There’s rarely been a board game as ubiquitous as Monopoly. Decades after its release, Monopoly is still one of the most popular games ever, and it’s been constantly updated in recent years. While the game itself is incredibly fun, very few people even think about the origins of Monopoly. According to the game’s original lore, it was created by Charles Darrow in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The game’s success made Darrow an incredibly wealth man, but that mythology was a lie. The real creator of Monopoly was a woman named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips, who came up with the game three decades before Darrow stole it.
In a recent episode of the YouTube series, Today I Found Out, the real story about Monopoly’s history was examined in great detail. It was originally called The Landlord’s Game in 1903, when Phillips came up with it as a way to educate the public about the tax theories of Henry George and the negative consequences of monopolies. Many of the game’s signature elements were present on Phillips’ version of the board.
The Landlord’s Game wasn’t a wide success by the time that Darrow played it at a friend’s home many years later. In an amazingly shameless move, Darrow repackaged the game as his own creation and sold it to Parker Brothers. Phillips eventually discovered what Darrow had done, but her contributions to Monopoly went largely unrecognized for many years.
Parker Brothers eventually struck a deal with Phillips, but she was never fairly compensated for what had become a cultural phenomena. Even the point of her original game was largely lost on the public, who briefly got to enjoy the sensation of wealth and power while playing the game with family and friends. While it may not have been her intent, Phillips’ contribution to the history of board games is immense. And for that, we’re extremely grateful.
What did you think about the story of Monopoly‘s true creator? Do not pass go until you leave a comment below!
Image Credit: Today I Found Out