Was Monopoly Invented by Charles Darrow?
Myth

Charles Darrow invented Monopoly.

Who Invented Monopoly?

Charles Darrow patented¬†Monopoly in 1935, but he didn’t invent the game. It is¬†a variation of¬†“the Landlord’s Game” patented by Lizzie Magie in 1904.[1][3][4]

  • Lizzie Magie is the inventor of the rule-set and concept of the game that became Monopoly (this is proved by patents and other records).
  • Charles Darrow is responsible for some key¬†aspects of the modern version of Monopoly. Darrow¬†self-marketed the game, patented it, and then sold it to¬†Parker Brothers.
  • Parker Brothers have stood behind Monopoly¬†since the mid-1930’s making it the game what¬†it is today.

Ultimately, Lizzie Magie should be credited with creating the game, Darrow with refining it, and Parker Brothers with promoting it for the past 80 years.

A video clip from the BBC showing Lizzie Magie as the inventor of Monopoly.

Who Was Lizzie Magie?

Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Phillips n√©e Magie was a board game designer, political thinker, and more. She created a number of games, including “the Landlord’s Game”. The Landlord’s Game was specifically designed to illustrate the teachings of Georgism (the economic philosophy of¬†progressive era economist Henry George). According to Georgism economic value derived from land, including natural resources and natural opportunities, should belong equally to all residents of a community, but that people own the value that they create themselves.[1][2]

In other words, Magie was a progressive board game designer who meant the game as a criticism of land ownership, and a promotion of individual value. This is somewhat ironic as she only made $500 selling the rights to her game, and never got any royalties or credit while Darrow and Parker Brothers got much better deals.

A video from the Smithsonian showing the history of Monopoly from Magie to Darrow.

Who Was Charles Darrow?

Charles Darrow was looking for work after losing his job in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He saw neighbors and acquaintances playing a homemade board game where the object was to buy and sell property. Perhaps because resonated with his frustration associated with the crash, or perhaps just looking for opportunity, he created his own version of the game with his family, called it Monopoly, and started trying to sell it.

Ultimately, after a failed attempt to sell the game, some revisions, a patent, and self-marketing he sold the game to Parker Brothers as the games inventor.

monopoly-darrow-or-magie

FACT:¬†Darrow refined the look of Monopoly transforming it into the iconic game we know¬†today. He may have borrowed Magie’s rules and concept, and had a designer create the new look, but in the end, there would be no monopoly without Darrow.

The Parker Brothers Monopoly

After acquiring the rights to Monopoly Parker Brothers went¬†on to publish Magie’s “the Landlord’s Game” alongside Marrow’s Monopoly.¬†Ultimately, Monopoly made good on its name, becoming the only version most people remembered until recently.

GET OUT OF JAIL FREE: In 1941, the British Secret Intelligence Service had a licensed UK game manufacturer create a special edition of Monopoly for WW II prisoners 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 groups created by British secret service.[5] In other words, between WWII and now we should probably cut Charles Darrow and Parker Brothers some slack for grossly underpaying Lizzie Magie.



Notes

Think the story of Darrow and Magie’s Monopoly is strange? Wait until you see the fuss over Anti-Monopoly (which you know, is what the Landlord’s Game was in the first-place)… some people’s kids.


Conclusion

Ultimately Darrow, Magie, and Parker Brothers all deserve credit for the popularity of the game. This on some level seems more a case of multiple discovery than deceit. Parker Brothers may have only offered Magie $500 for the rights, but at the same time, that is just the sort of thing Magie was trying to get out of her now infamous game.

It’s important to not forget Magie’s role in inventing the game, but equally as important not to dismiss Darrow’s contributions. There would be no Monopoly without Darrow and Parker Brothers.


References

  1. The Landlord’s Game“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Feb 4, 2016.
  2. Georgism“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Feb 4, 2016.
  3. Charles Darrow“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Feb 4, 2016.
  4. Elizabeth Magie“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Feb 4, 2016.
  5. Get Out of Jail Free: Monopoly’s Hidden Maps“. Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved Feb 4, 2016.


Vote Fact or Myth: "Monopoly Was Invented By Charles Darrow"

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Drake Nerdat (Grampa Cool) on

ITS A MYTH GUYZ I KNOW BCS I WAS THERE WHEN MONOPOLY WAS INVENTED I WAS 4 YEARS OLD THEN NOW IM 126 ALTOUGH I STILL KEEP THE YOUNG INSIDE ME

Thomas DeMichele on

Always good to have some insight from our elders.

asdfjhk on

he did not invent the game, he merely copied it, and promoted it for his own benefit.

Thomas DeMichele on

Some say he should have gone directly to jail, but he instead passed go and collected $200. Monopolies, i’ll tell ya. Almost seems unfair to sit around and profit off of a property like this when one didn’t create it in the first place.

Malcolm Holcombe on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

The myth that Charles Darrow invented Monopoly is evidenced by a formal MONOPOLY game that was created in 1920 and has full provenance. You can see it at the website: https://thephiladelphiafolkmonopolygame.com

And, based upon the facts – it appears that while The Landlord’s Game created by Elizabeth Magie was the basis for the Folk Landlord’s game by Bob Woolery, it appears Monopoly evolved separately with the Wharton School community at the University of PA.

There is no evidence Elizabeth Magie had anything to do with the evolved Monopoly game. Woolery’s version was more likely the beginning inspiration for Monopoly, as evidenced by Magie’s 1904 Patent.

Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting, thanks for the insight.