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The History of Monopoly

Updated: Aug 20, 2021



Monopoly is a board game originally released by Parker Brothers, which was later acquired by Hasbro, which currently publishes the Monopoly. Monopoly has become a part of international popular culture, having been licensed locally in more than 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.

Monopoly is derived from "The Landlord's Game" created by Lizzie Magie in the United States in 1903 as a way to demonstrate that an economy which rewards wealth creation is better than one where monopolists work under few constraints, and to promote the economic theories of Henry George - in particular his ideas about taxation. She took out a patent in 1904. Her game, The Landlord's Game, was self-published, beginning in 1906. It is important to note that The Landlord's Game had two sets of rules originally, one with taxation and another one mainly based on current rules. When Monopoly was first published by Parker Brothers in 1935, it did not include the less capitalistic taxation rule, which resulted in a more competitive game. The game is named after the economic concept of monopoly - the domination of a market by a single entity. Here is a clip with the history behind the game:



Several variant board games, based on her concept, were developed from 1906 through the 1930s; they involved both the process of buying land for its development and the sale of any undeveloped property. Cardboard houses were added and rents increased as they were added to a property. Magie patented the game again in 1923.


According to an advertisement placed in The Christian Science Monitor, Charles Todd of Philadelphia recalled the day in 1932 when his childhood friend, Esther Jones, and her husband Charles Darrow came to their house for dinner. After the meal, the Todds introduced Darrow to The Landlord's Game, which they then played several times. The game was entirely new to Darrow, and he asked the Todds for a written set of the rules. After that night, Darrow went on to utilize this and distribute the game himself as Monopoly. Here is a clip with more backround on the history of the game:



Parker Brothers bought the game's copyrights from Darrow. When the company learned Darrow was not the sole inventor of the game, it bought the rights to Magie's patent for $500.

Parker Brothers began marketing the game on November 5, 1935. Cartoonist F. O. Alexander contributed the design. U. S. patent number US 2026082 A was issued to Charles Darrow on December 31, 1935, for the game board design and was assigned to Parker Brothers Inc. The original version of the game in this format was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey. This clip features Darrow's original Monopoly board:



In 1936, Parker Brothers began licensing the game for sale outside the United States. In 1941, the British Secret Intelligence Service had John Waddington Ltd., the licensed manufacturer of the game in the United Kingdom, create a special edition for World War II prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Hidden inside these games were maps, compasses, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by fake charity organizations created by the British Secret Service.


In 1991, Hasbro acquired Parker Bros. and thus Monopoly. Before the Hasbro acquisition, Parker Bros. acted as a publisher only issuing two versions at a time, a regular and deluxe. Hasbro moved to create and license many other versions of Monopoly and sought public input in varying the game. A new wave of licensed products began in 1994, when Hasbro granted a license to USAopoly to begin publishing a San Diego Edition of Monopoly, which has since been followed by more than a hundred more licensees including Winning Moves Games (since 1995) and Winning Solutions, Inc. (since 2000) in the United States.


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