Anne here, and today, I’m taking an easy way out (as I race towards a deadline) by riffing off an article I recently read about Monopoly, the board game with which I’m sure we’re all very familiar. When I read this article I got a big surprise. You see, I’d always assumed it was first invented in the UK, because here in Australia we all grew up with the English version.
In fact, it’s pretty common for Australians visiting London to visit some of the monopoly squares. “Hey, I’m on Park Lane,” (which we all know has got to be pricey. <g>) I had no idea there was even an American version, set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and it turns out that not only was it the original version, but there are hundreds of different variations, including Dog-opoly and Cat-opoly, as well as all kinds of variations in many different languages. (Photo above by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash)
Monopoly was first patented in the USA December 31, 1935 by a man called Charles B. Darrow. But his version was based on a game invented by an American woman called Lizzie Magie, who in 1904, patented a game called The Landlord’s Game, which was, at its heart, an educational tool to teach players about taxes, and which effectively opposed the values implicit in the later game of Monopoly, where the grabbiest landlord wins. The Landlord’s Game became very popular with university students, and Darrow first came across it when his friends Charles and Esther Todd introduced him to it. (More detail here.)
Apart from the shock that the version that I knew so well was not the original, what fascinated me as I read on were the many ways in which Monopoly has been adapted and used. For instance During World War II, British intelligence created special Monopoly game boxes that they sent to British prisoner of war held in Nazi camps, containing not only the original board, but maps, compasses, small metal tools such as files, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by fake charity organizations created by the British Secret Service. (Photo above by Robert Linder on Unsplash )
The maps were the crucial items. Paper maps were too fragile and also cumbersome and so they printed them on silk. Silk maps wouldn’t tear or dissolve in water as easily as paper ones and were light enough to stuff into a boot or cigarette packet. Best of all they didn’t rustle. (That’s a silk map below. Read more about this here.)
The company that produced these maps was John Waddington Ltd. a company that was used to printing things on silk, for instance programs for grand celebrations and royal occasions. They were already printing maps on silk for airmen to carry. As well they were the printer and board game manufacturer that happened to be the U.K. licensee for the Parker Bros. game Monopoly. Fascinating, eh?
That’s it from me today. I hope you enjoyed this brief dive into a short history of Monopoly. If you want to know more, click on some of the links in this post. Do you play Monopoly? Which version do you have, and do you have a favorite token? Mine was always the horse or the dog.