Tag Archives: Finance game

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 multimillions 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 ade 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 fashined by the Thuns was probably the first to include the Reading Railroad as well as several otehr propertiesand 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 late1920s, 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 ans 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 Massachusettswhere Ferdinand and Louis were majoring in economicsmand 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 moterh’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 1916Monopoly 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.

Reproduction 1936 Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE Add-On

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A reproduction 1936 Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE Add-On set for Monopoly, Finance, and Easy Money games, is now available from The Folkopoly Press.

Once MONOPOLY became a national craze in 1935, C. B. Hewison was inspired to create this add-on enhancement for the game. To play, you place the STOCK EXCHANGE patch over the FREE PARKING square, which otherwise has no function.

Three “Advance to Stock Exchange” cards are added to the Chance and Community Chest piles, and when players land on Stock Exchange, they can purchase stock (either one or two shares at a time, to be determined before the game starts), or, if others already own stock, pay them dividends.

As with other properties owned in MONOPOLY, the amount of money collected increases with the number of shares owned of the same type. Shares can be bought and sold among the players, and mortgaged to the bank.

Original Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE sets are extremely rare, and generally sell for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. This set, an excellent reproduction inspired by the 1936 original, is available at a fraction of that price and should be of interest to the early Monopoly collector.

This set includes:

1 Implements box (7″ x 8″ x 1″)
30 Shares (5 each of 6 different companies)
6 Advance to Stock Exchange cards (3 for Chance, 3 for Community Chest)
1 STOCK EXCHANGE patch
1 Rules sheet
1 Certificate of Authenticity

As with our other reproduction games, this set is completely hand-made and involves a considerable amount of labor to create. Therefore, they will always be made in very small quantities for the discerning collector.

This set is available now for just $29.95. Shipping within the United States costs just $5.00.


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1936 Monopoly Origins Document

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I recently stumbled upon a very interesting document on an obscure blog, where Brian Sutton-Smith explains:

Today, the “real story” behind the invention of Monopoly, America’s most iconic board game, is well-known. But, as the game’s popularity began to intensify, executives at Parker Brothers wanted to keep the origin of Monopoly a secret. LeRoy Howard, a game designer and developer at Parker Brothers, advised George S. Parker about purchasing Monopoly from Charles Darrow in 1935. During the acquisition, Parker Brothers learned that Darrow’s commercially-produced version of the board game was based on Elizabeth M. Phillips’s previously-patented creation, The Landlord’s Game. In the end, Parker Brothers purchased the original patent from Phillips for $500. The document, titled “The Origin of the Game of Monopoly,” includes a handwritten annotation that reads “Not for Publication, L.H.” and was originally marked “Confidential.”

I can shed some additional light on this. Although this 1936 document was not published, it must have been prepared by Parker Brothers as press release material that could have appeared in magazines or newspapers. Similar accounts, although not as lengthy, did in fact appear in the press around this time.

In light of the Anti-Monopoly case and various events that took place after 1948, it may surprise some to learn that this was, in fact, the official Parker Brother position on the origins of Monopoly. From early 1936 until Mrs. Elizabeth Magie Phillips died in 1948, Parker Brothers credited her and Charles Darrow as the co-creators of Monopoly.

By this time, Parker Brothers had obtained a virtual monopoly on the rights to Monopoly, so far as they were able to do so at the time. As we know today, the basic game of Monopoly derives from The Landlord’s Game, which Elizabeth Magie patented in 1904. By the time this article was written, however, her original patent had expired, and therefore it is not mentioned here.

Competitors such as Milton Bradley were certainly aware of it, however, as they issued the game Carnival in 1937, based on just that expired Landlord’s Game patent. But Parker Brothers did not want to mention it here, as it would have tended to undermine their legal claims to Monopoly, serving to have the Monopoly patent invalidated.

No mention, of course, is made of the various early Monopoly players such as the Thuns, Daniel Layman, Ruth Hoskins, Eugene Raiford, et al who made various contributions to the game before Charles Darrow learned it from Charles Todd. Therefore, Parker ascribes any and all such improvements to Darrow.

Charles Darrow, while certainly not the inventor of Monopoly, was certainly instrumental in developing the game to the point where it became successful. He brought it over the finish line, so to speak.

In order to consider what were the aspects of Monopoly that Parker Brothers considered to be Darrow’s intellectual property, one has only to compare the 1935 patent application with the similar game Fortune they issued the same year. This can be considered as Parker’s backup plan, a game that they could quickly popularize if it turned out that Charles Darrow was not the true inventor of Monopoly.

If Parker was forced to terminate their contract with Darrow and cease paying him a royalty, they would have gotten behind Fortune instead. Fortune is almost identical to Monopoly, but with a different name.

There are also different property names and, of course, this game did not use Darrow’s iconic illustrations or the distinctive metal tokens made by Dowst.

Interestingly, the 1935 Fortune has only houses, not hotels, and they apparently credited this innovation to Darrow.* But it does have both Chance and Community Chest cards. By the time this game came out, Parker Brothers apparently knew that these were not introduced by Darrow.

The 1936 Parker Brothers document summarizes, in a fairly factual way, the true origins of the game Monopoly, but leaves out anything that would have tended to undermine their legal position regarding the game. It is very complimentary to Mrs. Elizabeth Magie Phillips, who surely could have insisted on collecting a royalty on Monopoly but who, instead, sold her second Landlord’s patent to Parker for $500.

The “conventional wisdom” today is that she was cheated out of a fortune, but the real situation is more nuanced and certainly more interesting. As a dedicated follower of economist Henry George, Mrs. Phillips took out patents on her inventions in order to receive proper credit and recognition, but Georgists would have considered it unseemly for her to have profited financially from such a legalized government monopoly.

By 1935, she was already well off through her marriage to Albert Phillips, who was a successful publisher. Although she kept abreast of game patents through her connections at the patent office, Mrs. Phillips never made any attempt to benefit financially from any of her various patents. She made no attempt to stop earlier commercialized games based on her invention such as the 1932-35 Finance, which was about 90% the same as Monopoly.

In 1935, she was being courted by three different game makers regarding her 1924 patent– Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, and Knapp Electric. But there was never any doubt in her mind that she would make a deal with Parker Brothers, although she insisted on dealing directly with company founder George S. Parker, who she considered the “King of Games.”

History belongs to the living, and therefore it should be no surprise that Parker Brothers stuck to the narrative as outlined in the above document at least until Mrs. Phillips died in 1948. The very deferential tone towards her stands in contrast to the stance Parker took before buying her patent. A brief mention of Monopoly in a 1935 issue of Fortune magazine includes a denial that the game was invented by Henry George.

This kind of slight, and Parker’s subsequent building up of Darrow as a game inventor, rankled her to the point where she gave some press interviews in early 1936 that mentioned her 1904 patent. As a result, Parker Brothers took additional steps to mollify her. They agreed to publish two more of her games (Bargain Day and King’s Men) and crafted this very carefully worded narrative.

The problem is, they forgot the parts about Elizabeth Magie Phillips from their press pronouncements after she died. It was not until the early 1970s that she once again received her due as the true inventor of Monopoly, and this is in large part through the efforts of Dr. Ralph Anspach and the Anti-Monopoly case, without which much of the game’s origins would have been lost in the mists of time.

-Clarence B. Darwin

*Pictures of the game on the Board Game Geek web site show hotels, but these must have been imported later from some Monopoly set. The copyrighted rules only mention houses.

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Style Cards

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FYI, our latest retro game pieces are cards in the style of the 1933 Darrow Round Board Monopoly set. This includes 3″ x 5″ property cards with a colored strip across the bottom, and 2 1/2″ x 3″ Chance and Community Chest Cards.

There are 28 property cards in a set, and 16 Chance and 20 Community Chest cards in that set. Both are available for immediate shipment from Folkopoly Press.

The originals were made with a typewriter. Standard unlined 3″ x 5″ index cards were used for the property cards, and these were simply cut in half for the Chance and Community Chest cards.

The originals were all white, but we have made the Community Chest cards on colored card stock in order to better differentiate them from the Chance cards.

We now offer reproductions of several different styles of cards for these early games, including different versions for “Toddopoly” (the Charles Todd set that Charles Darrow learned Monopoly from), the Darrow Round Board, Tie Box (oilcloth), White Box and Black Box sets.

In addition, we also offer our own interpretation of a 1931-style Monopoly game, under the name The Game of the Monopolist. This is based on the 1932-35 game Finance, and the Thun Monopoly game that preceded it.

-Clarence B. Darwin

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Property Cards, Set
Price: $14.95
with free shipping within the United States.

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Chance and Community Chest Cards, Set
Price: $14.95
with free shipping within the United States.

PS- For shipping outside the US, drop us a line at:
folkopolypress@gmail.com

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