Tag Archives: Parker Brothers

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.

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.

Movie Mart by Cadaco

20180919_162114

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.

20180919_16204620180919_16213020180919_16214520180919_16220020180919_16221620180919_16232324781233_124781233_4Movie-Mart-Currency-4-1000-bills-frompic2063476

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 eBay Beat: Shanghai Real Estate, Darrow Black Box, Australian Stock Exchange

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There have been three recent eBay auctions of note, including one where it is not possible to know how much the item sold for. However, it was surely a lot of money, and the rarity of these items makes them interesting regardless.

Australian Stock Exchange

We have written before about the Stock Exchange Add-On to Monopoly sets, first sold in 1936 by the Capitol Novelty Company but soon purchased by Parker Brothers. This rare Australian version, made by the John Sands company, sold for $29.22 USD via a UK auction.

John Sands, in turn, licensed Monopoly from Waddington’s, the English firm that had obtained the rights from Parker Brothers in 1936. The first Aussie sets appeared in 1937.

In general, the Australian Monopoly sets were not as well made as their American counterparts. This Stock Exchange is similar to the US version, except that it is denominated in pound sterling instead of dollars (although Australia has their won dollar today), and the instructions are on a separate sheet instead of being printed on the inside of the box top.

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1935 Darrow Black Box

This recent auction for an incomplete Darrow Black Box Monopoly set, although not in the greatest condition, is still noteworthy, since it must be one of the 1600 sets actually sold by Charles Darrow, and not one of the 5900 that were taken on by Parker Brothers. Parker applied a label to the outside of the game board, not present here, and substituted their own rules. Neither version included tokens, which the buyers were expected to provide themselves.

While not worth anything like the $9,900 asking price, this is still a valuable item with an estimated worth of perhaps $2,000. However, the auction was ended by the seller, possibly indicating a private deal of some sort was reach at undisclosed terms. We may never know the exact amount.

This set includes its apparently original price tag from Snellenburg’s, a Philadelphia department store. Despite their reputation for selling modestly priced items, demand for Monopoly was apparently high enough in early 1935 that they sold this set for $3.00 instead of the usual $2.00. The more elaborate Darrow White Box sets had sold for $3.00 before this.

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Shanghai Real Estate

Our final item is especially rare– a 1930s Chinese Monopoly knock-off. Monopoly became a US phenomenon in 1935, and a world-wide one in 1936. This nicely made set is especially rare since Shanghai was captured by the Japanese in 1937.

This item has been listed several times, with the most recent auction being here. At present, the asking price is $5,113.15. Its actual value, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. One reason it has not sold as of this writing is that $5,113.15 is a lot of money, especially when there are practically no previous sales that collectors can refer to.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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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

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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.

Complete Replica Darrow Tie Box Monopoly Set

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We recently received a commission from one of our customers for a replica Darrow Tie Box Monopoly set. This predated the more famous White Box and Black Box sets Charles Darrow made in 1934 and 1935, respectively.

The Tie Box name comes from the long and narrow box shape. Some say that the originals were actual tie boxes Darrow purchased, although this has not been confirmed. Even if this is so, the boxes were modified to fit the board and pieces.

Only two such original Tie Box sets are presently known to exist. After making this one, I see why.

One reason I enjoy making replicas of these early games is to gain additional insights into their history. A long, narrow box such as this undergoes a great deal of stress, and over the course of 80 years, practically all the originals have long since fallen apart. Of course, they were never designed to last 80 years in the first place.

Our replica boxes are made more durable, and should last for a long time.

For this set we made some original wood houses and hotels, which were then stained a natural wood color. The very early Darrow sets came with 10 hotels and 42 houses. My speculation is that Darrow changed this to the more familiar 12 and 32 because it was the functional equivalent, but reduced the number of pieces he had to make.

As with the early Darrow originals, the hotels are twice as long as the houses.

Our set comes with a faithful reproduction of the Darrow Tie Box rules, which were themselves a minor modification of the ones that Charles Todd had typed up for Darrow in 1933.

According to Dan Fernandez, the Oilcloth sets came with 15 Chance and 15 Community Chest cards. One of each was added for the 1934 White Box set, and a substitution was made for one Community Chest card in the 1935 Black Box set. We have included all these in our Tie Box to give players the maximum flexibility in using them.

The Chance, Community Chest, and Property cards here are the same size as the ones made for the Darrow White Box. These cards were downsized somewhat for the Darrow Black Box, which had a much smaller box.

Each game comes with:

1 23″ Holographic Game Board on Blackout Cloth, 1 Cardboard Tube, 1 Implements box, 1 set of Rules, 42 Houses, 10 Hotels, 16 Chance cards, 17 Community Chest cards, 5 game pieces, 2 Dice, 28 Deeds, plus Scrip Money in the following amounts:

60x $1

50x $5

60x $10

30x $20

30x $50

30x $100

10x $500

A total of $11,010.

The prototype set has half Darrow Type 1 bills with the widely spaced fonts, and half Darrow Type 0 typewritten play money. For production sets we are going to stick with the Type 1 bills.

In addition, the set comes with a “holographic” (hand-drawn) folding game board on blackout cloth, the modern equivalent of oilcloth. The prototype is on green cloth but the production boards will be on white cloth.

-Clarence B. Darwin

Reproduction Darrow Tie Box Game Set
Price: $99.99
 plus $10.00 shipping within the United States.

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

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Cat not included, sorry.

Cat not included, sorry.