The Georgist origins of the world’s most popular board game, Monopoly, was recently highlighted in an essay published in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Written by Birthplace Director Alexandra W. Lough, the essay describes the evolution of The Landlord’s Game, created by a devout follower of Henry George named Lizzie Magie (1866-1948), into the Atlantic City-based board game that entertained families around the world for decades.
Drawing from the work of Mary Pilon and Ralph Anspach, Lough shows how an unemployed salesman named Charles Darrow (1889-1967) became recognized as the “sole inventor” of Monopoly despite Georgists’ long association with the game. As Lough writes in the essay,
Magie introduced The Landlord’s Game to family and friends, including the residents of Arden, Delaware—a utopian community formed in 1900 to demonstrate the virtues of Henry George’s land and tax theories. The Arden residents who played The Landlord’s Game included author Upton Sinclair and economics professor Scott Nearing. Nearing taught the game—which he called “monopoly” or “the monopoly game”—to his students at the Wharton School and the University of Toledo. As Magie’s game spread to different locations, players added to the original board and changed the names of the properties to forge more personal connections to the game.
The entry can be read in its entirety here.
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There is still much to be told about the Monopoly story, including the history of the folk landlord’s & folk monopoly games, to fill in the blanks and inconsistencies that still exist today. For example, a missing chapter has recently unfolded regarding The 1920 Philadelphia Folk MONOPOLY Game that can be found at: https://thephiladelphiafolkmonopolygame.com
This 1920 game is the only known folk monopoly game with the word “MONOPOLY” front and center on the game board and existed 13 years before Charles Darrow became acquainted with the game and 15 years before Parker Brothers applied for and received a trademark.