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Monopoly History - Home
Welcome to the history of the world´s most famous board game, Monopoly
Welcome to the history of the world´s most famous board game, Monopoly. This site will chronicle all the editions (classic Atlantic City properties) produced by Charles Darrow and Parker Brothers (and even a few made before Darrow) made in the United States (foreign sets may be added in the future, but other sites cover these well).
I have made many new additions to the site. There is a new section on rules that covers 1933 to present. There are now pictures of all the Chance and Community Chest cards from mid 1935 to present (older cards to come). There is a new Links page that will be populated soon (If you want me to include your site email me at he address below). There will soon be a page on the history of the board game Clue. Also, under the "Club" tab, there is a forum where you can post games for sale, put up announcements about local tournaments and contests, ask questions about your Monopoly games, etc. You can even rate other users by giving and taking houses and hotels to increase or decrease their standing. So join the club (it´s free) and let´s start having some fun.
The history Monopoly is a storied one. The game was first mass produced by Charles B. Darrow in 1934 and then sold to Parker Brothers in 1935. The rest is history, right??? WRONG!!!!! Let me explain.
In 1903 a woman named Elizabeth Maggie (pronounced "McGee") came up with an idea for a board game she called The Landlords Game. She was a follower of economist Henry George and the game was designed as a learning tool to teach his single tax theory. The game was played on a board made up of 40 spaces arranged ten per side. The four corner squares were Mother Earth collect $100, Goal, Public Park, and Go To Goal. In the center space on each side of the board was a railroad. The rest of the spaces consisted of properties to be purchased and fines that had to be paid. Starting to sound familiar?
The Landlords Game was granted a U. S. patent in 1904 and saw production in 1906. Although sales were less than stellar the game did gain a type of cult following in the northeast. Most games were hand made and the rules were amended as the players saw fit. These players also added a touch of home to the game by changing the names of the properties to local ones.
The 1904 patent expired in 1921 and Ms Maggie (now Phillips) made changes to the game (probably inspired from the changes players had made over the last 20 years) and was granted a new patent in 1924. The new game had two sets of rules: one for the the Landlords Game and one for Prosperity (rules very similar to Monopoly).
Now the game was growing in popularity and began being called auction monopoly or just monopoly. A few individuals even copyrighted their own sets of rules. In 1932 Dan Layman took his version of auction monopoly and sold it to Electronic Laboratories in Indianapolis as the game Finance (his lawyers told him the name monopoly was in the public domain and could not be protected). This was the first version of auction monopoly to be mass produced. Electronic Laboratories soon licensed the game to Knapp Electric. (For more on The Landlords Game and the early history of the folk game monopoly see www.tt.tf)
Ruth Hoskins learned the game from Dan Layman and took it with her when she moved to Atlantic City. She and her friends played the game and changed a few aspects. A few of the spaces were rearranged (an erroneous memory perhaps) and most notably, the property names were changed to Atlantic City street names. Jesse Raiford was in this group of friends and is credited with doing much of the work on the game. This version was known as monopoly.
Raiford knew a man named Charles Todd and taught him the game of monopoly (at this time this version was still an auction type monopoly. There were no fixed prices for the properties, everything was auctioned to the highest bidder). Charles Todd had grown up with Charles Darrow´s future wife, Esther. The Todd´s invited the Darrow´s to their home for a monopoly night. Darrow was smitten. Darrow asked Todd for written copies of the rules. Todd had his secretary type these up and he gave them to Darrow. Charles Darrow never spoke to Charles Todd again.
Darrow knew a good thing when he saw it. With rules in hand he started making monopoly games by hand. After making several sets he rewrote the rules changing them slightly, had them copyrighted, and Monopoly was born. Darrow added the color stripes and cartoons to the board creating the board we still play on today(see my Darrow Editions page for more information).
As demand increased Darrow couldn´t keep up so in 1934 he hired Patterson and White to print the black part of the boards. This doubled production but still lagged behind demand. Soon he had Patterson and White produce 500 games in entirety (not 5000 as Parker Brothers claims). As these were sold he had another 500 made. These 1000 games are what we know today as the Darrow White Box edition.
Darrow knew he was getting in over his head and contacted both Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley trying to interest them in Monopoly. Both firms turned him down. Rejections in hand Darrow decided to stay the course and ordered 5900 sets from Patterson and White. Retailers demanded a change on these sets though. The large white box took up too much shelf space and they wanted something smaller. Darrow obliged and the 5900 sets were put into a very small black box with a separate board. This is now known as the Darrow Black Box edition.
As sales of Monopoly continued to rise in late 1934 and early 1935 Parker Brothers became interested. They contacted Darrow and a deal was stuck. The only problem was Darrow sold them a game that wasn´t really his to sell. Now the fun begins!
Parker Brothers had their lawyers draw up a patent application claiming Darrow as the sole inventor of Monopoly, but what about the 1924 Landlords game patent that was still in effect? George parker went to visit Mrs. Phillips and purchased her patent for $500 and an agreement to published a few of her games (including The Landlords Game. This was done in 1939 with a completely redesigned board). With this patent in hand Parker Brothers started going after the competition.
There were a few individuals (like Darrow) who were producing monopoly games on a small scale and these were easily bought out. The largest competitor was Knapp Electric and Finance. Parker Brothers was able to buy out Knapp for $10,000 (a huge sum in depression torn 1935). Along with the purchase came a large number of unfilled orders.
Parker Brothers was trying to keep these acquisitions as low key as possible so instead of filling the Finance orders themselves they set up The Finance Game Company to produce a redesigned game and fill outstanding orders.
Parker Brothers wasn't about to put all its eggs in one basket though. They had Darrow file for the patent, but knowing the true history of Monopoly they decided to produce their own version of the game. Fortune was the result of this work. As few as 5,000 of these games were made in 1935 before patent 2,026,082 was granted giving Parker Brothers proprietary rights to Monopoly. The name Fortune was then added to Finance which became Finance and Fortune until Parker Brothers used the name Fortune for another game in 1958 (see my Finance page for more information).
My goal with this site is to help document and date all the Darrow and Parker Brothers editions of Monopoly that use the classic Atlantic City properties. Other sites claim the history of Monopoly can be found anywhere. While many have tried, the true history and chronology of the Darrow and Parker Brothers games is on this site. This has been achieved through countless hours of research and the invaluable help of others. New discoveries are made daily. A few I would like to thank for their help, either directly or indirectly, are: Dan Fernandez, Phil Orbanes, Chris Williamson, David Sadowski, Brian Boles, Paul Edgecomb, Glen Rosenthal, and Cliff Bolling, Without the help of these individuals much of this information would not have been obtained.
Many of the photos on this site are courtesy of Dan Fernandez (www.sundown-farm-and-ranch.com) and are used with his kind permission. Other photos are courtesy Clifford Bolling (also used with permission), various ebay auctions, and, wherever possible, from my own collection.
While I've made every effort to insure the accuracy of this information, I'm sure there are errors and omissions. If you see any corrections or additions that are needed, please email me at the address below.
There are many authorized games that use different properties (produced by Parker Brothers and others) and these are touched on in the notables page. The only versions I have included that don´t have the classic properties are the Here and Now editions.