November 6th, 1935 – The Origins of the Game “Monopoly”


Until 1973 it was a “lost” piece of information that Parker Brothers acquired the forerunner patents for Monopoly from Elizabeth Magie on November 6th, 1935.

Monopoly 1935

Elizabeth J. Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois in 1866 to James Magie, a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who accompanied Lincoln as he traveled around Illinois in the late 1850s debating politics with Stephen Douglas. James Magie introduced Lizzie to the economist Henry George‘s writing, specifically the book Progress and Poverty, after which Magie became strong supporter of what at that time was called a single-tax system (Georgism). In the early 1880s she worked as a stenographer. She was also a short story and poetry writer, a comedian, stage actress, feminist, and engineer. In 1906 she worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1910 she married, at age 44, Albert Phillips.

Magie first made the game, known as The Landlord’s Game, popular with friends while living in Brentwood, Maryland, and sought her first patent on it while living there. On March 23rd, 1903, Magie applied to the US Patent Office for a patent on her board game, which was designed to demonstrate the economic ill effects of land monopolism and the use of land value tax as a remedy for them. She was granted U.S. Patent 748,626 on January 5th, 1904.


In 1906, she moved to Chicago. That year, she and fellow Georgists formed the Economic Game Co. to self-publish her original edition of The Landlord’s Game. In 1910 she married Albert Phillips and Parker Brothers published her humorous card game Mock Trial. In 1912, The Landlord’s Game was adapted in Scotland by the Newbie Game Co. as “Bre’r Fox and Bre’r Rabbit”. Although the instructions claimed it was protected by a British patent, there is no evidence this was actually done.

She and her husband moved back to the east coast of the U.S. and patented a revised version of the game in 1924; it received U.S. Patent 1,509,312. As her original patent had expired in 1921, this is seen as her attempt to reassert control over her game, which was now being played at some colleges, where students made their own copies. In 1932, her second edition of The Landlord’s Game was published by the Adgame Company of Washington D. C., probably another self-publishing effort. This version was two games in one, as there were alternate rules for a game called Prosperity

Elizabeth J. Magie Landlords Game

After a January 1936 interview with her appeared in a Washington D. C. newspaper, in which she was somewhat critical of Parker Brothers, they agreed to publish two more of her games.

They sold her final board game inventions Bargain Day and King’s Men in 1937, and a third version of The Landlord’s Game in 1939. In Bargain Day, shoppers compete with each other in a department store; King’s Men is an abstract strategy game. Few copies of the Parker Brothers version of The Landlord’s Game are known to exist, but Bargain Day and King’s Men are less rare.

Magie died in Arlington, Virginia in 1948, aged 82.

Her role as the board game Monopoly’s inventor was uncovered during research for a trial. Ralph Anspach was an economics professor, and in 1973 he began a long legal battle against Parker Brothers over his Anti-Monopoly game. While researching the case, he uncovered her patents. His research became part of the court record.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar