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The History of Monopoly

Conventional wisdom has it that Monopoly was invented in the 1930s by Charles Darrow, who later sold his game to Parker Brothers for a massive profit. However, the real story actually starts decades earlier, with a woman named Lizzie Magie. In 1904, she received a patent for what she called the Landlord’s Game. It featured a square board with nine rectangular spaces on each side. These were set between corners labeled “Go to Jail” and “Public Park.” Her goal in creating the game was to teach people about the evils of accruing huge amounts of wealth at the expense of other people. She was passionately against the railroad, steel, and oil monopolists of her time. Her game was sold by a New York-based publisher for a little while, but homemade versions also circulated among many groups, including college students, Quakers, writers, and radicals. Darrow copied the Quaker iteration. When Magie sold her patent to Parker Brothers for $500, she was thrilled that her tool for teaching about economic inequality would have a larger reach. Sadly, the game lost its connection to Magie as its creator – and its connection to her original intention of teaching people about economic inequality through play. Magie never truly profited from her invention, and today, Monopoly is associated with the glorification of accumulating wealth – the exact opposite of what its true creator intended.

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