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Elizabeth Magie
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Inventor
    (1866-1948)
    Born in Macomb, Illinois
    Created ‘The Landlord’s Game’ (1904)
    Her game ‘inspired’ Charles Darrow to create ‘Monopoly’ (1934)
    Her game was intended to promote the economic theories of Henry George and demonstrate the injustices of capitalism.
    Parker Brothers rejected ‘The Landlord’s Game’ as too complicated.
    Parker Brothers promoted the story that Darrow was the sole inventor of ‘Monopoly’ and hushed up the existence of ‘The Landlord’s Game.’
    A newspaper article about her after her game had mutated into ‘Monopoly’ noted, ‘[I]f the subtle propaganda for [Henry George’s] tax idea works around to the minds of the thousands who now shake the dice and buy and sell over the ‘Monopoly’ board, she feels the whole business will not have been in vain.’
    Given that the number of people who have walked away from a ‘Monopoly’ game saying, ‘I really grasp the importance of taxing unimproved land values in order to reduce the gap between rich and poor’ is approximately zero, one suspects that she eventually realized the enterprise had been in vain.
    The fact that Darrow ended up a multi-millionaire and she earned squat demonstrates the injustices of capitalism way better than ‘The Landlord’s Game’ ever did.
    After Parker Brothers and other game companies rejected her, she self-published ‘The Landlord’s Game.’
    ’The Landlord’s Game’ featured a continuous board with properties that could be bought and rented, railroads in the center of each row, corners labeled ‘Jail’ and ‘Go To Jail,’ and a starting space where players collected money each time they went around the board. Any of this sound familiar?
    After Parker Brothers began selling ‘Monopoly,’ they tied up some legal loose ends by offering her $500 and no royalties for the rights to ‘The Landlord's Game.’
    After she gave a newspaper interview critical of Parker Brothers, they agreed to publish two other games she had created, ‘Bargain Day’ and ‘King’s Men’ (1937)
    Her role in inspiring ‘Monopoly’ was uncovered by Ralph Anspach in a legal battle over his game ‘Anti-Monopoly’ (1973).

Credit: C. Fishel


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