It’s the game that isolates friends, makes enemies of brothers and sisters and tears families apart and yet we have loved it for over a century.
Yes, we’re talking about the game to end all games, Monopoly. And If you’ve never heard of it, then proceed straight to jail (and do not pass go).
It is originally believed a man called Charles Darrow created the game to remind his family during the depression of better days. The game then became popular locally in Philadelphia and he even sold a few copies until selling his idea to the Parker Bros, a struggling business at the time. According to Mary Pilon author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favourite Board Game the partnership was a huge success and brought both Darrow and the Parker brothers out of financial ruin. However, as Pilon points out in her book, the three completely ignored the original creator of the game: Elizabeth Magie.
However she titled her game as “The Landlord’s Game.”
"Her game, ironically enough, was to teach people about the evils of monopoly for 30 years before Parker Bros stepped into the picture," Pile explained to the ABC.
Magie, a strong feminist, was inspired by the political economist Henry George, the man who created the single tax theory.
"The single tax theory is that you should tax land and only land," Ms Pilon said.
"Henry [George], like a lot of other people, were very concerned with the amount of wealth that was being created in America at the time and was concentrated among just a few hands.”
Magie meant for the game to be an educational tool, one that played by both monopolist rules and anti-monopolist rules.
“Very quickly, it's the monopolist rule set that takes on as a full game," Ms Pilon said.
From there different personalised versions of the game sprung up in New York, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. Where Darrow picked it up, localised and sold it the Parker Bros.
Though Magie’s original version of the game isn’t the same as our modern day monopoly, there are distinct similarities.
"She had 'go to jail' and a lot of the language we associate with Monopoly," Pilon explained.
"There were railroads – that was a big concern at the time. One of the funnier things is that her original patent has a public park space because cars obviously weren't as big of a concern in 1904 as they were later on, and that becomes free parking.”
According to Pilon, the game Monopoly was never tipped to be successful, it was the story marketed that became the selling point.
"The Darrow creation story becomes part of the marketing of this game."
What became so exciting about Monopoly, especially during the Great Depression, was its ability to take people away from their own world and pretend to be and have whatever you wanted.
Even today, when Millennials can’t even buy their own house (for the sake of avo toast), it’s nice to know you can still own property…even if it is only a game.
Lead Image: Page one of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing by Charles Darrow for a patent on the board game Monopoly, filed and granted in 1935