Tag Archives: Thomas Forsyth

The Landlord’s Game in 1902

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

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

THE LANDLORD’S GAME.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Joseph Dana Miller

The eBay Beat: Boondoggling (1936)

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FYI, a rare 1936 Boondoggling game just sold for $500 on eBay (photos enclosed).

Boondoggling is an early Monopoly knock-off and was also a timely political game in the 1936 presidential election season, which ran from about Labor Day until early November. It was created by a couple of college professors who were anti-New Deal. The game plays like Monopoly in reverse, where the various players try to be the first to spend all their money on wasteful government programs, or “boondoggles.”

The dictionary definition of boondoggle is:

1 : a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament. 2 : a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.

According to the Wikipedia:

The term arose from a 1935 New York Times report that more than $3 million had been spent on recreational activities for the jobless as part of the New Deal. Among these activities were crafts classes, where the production of “boon doggles,” described in the article as various utilitarian “gadgets” made with cloth or leather, were taught. The term’s earlier definition is thought to have its origin in scouting, particularly in reference to a woggle.

The word quickly caught on, and was often used by opponents of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR embraced the term and said, in effect, if it will help us get out of the Depression, by all means, let’s have boondoggles.

FDR’s opponent in the 1936 election was Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who would have governed more in the Hoover mold. He lost in a landslide.

The Boondoggling game appeared briefly during the campaign and appears to have been published by the Washington Star, a Republican newspaper. GOP activist Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter and a staunch FDR opponent, mentioned it in her syndicated column.

Since it was apparently not marketed to department stores, the usual outlet for Monopoly-type games, Boondoggling’s overall construction was cheap and insubstantial, with a paper board and flimsy box. Few were sold and even fewer have survived.

I have owned a few examples of this game. I once owned the board in the collection of the Strong Museum of American Play, and sold another example to the family of one of the creators.

For a time, this was an under-appreciated game, but prices have greatly increased in the last few years.

As an anti-New Deal game, it is a contemporary of Rudy Copeland’s Inflation, also from 1936. That was a much higher quality product.

Ironically, in spite of the anti-New Deal theme of Inflation, Rudy Copeland campaigned for FDR in 1936.

While Boondoggling was not around long enough to draw legal action from Parker Brothers as a Monopoly knock-off, they did try suing Rudy Copeland over Inflation, which was sold in department stores. Once Copeland was able to find more than two dozen people who swore they had played Monopoly prior to its supposed invention by Charles Darrow, Parker and Copeland settled out of court. He received a financial settlement from Parker Brothers, along with a license to use the two Monopoly patents that Parker owned.

However, by 1937, the bloom was temporarily off the Monopoly rose, and Inflation quickly faded from view, as Boondoggling did before it.

In 1951 there was a game called Boondoggle, tied in to the 1952 presidential election, but there was no connection with the earlier Boondoggling game. I believe there was a 1980 version as well.

The various tokens used in Boondoggling had the names of various FDR advisers, popularly known as the “Brain Trust.” These included Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979), who was also an early Monopoly player.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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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: $39.95

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,