The Real History Of Monopoly Is A Lot More Controversial Than You'd Expect


Playing Monopoly with your family and friends was a pretty common thing when you were a kid. A lot of us still try to play it when we hang out in groups, but we all know the game usually ends up with someone frustrated.

However, it turns out, the game we all know and love has a controversial past that they don't want you to know about.

The story that the Parker Brothers have been shipping along with their board game is always the same: Charles Darrow invented the game while he was unemployed during the Depression. By inventing the game, he ended up becoming a millionaire and saved his own life. But this isn't true.

Many years later, it was discovered that Parker Brothers have been lying about the origin of their most popular game. They were trying to disguise the fact that the game's history actually predates Monopoly by three decades.

The real history of Monopoly

The actual inventor of the game is a woman named Elizabeth Magie. She was basically forgotten until 1973, when economics professor, Ralph Anspach, uncovered Magie's patents for the original game she created back in 1903.

His discovery unearthed a surprising history about one of the county's favorite games...

Anspach was in a legal battle with the Parker Brothers over his Anti-Monopoly game, when he uncovered the patents that were proof that Darrow didn't come up with the idea himself. He realized that Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie had been responsible for the entire concept.

Magie began working on "The Landlord Game" in the early 1900s. She held fairly progressive views for the time and she wanted a game that reflected that. She began to create the board game, saying that "It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences."

She also said that “It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.”

The board looked a little bit different than the way a Monopoly board looks now, but a lot of the same elements are there. There were still railroads and still had a "Go To Jail" space on the board. There were properties for rent all along the edges, that you would loop around over and over.

It was two years after she finally patented the concept of "The Landlord Game" that she first made the physical board game. It quickly became popular with intellectuals, and over the next three decades its popularity grew.

That was when it was discovered by Charles Darrow, who was the one who brought it to Parker Brothers. Darrow managed to secure the royalties to the game, while Lizzie Magie only received a one-time payment of $500.  

She was at first excited by the prospect of working with Parker Brothers. She is quoted as saying "some day, I hope you will publish other games of mine, but I don’t think any one of them will be as much trouble to you or as important to me as this one, and I’m sure I wouldn’t make so much fuss over them.”

But she quickly realized that they had other plans for her game. Parker Brothers had changed the design, the name, and the story. By 1936, she was furious enough to speak to the media. She compared her old version version of The Landlord Game to the new Monopoly game, and showed that Parker Brothers had been trying to erase her involvement in the creative process.

Lizzie Magie passed away in 1948, without ever getting any closure on the issue. Sure, she had been paid for the rights, but the history that Darrow was claiming was completely false. To this day Parker Brothers still hasn't really done much to acknowledge the original inventor, even though there have even been books written about the subject.

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game was writen by Mary Pilon to expose the company for what they had done, but there are still many people who don't realize that Magie was actually responsible for a lot of people's favorite games.

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