Tag Archives: Henry George

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.

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.

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

RARE 1904 Elizabeth Magie Card Game Competition or Department Store

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FYI, we are auctioning off a very rare, collectible game on eBay (listing here):

This auction is for the RARE 1904 card game Competition, or Department Store in used but nearly complete condition.

This game has been attributed to Elizabeth Magie by the George Glazer Gallery of New York, sellers of antiquarian globes, maps and prints in New York City.  This would make it her first published game, predating the first commercial version of The Landlord’s Game by two years.

The Landlord’s Game was invented and patented by Lizzie J. Magie (also known as Elizabeth Magie Phillips), a follower of economist Henry George (1839-1897), popularizer of the “Single Tax.”  Her intention was to use her game to keep Henry George’s ideas alive after his death.  His most famous work was the book Progress and Poverty.

This game is of great historical importance, since it is quite possible that The Landlord’s Game was first developed as a card game before it acquired a board.  Thematically, Competition or Department Store is a precursor of her later game Bargain Day (published by Parker Brothers in 1937), which also had a department store shopping theme.

We do know that Elizabeth Magie invented other card games besides this.  In 1910, Parker Brothers published her game Mock Trial, and her final patent, issued in the mod-1920s, was for an educational card game.  This auction also includes an extremely rare Parker Brothers advertising flyer from 1910 that promotes Mock Trial (pictured).

This game includes:

1 box

106 cards (should be 107, plus one card that should be glued to the outside of the box)

59 White Discs (should be 100)

17 Red Discs (should be 25)

We will include high quality reproductions of the two missing cards, plus a copy of the game rules.*  The red and white paper discs should be quite easy to supplement, meaning you can actually play this game just as people did 112 years ago.

I do not know of ANY early Monopoly game collector who has even a partial version of this extremely rare game.  This is only the second example I have seen in over 10 years of collecting.  Even the Strong Museum of American Play in Rochester, NY has only a partial set with a lot fewer pieces than this one.

The discs represent play money that makes up a Bank.  Each player becomes their own store, and receives an inventory card plus several letter cards.  These are arranged to form words that represent inventory stock.  There are cards for Checks, a Fire Sale, a Bargain Sale, Bills, a Financial Panic, a Cyclone and a Fire.  There are also cards for Fire Insurance.

The winner is the first player to collect $50.

*Her name is misspelled as “Magee” on the rules.

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1936 Monopoly Origins Document

MonopolyOrigins

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.

The Card Game of The Monopolist

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The Card Game of the Monopolist
New From Folkopoly Press

I have written before how, in my humble opinion, what we know today as the game Monopoly had it’s origins as a card game. I think it is more useful to think of it as a card game that developed the need for a board, rather than a board game that developed a need for cards.

The original inspiration for Lizzie J. Magie to create The Landlord’s Game was the death of radical economist Henry George in 1897. She hoped to keep his ideas alive with this game.

It also had inspiration in the various financial card games of the 1890s, which were hugely popular. Some of these games were quite complex and sophisticated and included things such as play money and involved financial trading. The various property groups in Monopoly, in this view represent “suits” as in a card game.

Besides inventing The Landlord’s Game, precursor of the game Monopoly, Lizzie Magie also created other card games in the early 1900s, including Competition, or Department Store (sold by the Flinch Card Game Co.) and Mock Trial, the first game she sold to Parker Brothers.

So, I think it is reasonable to conclude that before she came up with the board game version of The Landlord’s Game, there was a card game version that preceded it. As we know, Landlord’s was very much different than the other board games of the era, having little in common even with something like the 1878 Game of the Monopolist.

Unfortunately, if such a card game version of Landlord’s actually existed, it has not been documented in the historical record to date.

I decided a few years ago to reverse-engineer this earlier card game version of Landlord’s that I think must have existed. Recently, I made a conceptual breakthrough and have now finished making just such a game.

It has been my goal to make the minimum amount of changes necessary, using the 1906 Landlord’s Game as a starting point.

Since Landlord’s is now a registered trademark*, and this new game is merely my interpretation of what it could have been like, if it existed, I have given it a different name. Under the circumstances, The Card Game of the Monopolist will do just fine.

I am now ready to offer The Card Game of the Monopolist, a late 1890s version of what we know today as The Landlord’s Game and Monopoly, for just $39.95. This price includes shipping within the United States.

Most of the cards in this game are identical to the ones in my new game Progress and Poverty, which is based on the 1906 Landlord’s. The rules are an adaptation of those rules, with only those changes that are necessary to play the game using only cards and no board.

The conceptual breakthrough I had was that each square on the game board is, in itself, rather like a card. So, carrying over all the existing cards from the game, which include the deeds, Chance, and Luxury cards, plus the play money, we now have a deck of Game Play cards that each represent a square on the board. The Game Play cards are a different stack than the deeds.

At the start of the game, the Game Play cards are shuffled, and the used cards are put into a discard pile. Each player takes their turn around the table, one at a time, and as various properties come up, that player has the opportunity to purchase a deed from the Bank, at auction or otherwise. If a Chance card comes up, the player draws a card from that deck.

Once the entire deck of Game Play cards has been gone through once, the deck is reshuffled and used again. Each time a round is completed, the players collect their wages from the Bank, as they would when passing Mother Earth or Go on a game board.

Games can go on for a set number of rounds, using a time limit, or when the Bank runs out of money. The various players then total up the value of their cards (including the Luxury cards) and the one with the highest value is the winner.

The game can still accommodate the “Georgist” rules of play in just the same manner as Landlord’s does.

The original 1906 Landlord’s was designed as a game that could be played by 2, 3, or 4 players. This too seems derived from its original status as a card game. There are four sides to a card table. As I have mentioned, the property groups are like suits, and their value increases once you have a complete group and can make “improvements” (i.e., put houses on them). The way that Luxury cards are collected throughout also harkens back to other card games.

Using a deck of Game Play cards introduces a random element into the game, making the use of dice unnecessary. In this version of the game, tokens are not needed either.

While I don’t know for certain whether such a card game actually preceded the board game we know and love, it fits the facts and I think of it as the simplest, most elegant solution to determining the pre-history of Monopoly.

Each game comes with:

1 Implements box, 1 set of Rules, 80 Houses, 16 Education cards, 2 Free College cards, 16 Chance cards, 27 Luxury Cards, 29 Deeds (the usual 28 as in later Monopoly games, plus “Speculation”), 4 Natural Opportunity cards, and 41 Game Play cards, plus Scrip Money in the following amounts:

54x $1

54x $5

81x $10

54x $50

81x $100

A total of $11,934.

-Clarence B. Darwin

The Card Game of the Monopolist
Price: $39.99

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

Thanks.

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*The Landlord’s Game is a registered trademark owned by Thomas Forsyth. Folkopoly Press is not affiliated with Thomas Forsyth,