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Pass GO, Collect $200

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Did you ever pass GO, pay the Income Tax, take a Chance, or buy the Electric Company?

Did you hoard certain denominations of the colored money, bicker over who got to be the car, the top hat, the shoe, or the thimble?

Did you relish becoming a  real estate magnate by building houses and hotels on Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues or were you like me and liked buying the railroads.

image is a red arrow pointing right

If all this sounds familiar, you might be interested to know that 2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the board game Monopoly.

Of course what you may not know is that there were actually two board games patented earlier that bear a striking resemblance to the familiar Monopoly board.  On January 5, 1904, patent number 748,626 was issued to Elizabeth J. Magie that included a Luxury Tax, railroad properties, public parking, and a jail. Then on September 34, 1924, E. M. Phillips (Elizabeth Magie Phillips) was issued patent 1,509,312 for the Landlord Game which looks even more like Monopoly with property names like Easy Street, railroads, utilities, and taxes.

Governor Earl Warren of California and four of his six children siting on the floor playing monopoly
Governor Earl Warren of California and his six children, between 1940 and 1945.

The patent Charles B. Darrow filed in August 1935,  was issued as patent number 2,026,082 on December 31 of that year. Darrow shopped his game around to various game manufacturers, including Parker Brothers, but after all of them rejected his game, he created his own copies and sold them though local department stores. The game was so successful that Parker Brothers decided that it did want the game after all. It was available for the 1935 Christmas buying season according to a November 24th New York Times article about board games.

The company has sold versions in Braille, produced versions in many languages, and even produced special versions around particular locations and sports teams. Since it was invented, over 275 million copies have been sold.* Monopoly shows no sign of slowing with the development of apps for mobile phones.

It was great inspiration for a display in the reading room to illustrate the Library’s collections.  I included books about how to play the game, books about how the game developed business skills, books on its history, and even a play that featured the game – “A Hotel on Marvin Gardens” written by Nagle Jackson. I also used books that covered what players see on the board with titles about the railroads and the railroad industry, banking and money, water and electric utilities, and real estate.

Note: See our new blog post about Lizzie Magie.

* Accessed April 2, 2014

Comments (4)

  1. Thank you! I am doing my senior seminar at Flagler College on Board games. I enjoyed this and Kristi Finefield’s post about the “Mansion of Happiness.”

    I mentioned to her that my great Uncle Arthur M. Dritz was a well known game maker in the 1930s and 1940s. He even did a Snow White game for Disney in 1938.

    I am trying to research whether or not the games were bright primary colors in the early 20th century as opposed to the more muted tones in the 1890s. Technology or Culture or both? I will let you know what I find out. 🙂

    Deb Shaw

  2. Hi Ellen,

    Great post. Wish you had linked to the Monopoly Patented document you and your intern created. It looks like a wonderful resource.

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