Darrow, like his host, misspelled the name of one property and that spelling error lives on today in every classic Monopoly game.
Marvin Gardens is misspelled. It’s supposed to be named Marven Gardens.
So no matter how you spend your New Year, I’ll give you the right information.
Happy New Year!