The History of the Monopoly Game

Monopoly is one of the most popular board games. The history behind the Monopoly game might surprise you.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Magie Phillips was the inventor of a game that eventually became the Monopoly game that we recognize today. Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Magie Phillips became interested in the anti-monopolist theories of Henry George, who was a politician and an economist. Henry George believed that a single “land value tax” would shift the tax burden to wealthy landlords.

This concept is what inspired Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Magie Phillips to create a “Game Board”. The board looks similar to what you would expect a Monopoly Game board to look like. Her patent for the game was approved on January 5, 1904. In 1924, she got a patent for a second version of the game, titled “The Landlord’s Game”.

In the patent application, Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Magie Phillips wrote an explanation of the purpose of the game. “The object of the game is not only to afford amusement to the players, but also to illustrate to them how under the present prevailing system of land tenure, the landlord has advantage over other enterprises and also how the single tax would discourage land speculation.”

“The Landlord’s Game” became popular among colleges and communities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic during the 1920s and 1930s.

The rules of the landlords game are available online. “The object of the game is to get as much wealth as possible, and the player who has the most in cash, cards, and houses at the end of the game is the winner or millionaire. Every card and every house counts the holder or owner 100 at the end of the game.”

The rules included some ways for “advanced and scientific players” to play. One suggestion is titled: “The Monarch of the World”. In this version, one player is given all of the land, and the other player is given all of the other advantages of the game. Each player starts with $100, and the game uses the standard rules, with the exception that the landlord gets no wages. “By this simple method, one can satisfy himself of the truth of the assertion that the land monopolist is monarch of the world. The remedy is the Single Tax.”

Another version of the game is called “The Single Tax”. It has alternative rules. The purpose is to allow players to prove how the Single Tax would benefit everybody by equalizing and opportunities and raising wages. Players can enact “The Single Tax” at any time during “The Landlord’s Game”, by having at least two players vote for it.

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