In 1903, a self-proclaimed American anti-monopolist named Lizzy Magie created a new game to explain the single tax theory. The single tax theory was an economic ideology that believed people should own the value they produce. The ideology also included the belief that economic rent derived from the land should be equally divided amongst the members of society. The game that Lizzy Magie invented was supposed to explain this theory. It was an educational tool meant to illustrate the negative aspects of monopolies. The game was patented in 1904 as The Landlord’s Game.[1]

The Landlord’s Game had two sets of rules. The first was a monopolist set of regulations in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. The other set was anti-monopolist, where all were rewarded when wealth was created.[2]

Lizzy Magie’s game was not extremely popular. According to a story in the Christian Science Monitor, a man named Charles Darrow was introduced to the game when he visited his wife’s childhood friend, Charles Todd’s, house. There, they played The Landlord’s Game.[3]

Not long after, Darrow went on to build his own game, which he called Monopoly. The Parker Brothers would go on to buy the game’s copyright from Darrow. However, they learned that he was not the sole inventor of the game, and they later purchased the rights to Magie’s game for $500.[4]

Magie’s anti-monopolist game would now be used to create the now infamous game Monopoly.

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[1] Philip E. Orbanes, Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How it Got That Way. Da Capo Press, 2006, p. 22.
[2] “The secret history of Monopoly: the capitalist board game’s leftwing origins”, The Guardian, April 11, 2015.
[3] Pilon, Mary (2015). The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game. New York, London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 90–92.
[4] Niraj Chokshi, “A New Monopoly Game Celebrates Women, but What About the One Behind the Original?”, The New York Times, September 12, 2019.

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