Happy Birthday, Monopoly…Or Maybe Not!

Monopoly has a special place in our hearts. It is a game we all grew up playing. It is a staple for sleepovers, and someone cheating on Monopoly or Ludo usually makes the good stories.

An interesting lesser-known story is that of its invention. Today, March 7, 1933, is famously known as the day Monopoly was invented, in Philadelphia, by a man who went by the name of Charles Darrow. However, its true history goes down a slightly different road!

The Tale of Monopoly’s Predecessor

Lizzie Maggie, an actress from Maryland, developed a basic prototype for Monopoly, as an anti-land ownership teaching tool. It was called “The Landlord’s Game.”

The original game had Chance cards with quotes from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, “The earth belongs in usufruct to the living,” and gave players the opportunity to vote on whether or not they wanted to cooperate for everyone’s benefit.

The Landlord’s Game

The ideas of the economist Henry George played a vital role in its development.

As the game was unbranded and free, everyone began to play it. Business schools like Wharton also adopted is as a staple to make the learning experience more fun for students. One of the professors there even used it to explain “the anti-social nature of monopolies.”

Magie’s game was passed along till it reached the alleged, or the official inventor, Darrow, who in1932, copied the rules, board layout, property names and even staked a claim as the inventor. The firm, Parker Brothers, helped him secure the patent, bought the brand, and went on to make millions on the game.

The Anti-Monopoly Saga

Fast-forward to nearly four decades down the road.

Ralph Anspach, game inventor and a retired economics professor came up with the idea of Anti-Monopoly in 1971. It sold more than 200,000 thousand copies upon release.

Now, you may be wondering, why someone would do that. Well, his eight-year-old son beat him at Monopoly, thus he became inspired to beat the game!

Anti-Monopoly starts where Monopoly ends. It is a board full of Monopolies, and players work to break them up.

Parker Brother’s was definitely not happy. Following the launch, the firm threatened legal action. Anspach however, had his own plans in place. He launched a lawsuit, claiming that Parker Brother’s were capitalizing on an invalid trademark.

The Trial

In 1976, the case went on trial. Parker Brother’s admitted that Darrow had not invented the game.

The judge was also presented full history of Monopoly. Regardless, Anspach’s complaint was dismissed, and it was ruled that all unsold copies of the game are to be destroyed.

Another problem

The game is literally never-ending. Remind me of the last time someone asked you, “Hey, how about a quick round of Monopoly?” Never, eh? :)

A media student who has a thing for photography, architecture, and cultural heritage, and loves to write!