Category Archives: Monopoly History

The Fortunes of “Fortune”

The short-lived 1935 Parker Brothers game Fortune is a rare and historically important early Monopoly variant, as it was briefly an essential piece in a chess game over control of property trading games, which were quickly becoming a national craze.

Why did Parker introduce a new Monopoly clone, just a few months after they took over Monopoly from Charles Darrow? Fortune was introduced after the Monopoly patent was filed on August 31, 1935. The earliest version of Fortune says, “Patent Pending.”

Shortly after filing this patent (eventually issued as #2026082 on December 31, 1935), Parker was informed by the US Patent Office that this would be considered as an improvement of the second Landlord’s Game patent #1509312, issued to Elizabeth Magie Phillips in 1924. So, to “monopolize” Monopoly, they would need to obtain the rights to her patent.

Negotiations were undertaken with Mrs. Phillips, who had also been contacted by both Milton Bradley (makers of Easy Money) and Knapp Electric (Finance). She eventually sold her patent to Parker Brothers in November 1935, after meeting with George S. Parker, the “King of Games.”

Mrs. Phillips could certainly have demanded a royalty on each Monopoly game sold– a royalty that Parker was already paying to Charles Darrow, who had falsely claimed to be the “inventor.” She did not do so, as this would have violated her Georgist beliefs. She filed her patents in order to receive proper credit for her inventions, not money.

For what is a patent, if not a legalized monopoly? And Henry George was opposed to monopolies.

The sole purpose of Fortune, then, was to put a property trading game on the market that owed nothing to Charles Darrow and his supposed improvements to Monopoly. If Parker had to suddenly cut Darrow out of the picture, they would have a game they could sell to take its place. Comparing the two games, we can see just what it is that Parker thought was Darrow’s intellectual property.

First there is the name. While he did not create the game Monopoly, Darrow was certainly the first to try marketing it on a wide scale. As an alternative, Fortune is an excellent, strong choice.

Second, there was Darrow’s board design and the iconic cartoonlike illustrations he created. Parker Brothers appreciated their importance to Monopoly’s success, and therefore, Fortune had different cartoons of its own.

Third, were the Hotels. Fortune does not have any, using 40 Houses instead. But Hotels were not a Darrow innovation– they were introduced to Monopoly some years earlier by the Thuns in their version. (See our earlier post Thun Monopoly, May 10, 2017.)

As things played out, Parker Brothers bought the second Landlord’s patent, which set other things into motion. Milton Bradley had to negotiate changes to their lookalike Easy Money game so Parker Brothers would grant them a license. (In 1937, perhaps in response to this, Milton Bradley issued the game Carnival, which was based on the earlier, expired first Landlord’s Game patent.)

Knapp Electric sold Finance to Parker Brothers in January 1936. During 1936, Parker Brothers offered a revised version of Finance through a dummy, the Finance Game Corporation, based out of their New York office. While it is not clear why they did it this way, they may have wanted to distance themselves from the Knapp transaction for various reasons.

Knapp’s Finance had been on the market since 1932, more or less at the same time, or even before, Charles Darrow had claimed he invented Monopoly. A connection with Parker Brothers would undermine that story, and therefore, undermine the Monopoly patent.

Fortune has both Chance and Community Chest cards as these were also present in the 1932 version of Finance. Darrow could not credibly claim to have added Community Chest cards to the game. (Chance cards were introduced as early as the 1906 version of The Landlord’s Game.)

In addition, in Spring 1936, Parker placed trade ads, advertising how they were now licensing their two patents to Easy Money (through Milton Bradley) and Finance (through the Finance Game Company). Fortune was discontinued.

Parker eventually sued Rudy Copeland over his Inflation game, charging that it was infringing, but this soon backfired on them. Copeland found many early Monopoly players who would testify on his behalf, and Parker was forced to settle out of court, paying for Copeland’s legal fees and granting him a license to the two patents.

Charles Darrow was forced to accept a lower royalty rate, but in turn, licensed Parker Brothers for international sales, which was a “win-win” in the long run for both parties.

Parker’s main concern in 1935 was establishing as much right to Monopoly as possible, to keep their competitors from flooding the market with knock-offs, which had happened a decade earlier during the Mah Jongg craze.

1936, the peak Monopoly year, was the focus of their activities. They fully expected the Monopoly craze to fade after that, as had happened with so many other games– but we know that history took a different turn. It did fade, but not to the point where Parker ever stopped producing and selling Monopoly. Eventually, sales picked up again.

Soon, Parker began selling Finance under their own name, and added the name Fortune, resulting in Finance and Fortune.  Perhaps eventually realizing they were wasting a good name, they used Fortune again in the 1950s for an unrelated marbles game.

I assembled this now-complete Fortune set from two different auctions, with an overall value of $1450. That might seem like a lot of money (it is), but as they say, try to find another one.

-David Sadowski

Interestingly, Parker put the Fortune board logo on a diagonal, many years before this was done with Monopoly.

Interestingly, Parker put the Fortune board logo on a diagonal, many years before this was done with Monopoly.

This 1935 Fortune board and utensils box have been reunited at last, making this a complete set.

This 1935 Fortune board and utensils box have been reunited at last, making this a complete set.

Darrow Type 2 play money was used. The total amount was $9,000-- the same as the Darrow and early Parker Brothers sets.

Darrow Type 2 play money was used. The total amount was $9,000– the same as the Darrow and early Parker Brothers sets.

Fortune's rules were nearly identical to Monopoly but were somewhat rewritten by the Parker staff, at around the same time that revisions were being made to help clarify the Monopoly rules.

Fortune’s rules were nearly identical to Monopoly but were somewhat rewritten by the Parker staff, at around the same time that revisions were being made to help clarify the Monopoly rules.

Parker Brothers saved money on colored ink, and simplified the printing process for these Title Cards, which use symbols instead of colors to denote the various property groups. Parker also began using symbols on their Monopoly rules sheets in 1936, to identify to their employees which set went with which version.

Parker Brothers saved money on colored ink, and simplified the printing process for these Title Cards, which use symbols instead of colors to denote the various property groups. Parker also began using symbols on their Monopoly rules sheets in 1936, to identify to their employees which set went with which version.

There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards.

There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards.

Standard turned wood tokens were used. These are also found in other contemporary Parker Brothers sets.

Standard turned wood tokens were used. These are also found in other contemporary Parker Brothers sets.

Fortune's utensils box is smaller than a contemporary Parker Brothers Monopoly box, but larger than a Darrow Black Box.

Fortune’s utensils box is smaller than a contemporary Parker Brothers Monopoly box, but larger than a Darrow Black Box.

The Fortune board compared to a Darrow Black Box board.

The Fortune board compared to a Darrow Black Box board.

1933 Charles Darrow Copyright Application

175682834_10102442439430544_3777269209585874119_nA new avenue for research into the early history of Monopoly has appeared. The Library of Congress is making images of the original index cards that go with copyright registrations available online via a new method.

This means it’s now possible to see what’s written on the copyright registration card that Charles Darrow took out in 1933 for Monopoly.  What did he copyright, exactly?

Darrow only put a copyright notice on his game boards, and never on the rules or anywhere else on his sets.  The rules were changed over time, however, and copyrights themselves only offered limited legal protection.

My theory is, he sent the entire game, perhaps a Tiebox set. Any boards that have the 1933 copyright notice on them are from after the fact.  From previous research, I found he copyrighted Monopoly in the same category as you would copyright a book.  Two copies were required along with the notarized registration form and a fee.

Darrow applied for a copyright on Monopoly in October 1933, probably at the urging of his printer, F. Lytton Patterson Jr., who was likely very much used to applying for copyrights on books his firm published. 

All Darrow’s previous games had been hand made, but once he started selling more of them, he turned to his printer friend for help.  At first, they tried printing onto oilcloth, but this was difficult, and soon switched to a conventional board made of paper and cardboard.

The original publication date was listed as July 30, 1933, which could have been a problem later for Parker Brothers with the 1935 Monopoly patent #2026082.  The patent was not actually filed until more than two years since the publication date, which could have been enough to invalidate it, if it had been challenged in court.

Supposedly, Darrow’s original copyright exhibits disappeared from the Library of Congress under mysterious circumstances.  The story goes that Parker Brothers may have sent Darrow himself to remove them, as a way of muddying the waters on the true origins of the game, but I have no way of knowing if this is true.  Parker Brothers copyrighted their own versions of the rules once they took over the game in 1935, and received a new copyright for the board that same year, after prices were added.

Thanks to John Buell, some of the relevant index cards have been located, both for Monopoly, the Stock Exchange Add-On, and Bulls and Bears.

Stock Exchange was purchased by Parker Brothers within a few months of going on the market in 1936, so the copyright was then assigned to them.

Charles Darrow assigned his copyright to Parker Brothers early in 1936.  His 1933 copyright was good for 28 years, and was renewed in 1961, so there was another assignment for that.

In 1937, Parker Brothers hoped that their new Bulls and Bears game would be another success like Monopoly, but it was a dud, in spite of their use of Charles Darrow as a sort of “celebrity endorser.”  His name was put on the game as the supposed inventor, but the copyright index files show the actual game’s creator was Clarence Paul Meier.

Here’s what I found about him online:

“A little about the artist, Clarence Paul Meier was born in Newark, NJ November 1897. He was the youngest of 3 children, served in the army during WWI. He married Virginia Stryker in 1921, they lived in Flushing, NY where he was an accountant. He had a cartoon published in 1928. His comic strip ran in the Long Island Daily Press, Jamaica, NY. He did some interior decorating work but my favorite works of his are the distinctive lithographs depicting lively bar, horse racing and other scenes of the happier era before prohibition and the economic depression of the early 1930’s.”

He died in 1976.

-David Sadowski

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Late 1933 Darrow Large White Box Set

An extremely rare early Monopoly set, found in a Pennsylvania attic, recently sold for $6,256 on eBay. This is a Darrow White Box set, but with a green-backed 23″ board instead of the 20″ board found in the usual version. The box, although not in very good shape, is somewhat different from the later version, and does not have the “rules insert” but instead has the rules glued to the upper part of the box.

The other items (Property Cards, Chance and Community Chest cards, Houses and Hotels) are very similar to those found in the 1934 Darrow White Box. The board has the 1933 Darrow copyright notice in the Jail square. If Charles Darrow‘s version of the White Box with “Rules for 1934” was his first version for that year, that would date this set to late 1933.

In conversation with the late William Darrow (Charles Darrow’s son) in 2005, I asked him to estimate how many such early sets were made. While a small child, he did help his father assemble them. He speculated there were approximately 100 sets made of various types before the White Box, and that 1000 White Boxes were made. In 1935, Darrow had 7500 Black Box versions made, most of which (5900) were sold to Parker Brothers.

The game you see pictured here was purchased by noted collector Daniel Fernandez.

Here is the progression of Charles Darrow’s Monopoly sets:

Darrow Round Board (1 made) – board 33.5″ in diameter
Darrow Oilcloth sets (hand-drawn, various sizes)
Darrow Oilcloth sets (printed, 23″ board)
Darrow White Box (large, with 23″ board)
Darrow White Box with 20″ board
Darrow Black Box with 19″ board

-David Sadowski

PS- I have transcribed this version of the rules, which is a bit different than Darrow’s “Rules for 1934.” You can read them here.

Plastics

A set of 10 composite Monopoly tokens, in use from 1936 to 1945.

A set of 10 composite Monopoly tokens, in use from 1936 to 1945.

Plastics are a commonplace part of everyday life, but were somewhat exotic in the mid-1930s when Monopoly was first commercialized. This post examines just what those early plastic game pieces were, what they are probably made of, and how they could have been made. What collectors call “composite” Monopoly tokens first appeared in sets in 1936, and may have been introduced due to a shortage of the metal tokens which had been used. They reappeared in Monopoly sets during World War II. Parker Brothers used similar game pieces in other games such as Conflict (1940).

While plastic houses and hotels are used in the least expensive Monopoly sets today, when first introduced, they came in the most expensive sets in both the US and UK in the late 1930s.  Parker Brothers literature referred to these as “Ivoroid.”

In 2008, we corresponded with a historian of early plastics, and what follows was written by Julie P. Robinson, and is taken from that conversation.

-David Sadowski

Julie Pelletier Robinson, plastic historian, lives in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. She has written and lectured extensively on the subject of early plastics and was involved in the making of the A&E Modern Marvels documentary, “The History of Plastics.” Julie is the co-author of the book Celluloid – A Collector’s Reference and Value Guide. She currently works repairing celluloid toys at her studio in Upper Jay and may be reached by email at: celluloid@frontiernet.net.

Monopoly Composite Tokens (circa 1936-45)

As far as the shaped animals and game tokens…. we can rule out the common plastics. They are certainly NOT any of the 19th century plastics: rubber, gutta percha, vulcanite, shellac, casein or celluloid. 20th century plastics that can be ruled out are cellulose acetate, polystyrene, cast phenolics, neoprene, urea formaldehyde, acrylic, polyethylene or any type of vinyl or nylon. They just don’t have the look. Plastics technology was taking off during the Great Depression and there were all sorts of experimental compositions out there. These were the ones that succeeded.

The Embossing Company of Albany was big on using compositions. It was founded by John Wesley Hyatt and his brothers Isaiah and Charles in the 1860s…. while attempting to invent celluloid – they had come up with a bunch of molding compounds and compositions that were successful in making dominos, game pieces, etc. Eventually Hasbro bought them out ( I think… something like 1957 maybe).

The game piece looks to me to be a similar type of composition as a material dubbed Elastolin by the German company Hausser— who made toy soldiers, cowboys and indians, trees and a great assortment of animals out of the material. Elastolin was a combination of sawdust, casein plastic (made from milk solids that were treated with formaldyhyde) and kaolin clay……another type of similar composition was called Lineol.

Also– there is a possibility it was a composition based on synthetic elastic – the first was called Duprene and it was invented by a fellow from DuPont in April 1930 – he had such severe depression he committed suicide before he ever saw his invention marketed. Duprene was later manufactured as Neoprene.

I had considered the idea of a connection with European composite figures a couple years ago. These were frequently models of animals.

I bought one of these off eBay, and found it was much heavier than the Monopoly pieces are. So, whatever they did use to make it was certainly much lighter weight than what the Europeans used.

In addition, it is pretty unlikely that the Monopoly pieces were made in Europe. So even if the same process was used, or a similar one, it was something homegrown and likely done in the Northeastern US.

The other vexing thing is the absence of other period items made of a similar material… or, at least, I haven’t found any yet myself.  Neoprene I remember as the kind of thing shoe soles are made from, a kind of synthetic hard rubber. The Monopoly tokens appear to be brittle, and not flexible, and crack and flake easily.

My guess is the Monopoly tokens were formed by hand using a glob of material and a small press.

It was probably some sort of Casein composition since it was brittle. I have some “clay” tokens – they look like gambling chips of sorts – that have embossed golfers on them and they are blue, red and white….and they are made of some sort of composition also and I’ve never been able to figure it out. God only knows what box THOSE things are in.

Also – I doubt very much that the Germans were making any toys during the war years… trade ceases anyway.

There was the Embossing Company – based in Albany, NY.  It began during the 1860s by John Hyatt – as he was trying to invent a suitable substance for ivory – and he messed with all sorts of compositions… he ended up making several that were suitable for dominos, chess pieces and game pieces…. his brother Charles was put in charge of the business and they were incredibly successful right up until the 1950s when they were absorbed by Hasbro… there is a possibility they might have had something to do with the manufacture of your game tokens.

I never did extensive research on the Embossing Company – but it was the first business that John W. Hyatt, the inventor of celluloid, set up on his quest to invent the material – so it was important in that respect while I was doing research on my book for celluloid. Celluloid was mass produced – and some of that was crude!

They would have a two sided mold – much like a sheet mold for candy – it would have indentations for 30 toys in it, they would lay two sheets of celluloid, close the mold and blow hot air between the plastic and it would soften and fill the cavities, when cooled – out would pop 30 toys… many companies paid great attention to detail and others did not… some of the toys were so lacking in detail I don’t even believe they had inspections! At least in Japan!!

They probably molded more than one token at a time – think of a machine similar to a waffle maker… they probably filled several recessed molds with the composition then lowered the lid and molded them by pressure and heat.

Massachusetts had two centers for plastics – one was Leominster, that thrived on the manufacture and fabrication of Viscoloid—Dupont bought them out in the late 1920s. The other area was Springfield where Monsanto bought out the Fiberloid works. During the years that followed the buyouts of Viscoloid and Fiberloid – all sorts of new plastic materials were developed… the country was in Depression during the 30s but it goes down in history as the Progressive Era in Plastics. No telling what company came up with your base composition for the game pieces, but I’ll betcha they were made in a small operation by jobbers who fabricated the stuff that was supplied by one of these firms.

I google searched the US Patent website on game pieces and game tokens and came up with all sorts of interesting patents from the 1920 – 40s. Lots of fascinating stuff but nothing regarding what you’re looking for. There is a great chance the technique was never patented as it was just a temporary solution.

Early Monopoly Houses and Hotels

"Grand Hotels," used in the most expensive US and UK Monopoly sets in the late 1930s.

“Grand Hotels,” used in the most expensive US and UK Monopoly sets in the late 1930s.

The first plastic houses used with deluxe US and UK Monopoly sets in the late 1930s.

The first plastic houses used with deluxe US and UK Monopoly sets in the late 1930s.

This plastic house has deteriorated somewhat.

This plastic house has deteriorated somewhat.

Well Ivoroid was indeed a cellulosic plastic – but trademarked so in England by Daniel Spill during the late 1800s- nobody in the US – to my knowledge – used that trade name for their brand of celluloid… you’ve got Fiberloid, Pyralin, Zylonite, Viscoloid and Celluloid.

They were the major heavy hitters. Here’s a hint…if they are made from molded celluloid they will have a seam someplace… and they would be hollow – not solid.

The houses look to be sliced from a uniform block of shaped cast resin. And it is true that the colors of radio cases changed– due to exposure to UV light…. but it only effects the surface–
underneath all that discoloration is the original color. I sanded the handle of a pie server that was butterscotch colored and it was beautiful ivory white…and one of the old radio guys I talked with told me that the color can be revealed on old cases by sanding with a very high grit paper… but it’s a lot of work. If these game pieces were kept in the box, then perhaps they were spared the exposure to UV light. I would suggest you test one by exposing it to hot water from the tap– and take a whiff of the scent. It will probably smell strongly of carbolic acid and formaldehyde. The only exception is urea formaldehyde– that does not seem to discolor… and sometimes it looks a bit waxy in appearance.

I wonder if there is any place that keeps a record of trade names…. hmmm – perhaps the name Ivoroid was resurrected… much like the name Lucite. Originally Lucite was introduced in the late 20s by DuPont as a trade name for their best quality celluloid plastic…then they retired it until 1936 and reassigned it to Acrylic!

1920s Monopoly

An enhanced picture of the Muhlenberg board, so you can clearly see the property names. It was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) circa 1920. In the original Landlord's Game, when you paid your $75 after landing on the Luxury Tax square, you purchased a card with the name of some non-necessary item. These cards were kept and had value for the counting up at the end of the game. This practice was soon dispensed with, and you simply paid the tax.

An enhanced picture of the Muhlenberg board, so you can clearly see the property names. It was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) circa 1920. In the original Landlord’s Game, when you paid your $75 after landing on the Luxury Tax square, you purchased a card with the name of some non-necessary item. These cards were kept and had value for the counting up at the end of the game. This practice was soon dispensed with, and you simply paid the tax.

I was contacted recently by two people who own remarkable pieces of early game history. One had a board, but no pieces, and the other had pieces, but no board. Although these items are not from the same set, they are from roughly the same time and place in history, namely the Reading, PA area in the early 1920s.

While the owners wish to remain anonymous, here’s what I can tell you:

The wooden game board, approximately 19 or 20″ square, was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) around 1920. Her brother Charles Muhlenberg brought the game to Reading, PA around 1916, and introduced it to the Thun family (see our previous post Thun Monopoly). Charles Muhlenberg married Wilma Thun.

Like many other early such boards, most of the names of the properties are copied from the original Landlord’s Game. Some have Parisian names. As time went on, more and more early players customized their boards with local street names, culminating in the Atlantic City version which became hugely popular in the 1930s.

On the other hand, we do not know who made or owned the box of early game utensils, dating to about the same period. A few conclusions can be made by studying the various pieces. The owner apparently had two early game boards, since there are two sets of Chance cards, plus eight or so extra property cards. The later set of cards is color coded by property groups, an important development. Originally, the property groups in these games were only identified by a letter (A, B, C, etc.).

The first, and presumably earlier board would have had some customized names on it, and the second board, with a more complete set of cards, had additional changes made relative to Landlord’s. And, as the box indicates, this game was called Monopoly— one of the earliest to do so, at least among surviving sets.

The Chance and property cards were typed. Manual typewriters tended not to have a “1” key, and the capital I was used instead. Some were typed in black ink, others in red. Chances are, not all of these cards were made at the same time.

It was not until later in the 1920s that the game got a second set of cards called Community Chest. In the 1932 game Finance, the first commercialized version of Monopoly, you can gain or lose money with the Chance cards, but since Community Chest was a charity, on those, you always had to pay. Undoubtedly, this was not popular with the players, and in Darrow Monopoly, Community Chest and Chance are pretty much the same thing, and even have some of the same cards. Likewise, later in the 1920s, the Thuns made an innovation with the first Hotels (which I believe they called “apartments”), each one representing four (later five) Houses.

Instructions on the typed cards are minimal, as was common practice. Considering how long it would take to make a set using a typewriter, (try it sometime), this is not surprising.  Some cards were made on 3″x5″ index cards, and others were seemingly cut down to size.

Play money was apparently made by using some sort of rubber stamp. It sped up the time it took to make a set, and early game makers continued to make cards using rudimentary printing methods into the early 1930s.

There are no printed rules, and most people probably learned the game as part of an oral tradition.

The rate cards present were made by some photographic process, but one which yielded a reversed image, more like a negative.

The rate card was sufficiently complex to not be easily copied using a typewriter, or even in longhand. Chances are, someone made a “master” copy, and it was reproduced by some early photographic method so that it could be used by many people. Back then, you could have photos printed on postcard paper, which gave it some durability.

What’s missing here, besides the game boards?  Well, since the cards pretty much fill up the box they came in, the three denominations of paper money were most likely supplemented by poker chips for the smaller amounts.  And there is no sign of any wooden houses or paper “improvements.”  (The Landlord’s Game originally had what we would term paper houses, and eventually these changed into the more familiar, and durable wooden ones.  Small pieces of paper were probably not durable.)

We may never know who made these pieces, but since one of the property cards is “Wyomessing,” (sic) and there is a town called Wyomissing adjacent to Reading, PA, there is every possibility that the owners of both this board and these pieces may have actually known each other, as well as Louis and Ferdinand Thun. Reading was without a doubt the area with the most early Monopoly players, such that, when Parker Brothers started selling the game in 1935, a local wag opined that part of the fun was in making your own set.

One additional reason I think this set is from the early 1920s is a reference to “war profits” on a Chance card. This seems to suggest it was made after the end of the First World War in 1918. War profits were not as much of a concern before there was a war.

Finding early boards and pieces such as these is quite unusual, and taken together, these items are an important addition to our understanding of how the game Monopoly developed, a decade or more before it was commercialized and became a mass produced product.

-David Sadowski

PS- To provide some additional contrast, we have included a picture of the Heap board, made circa 1913, which also has some color coding on it.

Property Cards (from two different sets- only the RRs seem to overlap)

A. Coffee Alley – Yellow
A. Nicholas Street – Yellow

B. Temple – White or Light Tan
B. Shillington – White or Light Tan
B. Mohnton – White or Light Tan

C. Plum Street – Light Green
C. Canal Street – Light Green
C. Cotton Street – Light Green

D. Billald Alley – Salmon
D. Gordon Street – Salmon
D. Shiller Street – Salmon

E. Cedar Street – Light Green
E. Mulberry Street – Light Green
E. Seventh Street – Light Green

F. Madison Avenue – Blue
F. Master Street – Blue
F. Spring Garden Street – Blue

F. The Bowery – Salmon*

G. Pennside – Pink
G. Centre Avenue – Pink
G. Wyommessing (sic) – Pink

G. Fifth Avenue – Dark Green*
G. Broadway – Dark Green*
G. Madison Square – Dark Green*

H. Penn Square – Yellow
H. Hill Road – Yellow

H. Grande Boulevard – Light Tan*
H. Wall Street – Light Tan*

M. Con. Gas Co. – Pink
M. Met. Electric Co. – Pink

M. Slambang Trolley – Yellow*
M. Soakum Lighting System – Yellow*

N. Neversink Mtn. RR – Red
N. Mt. Penn RR – Red
N. Royal Rusher RR – Red*
N. Shooting Star RR – Red*

The wooden utensils box identifies this game as Monopoly.

The wooden utensils box identifies this game as Monopoly.

The set includes dice made of bone.

The set includes dice made of bone.

The two rate cards appear to be identical with the hand-written version with the Sherk game (first made in 1916). These are seemingly photo reproductions that are like a negative, printed on photo postcard paper of the type in use between 1904 and the 1920s. The effect is rather like a photostat.

The two rate cards appear to be identical with the hand-written version with the Sherk game (first made in 1916). These are seemingly photo reproductions that are like a negative, printed on photo postcard paper of the type in use between 1904 and the 1920s. The effect is rather like a photostat.

Rents are on the backs of the property cards.

Rents are on the backs of the property cards.

There are enough property cards for a complete game, plus some extras. My impression, from studying the cards, is that this owner had two boards. The first board had some customized property names, but many that were directly copied from the original Landlord's Game boards. The second, and more complete set has more customized street names, probably from the Wyomissing PA area (close to Reading), but still had some of the original names. Furthermore, the complete set has the property groups color coded, an important development in the history of the game. These are much like the cards Charles Darrow included with the earliest commercial versions of Monopoly he sold in 1933-34.

There are enough property cards for a complete game, plus some extras. My impression, from studying the cards, is that this owner had two boards. The first board had some customized property names, but many that were directly copied from the original Landlord’s Game boards. The second, and more complete set has more customized street names, probably from the Wyomissing PA area (close to Reading), but still had some of the original names. Furthermore, the complete set has the property groups color coded, an important development in the history of the game. These are much like the cards Charles Darrow included with the earliest commercial versions of Monopoly he sold in 1933-34.

There is a set of 16 Chance cards.

There is a set of 16 Chance cards.

Play money is found in just three denominations, made by using rubber stamps on card stock.

Play money is found in just three denominations, made by using rubber stamps on card stock.

There are 12 more cards, which appear to be a second set of Chance cards. This is even more evidence that these pieces are from two slightly different games.

There are 12 more cards, which appear to be a second set of Chance cards. This is even more evidence that these pieces are from two slightly different games.

The backs of the property cards have rent information and the rates for owning various amounts of the utilities.

The backs of the property cards have rent information and the rates for owning various amounts of the utilities.

The backs of the rate cards. One was printed on photo paper, which was popular at the time.

The backs of the rate cards. One was printed on photo paper, which was popular at the time.

The railroads. Two have the original names from the Landlord's board, and two have been changed.

The railroads. Two have the original names from the Landlord’s board, and two have been changed.

Property cards.

Property cards.

The backs of some of the property cards.

The backs of some of the property cards.

The Heap Monopoly board (circa 1913), now at the Strong Museum of American Play.

The Heap Monopoly board (circa 1913), now at the Strong Museum of American Play.

The Possible Origins of The Landlord’s Game

Note: I wrote this as an introduction to The Card Game of the Monopolist, which is my attempt to retrofit Elizabeth Magie‘s 1906 version of The Landlord’s Game back to what I consider it’s possible original form as a card game:

The game you have before you is my attempt to answer the question, “What was the origin of The Landlord’s Game?”

One notable feature of Landlord’s is the innovative use of the game board.  Previously, such games generally had a starting and ending point, while in Elizabeth Magie’s game, the action goes around and around.

There were many financial games in the 1890s, and very popular ones to boot, but they were all card games.  That Elizabeth Magie was familiar with such games, there can be no doubt.  They were all the rage.  But how are they connected to The Landlord’s Game?

Over her career as a game inventor, Elizabeth Magie developed other games.  Some of these were card games, including Competition or Department Store, Mock Trial, and an unpublished educational game she patented in the 1920s.

My own research into game history led me to postulate, several years ago, that The Landlord’s Game, and hence its more well-known descendant Monopoly, rather than being board games with cards, ought more properly to be considered card games, where the board makes for easier play.

Collecting groups of cards so they will have greater value is a feature of many card games, whether they be suits or otherwise.  In Landlord’s and Monopoly, the players collect groups of property cards in order to obtain a higher rental payment from the other players.

While there is at present a gap in the historical record to prove the point one way or another, I decided to test my theory, and see just what changes would need to be made in The Landlord’s Game to make it into a card game.

The answer is, surprisingly little.  Consider that the various squares on the game board are like cards.  If you turn them into cards, and in this case, I am calling them Game Play cards, you can eliminate not only the game board, but also the dice and tokens.

Dice were a problematic feature of games in this period, as they were considered instruments of gambling.  If Landlord’s had a pre-history as a card game, dice were not necessary, as the deck of Game Play cards could be shuffled periodically.

For this exercise, I have adapted the rules for the 1906 commercialized version of The Landlord’s Game, making only the required changes, with play money on card stock instead of poker chips, as in actual practice chips can be confusing.

We hope you will enjoy our attempt to show “what might have been.”

-David Sadowski

1939 Landlord’s Game – Retail Rule Set

In November 1935, Parker Brothers made a deal with Elizabeth Magie Phillips to purchase her second patent (#1509312) for The Landlord’s Game. Her earlier patent had expired by then.

This was then used by Parker to provide both legal protection for some features of the game Monopoly, which was fast on its way to being a national hit, and the means to acquire a patent on Monopoly itself (as an improvement of the Landlord’s Game patent).

In return, Parker Brothers paid Mrs. Phillips $500 and agreed to publish The Landlord’s Game. Over the years, some historians and authors of books on game history have singled this out as a completely one-sided deal, and part of a “billion dollar Monopoly swindle.”

However, in point of fact, there seems every reason to think that this is exactly the outcome Mrs. Phillips wanted and desired, and worked to bring about. This is apparent in her later recollections of these events in a journal devoted to the late economist Henry George (1839-1897), who she revered.

She had once worked in the Patent Office, and still had friends there in 1935. While Elizabeth Magie Phillips received four patents in her lifetime (three for games, and one for an improvement to typewriters), she had made no effort, up until this time, to enforce any of her rights. Why?

Because as a Georgist, she was opposed to monopolies, and patents are a form of legalized monopoly. On the other hand, she wanted recognition for her inventions. By taking out patents, she was ensuring she would get credit for her work.

Another factor, I believe, was the publicity stunt she pulled off in 1906, where she announced to the press that she was a “love slave,” and would sell herself off in marriage to the highest bidder. This caused a sensation, and gave her tremendous publicity, however, it may not have all been to her liking, as she ultimately did not sell herself off in marriage to the highest bidder.

Instead, she hoped to parlay her notoriety into a writing career. This did lead, apparently, to her meeting Albert Phillips, a wealthy publisher at the fringes of contemporary decency and the law, owner of the aptly named Climax Publishing Company, who she married in 1910.

Getting back to the 1930s, Mrs. Phillips had made no effort, over the years, to enforce her rights to either of her Landlord’s patents. But when, after a 30-year gestation period, the folk versions of her game began to succeed in the marketplace (first with Finance in 1932, then with Parker’s version of Monopoly, which came to them via Charles Darrow), suddenly there were three different firms vying for the rights to her patent– Knapp Electric, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley.

Of these, the only one she wanted to deal with was Parker, and only if George S. Parker himself, who she called “the King of Games,” would meet with her personally. Parker Brothers had passed on Landlord’s previously, but supposedly George S. Parker had suggested that she patent it. She knew that sales of Monopoly were taking off, but had no need (nor want) for the money, which would have been at odds with her Georgist principles. She bided her time, refusing to deal any of the three firms until George S. Parker himself came, hat in hand.

Mrs. Phillips had made two previous attempts to market Landlord’s, in 1906 and 1932. Very few copies were sold. Parker Brothers had published one of her games (Mock Trial) in 1910. Monopoly was a watered-down version of Georgist ideas, which was developed by the players from the first version of Landlord’s. She wanted to put Parker’s marketing muscle behind a real Georgist game.

The $500 was supposed to cover her expenses in having taken out a patent, but her main reward, getting Parker to publish The Landlord’s Game, did not come to pass until 1939. The sticking point between her and George S. Parker was the rules. Mrs. Phillips was a left-winger, but Parker was a conservative, not in the habit of marketing political games. He was also a stickler for clearly defined rules that eliminated ambiguities.

By 1939, Parker Brothers had already published two more of her games– Bargain Day and King’s Men. In 1936, she felt slighted by all the Parker publicity, falsely touting Charles Darrow as the “inventor” of Monopoly. Parker agreed to put out two more of her games, and for the rest of her life, listed her and Darrow as the co-creators of Monopoly.

By then, Parker Brothers certainly were aware that Darrow was not the true inventor of the game. They renegotiated their deal with him to reduce his royalty rate, in exchange for agreeing to cover any legal expenses he might incur, defending his new patent on Monopoly. Parker also wanted to spread Monopoly fever to other countries outside the United States. Darrow granted them the rights.

Certainly, if Elizabeth Magie Phillips had wanted a royalty on each Monopoly game sold, Parker would have given it to her, and further reduced Charles Darrow’s in turn.

The result of all this was a new version of The Landlord’s Game came out in 1939, with a game board designed to look as little like Monopoly as possible. The game was not a success, and Parker still had copies from their one and only press run on hand during World War II.

George S. Parker and Mrs. Phillips could not agree on the rules, so the 1939 game came with two different sets of rules. The Elizabeth Magie Phillips version has been readily available for years, through Thomas Forsyth’s web site. We present the Parker version herein, in a facsimile version transcribed from photographs.

-David Sadowski

Movie Mart by Cadaco

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Movie Mart was a Monopoly knockoff board game made in 1935 and 1936 by Cadaco.  The game was changed slightly for the second year of production, with improved graphics.  It is a rare game, especially the first version, as there weren’t many such games that actually reached the market in 1935.

I recently bought a 1935 board and rule set for just $30.  Even partial sets only seem to come up for sale every few years.  I bought a 1936 set in 2014.

The game plays a lot like Monopoly, except here, the players are movie producers who make films and have them shown in theaters.  It just goes to show how the “property trading game” concept was flexible enough to permit all sorts of games to reach the market, without (apparently) infringing on Parker Brothers’ intellectual property.

I will have to hunt through my collection for the 1936 set I bought, but I recall that it came in a larger box than the 1935 version, which had a separate board and small utensils box.  Once I locate it, I will post additional pictures.

This game is seldom seen, and a Google search turned up very few pictures.  The 1935 board measures 19.5″ square, about the same as a contemporary Monopoly board.

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The board was changed somewhat for 1936, with the addition of various illustrations. The black backing was changed to blue.

The board was changed somewhat for 1936, with the addition of various illustrations. The black backing was changed to blue.

The colored squares have much the same function as houses in Monopoly.

The colored squares have much the same function as houses in Monopoly.

 

Thun Monopoly

Notice the bits of Berks on this Monopoly board, owned by the Thun family, which dates to the 1920s: In one corner, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading the Reading Eagle, and Reading Railroad makes tracks through the middle of the upper row of properties on this hand-drawn, home-fashioned plywood board.

Notice the bits of Berks on this Monopoly board, owned by the Thun family, which dates to the 1920s: In one corner, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading the Reading Eagle, and Reading Railroad makes tracks through the middle of the upper row of properties on this hand-drawn, home-fashioned plywood board.

“Statement of General Theory – Monopoly is designed to show the evil resulting from the institution of private property. At the start of the game every player is provided with the same amount of capital and presumably has exactly the same chance of success as every other player. The game ends with one person in possession of all the money. What accounts for the failure of the rest, and what one factor can be singled out to explain the obviously ill- adjusted distributions of the community’s wealth which this situation represents? Those who win will answer ‘skill.’ Those who lose will answer ‘luck.’ But maybe there will be some, and these, while admitting the elements of skill and luck, will answer with Scott Nearing ‘private property’.” – Preface to the rules of Monopoly (Thun version, 1931)

Brothers Louis R. Thun (1907-1999) and Ferdinand K. Thun (1907-2001) were early Monopoly players who tried to market a commercial version of the game in 1931. However, their version was too expensive to have much commercial success, and it is estimated that perhaps only 50 copies were made.

They were the first to introduce Hotels to the game, although they called them Apartments. One Hotel takes the place of five Houses in the game.



Daniel W. Layman, Jr.
(1907-1989) learned Monopoly from the Thuns at Williams College. He made his own commercial version of Monopoly in 1932 and sold it under the name Finance. This version was first marketed by Electronic Laboratories, and then Knapp Electric. 10,000 copies were sold by the time Parker Brothers purchased the rights in January 1936.

Here is a very interesting article about the Thuns and their role in Monopoly history, from the Reading Eagle, August 11, 1990:

The Thuns play Monopoly on their 1920s game board. Notice the poker chips.

The Thuns play Monopoly on their 1920s game board. Notice the poker chips.

No Monopoly on Origin

By Maryalice Yakutchik

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not assume Parker Brothers has a monopoly on the story behind the origins of its most famous board game.

In Berks County, home of the reading Railroad, early Monopoly enthusiasts sing a different tune than that of the mega-corporation which has raked in multi-millions marketing the game.

Whether or not Monopoly, as legend has it, was invented one evening in 1930 by the late Charles Brace Darrow on a piece of oilcloth on his kitchen table in Philadelphia, or whether it evolved– with several crucial stages of development having taken place right here, in Reading– is still open to discussion.

The creation vs. evolution debate is no game, and humankind has no monopoly on it.

Certainly, for Berks Countians interested in tracking down the origins of the contemporary Monopoly board, the Reading RR provides an important clue that favors the evolution theory. The property is prominent today as it was on several home fashioned pre-Darrow boards made in the 1920s by Berks natives.

One of the earliest Reading boards, made by Charles Muhlenberg and copied in 1916 by Paul Sherk of Wyomissing, had on it the New York Central, Jersey Central, Canadian Pacific, and Southern Pacific railroads, but the Reading Railroad is conspicuously missing.

That version found its way into a number of Reading homes, not the least of which was that of Muhlenberg’s bride, the former Wilma Thun who taught the game to her brothers, Louis and Ferdinand.

The game as fashioned by the Thuns was probably the first to include the Reading Railroad as well as several other properties and written rules about how to play. Prior to the Thuns, instructions had been passed verbally.

Only one of these early plywood Reading boards, probably made by Thomas and Brooke Lerch of Wyomissing, who were monopoly-playing contemporaries of the Thuns, still is in the possession of the Thun family.

On that board, the likes of which Louis and Ferdinand had their own versions in the late 1920s, the Reading Railroad sits between Goldberg Square and Maguire Street.

“We probably were responsible for putting four or five places on the boards,” Ferdinand recalled.

“Reading Railroad was one of them. But we weren’t the only ones; everybody who played put a little of their own stuff in.”

“It’s an evolutionary thing,” agreed Louis. “On different boards, there are different properties and different railroads. Whoever was playing would have changed the railroads and properties to suit their particular geographic surroundings.

“I remember Wall Street and Grand Boulevard were the two most expensive properties, but that changed a couple times in the process of evolution. Everyone who made a board put in different corners.”

The Lerch board is decidedly Reading: In one of the corners, illustrated with a fountain pen or fine paintbrush, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading nothing other than the Reading Eagle.

According to the Thuns, the game of Monopoly originally came to Reading via Thomas Wilson, a local student who was attending the University of Pennsylvania. There, he encountered a radical economics professor named Scott Nearing who used an early version of the game, called The Landlord’s Game, to teach his classes at Penn about the evils that result from the institution of private property.

“Nearing was a professor at Penn around 1918,” Ferdinand recalled. “He came under attack for his very liberal views and was eventually relieved of his professorship.”

Coincidentally, about a decade later, Nearing spoke at Williams College in Massachusetts where Ferdinand and Louis were majoring in economics and German, but spending most of their time playing the game Monopoly, which they had brought from home and taught their fraternity brothers.

“We had always heard that (Nearing) had something to do with inventing Monopoly,” Ferdinand said. “so after we heard him speak at Williams, we asked him what he remembered about it and he said he had nothing to do with inventing it, but that someone from this group of “Single-taxers” from the Jersey Shore had invented it. The single tax was a very big idea around 1900.

“Well, one thing led to another and then this guy in Philadelphia caught up with it,” said Ferdinand, referring to Darrow. “And he signed a statement saying he invented it.

“And them Parker Brothers started this story about him in his mother’s kitchen based on pure imagination.”

“That’s all fabrication,” Louis added. “I have a strong stomach, but I couldn’t believe that.”

All that happened after Louis’ and Ferdinand’s own futile attempts in 1931 to market the game.

“By the time we graduated, the Depression had hit full force,” said Louis. “And we thought we were going to do something with this game.

“So we had this wooden box designed at the Textile Machine Works (where he is retired as chairman of the board) to hold the playing pieces and the property cards we had printed.

“I took my board up to Saks (Fifth Avenue in New York) and asked to see the game buyer. She said to show her a short version of how it worked. After about five minutes, she said she thought she had the idea.”

Ferdinand went through a similar routine with a buyer for Macy’s, who told him it was too complicated and would never sell.

“So then we explored this thing with a lawyer,” Louis added. “But we were asked, ‘Were we the inventor?’ and we said ‘no.’ Then we were told patents were for inventors.

“Darrow had the right idea. He simply signed to say he invented it.”

Perhaps, had the Thuns done that, they would have been $22 million ahead. Instead, all they got was a free Monopoly set.

“Later, the president of Parker Brothers (Robert B. M. Barton) showed up in Reading to make sure we weren’t going to make any trouble. He had dinner at our house, and later on he said he enjoyed the dinner and that he would be sending us a sample of his best (Monopoly) set. He was searching out any available monopoly boards from the 1915-1925 era.”

According to an article written by Charles J. Adams III in the Historical Review of Berks County, during Barton’s visit in Wyomissing, Paul Sherk also was approached and for $50 sold his original 1916 Monopoly board to Parker Brothers– ostensibly for their “small museum of old and original games.”

Do the 82-year-old twins feel bitter about it all? Is that why they claim they haven’t indulged in their former pastime for better than half a century?

“Nobody,” Louis said diplomatically, “should keep a grudge for longer than two hours.”

Twin chuckles emanate from the brothers who to this day are business partners.

“It’s a good game and really habit forming,” Ferdinand says. “I just haven’t gotten around to playing it.”

“The thing is,” Louis continued, “everybody has this terrific inquisitive instinct given the chance to make a million. That’s what makes it a great game.”

Both brothers lament that the game as it’s played today isn’t as complex– and therefore as interesting– as their version which incorporated the concept of auctioning properties.

Louis cited a recent newspaper article which discussed what’s happening now in the game business. Two are leading the pack; Monopoly is one of them.

Monopoly continues to evolve. It recently entered the electronic age as a television game show.

Asked if he’s watched it, Louis answered a curt “No way.”

“It’s fun to play,”Ferdinand explained, “but it’s not a spectator sport.”

Another fuzzy picture of the Thun board.

Another fuzzy picture of the Thun board.

The Landlord’s Game in 1902

I recently discovered a document from 1902, where Elizabeth Magie describes The Landlord’s Game as it existed at that time.  This narrative predates her patent application and is thus the earliest such description of the game, in her own hand, that has been found to date.

While the game soon acquired a second set of rules, there is nothing to indicate she had come up with them as of 1902.  Magie is particularly defensive about the effect her game would have on children.

She believed their innate goodness would prevent them from turning into “little monopolists” after having enjoyed playing her game.  It is not difficult to imagine she soon came up with a better way of answering such potential criticism- a second set of “Georgist” rules.

Although fellow researcher Thomas Forsyth believes Magie’s game always had two sets of rules, I am inclined to believe it started out with just the “monopolist” rules, and the Georgist ones were added later.

-David Sadowski

THE LANDLORD’S GAME.

AN INTERESTING INVENTION OF A YOUNG LADY IN WASHINGTON BY WHICH CHILDREN AT THEIR PLAY MAY BE TAUGHT THE TRUE LAW OF ECONOMICS.

Miss Lizzie J. Magie, a single taxer of Washington, D. C., has invented an ingenious game, played with checkers and dice as is parcheesi, and thus describes it for the REVIEW:

“It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” says Miss Magie.  “It might be called the ‘Game of Life,’ as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem to have, i. e., the accumulation of wealth.  Representative money, deeds, mortgages, notes and charters are used in the game; lots are bought and sold; rents are collected; money is borrowed (either from the bank or from individuals), and interest and taxes are paid.  The railroad is also represented, and those who make use of it are obliged to pay their fare, unless they are fortunate enough to possess a pass, which, in the game, means throwing a double.  There are two franchises; the water and the lighting; and the first player whose throw brings him upon one of these receives a charter giving him the privilege of taxing all others who must use his light and water.

“There are two tracts of land on the board that are held out of use—are neither for rent or for sale—and on each of these appear the forbidding sign; ‘No Trespassing.  Go to Jail.’  One of these tracts of land (the largest on the board) is owned by Lord Blueblood, of London, England, and represents foreign ownership of American soil.  A jail is provided for any one who trespasses upon this land, and there the unfortunate individual must linger until he serves out his time or pays the required fine.  ‘Serving out his time’ means waiting until he throws a double.

“Before the game begins, each player is provided with a certain amount of cash, sufficient to pay all necessary expenses until he is well enough along in life to earn his living.  Should any one be so unlucky, or so reckless and extravagant, as to become ‘broke,’ there is a nice little poor house off in one corner where he may tarry until he makes a lucky throw or until some friend takes pity on him and lends him enough to set him on his feet again.  And here is where he generally gets ‘soaked,’ for the other players, taking advantage of the unfortunate one’s necessities, demand an enormous rate of interest which the impecunious individual must pay before he can complete his round and get his wages.

“The rallying and chaffing of the others when one player finds himself an inmate of the jail, and the expressions of mock sympathy and condolences when one is obliged to betake himself to the poor house, make a large part of the fun and merriment of the game.

“Each time around the board represents so much labor performed, for which so much wages are paid.  When a player has been the rounds ten times he retires from his labors, although he still remains in the game, which is not finished until the last player has made his tenth round.  It takes forty moves to make a round and there is in each round one little black-bordered spot marked ‘Legacy,’ and whenever a player stops on this he receives a cash legacy.  In each round there are three spots marked ‘Luxury,’ and these the player may indulge in or not, according to his inclinations or finances, but each luxury purchased counts the player so much more at the end of the game.

“General directions for playing the game accompany this description, but it is difficult to make a set of rules that will cover all contingencies since no two games are alike.  The combination of circumstances are so many that almost every time the game is played new situations are brought out.  Thus it is a game that is always interesting—never monotonous.  It was the original intention of the author simply to work out a demonstration of how the landlord gets his money and keeps it, but while doing this there gradually developed a game which has proven one of amusement as well as of instruction and one which has attractions for both old and young.

“Children of nine or ten years and who possess average intelligence can easily understand the game and they get a good deal of hearty enjoyment out of it. They like to handle the make-believe money, deeds, etc., and the little landlords take a general delight in demanding the payment of their rent.  They learn that the quickest way to accumulate wealth and gain power is to get all the land they can in the best localities and hold on to it.  There are those who argue that it may be a dangerous thing to teach children how they may thus get the advantage of their fellows, but let me tell you there are no fairer-minded beings in the world than our own little American children.  Watch them in their play and see how quick they are, should any one of their number attempt to cheat or take undue advantage of another, to cry, ‘No fair!’  And who has not heard almost every little girl say, ‘I won’t play if you don’t play fair.’  Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.”

From Land and Freedom: An International Record of Single Tax Progress, Volume 2, Number 2, page 56 (a bound volume of The Single Tax Review), by Single Tax Publishing Company, 15 October 1902

Edited by Joseph Dana Miller