Today in My History
Care of Business
Books Read in 2021
Cast (updated 7/16)
21 July 2021
In the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, a down-on-his-luck family man named Charles Darrow invented a game to entertain his friends and loved ones, using an oilcloth as a playing surface. He called the game Monopoly, and when he sold it to Parker Brothers he became fantastically rich—an inspiring Horatio Alger tale of homegrown innovation if ever there was one.
Actually, Monopoly’s story began decades earlier, with an all-but-forgotten woman named Lizzie Magie, an artist, writer, feminist and inventor.
Magie worked as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter
Office in Washington, D.C., a repository for the nation’s lost mail. But she
also appeared in plays, and wrote poetry and short stories. In 1904, Magie
received a patent for an invention she called the Landlord’s Game, a square
board with nine rectangular spaces on each side, set between corners labeled “Go
to Jail” and “Public Park.” Players circled the board buying up railroads,
collecting money and paying rent. She made up two sets of rules, “monopolist”
and “anti-monopolist,” but her stated goal was to demonstrate the evils of
accruing vast sums of wealth at the expense of others. A firebrand against the
railroad, steel and oil monopolists of her time, she told a reporter in 1906,
“In a short time, I hope a very short time, men and women will discover that
they are poor because Carnegie and Rockefeller, maybe, have more than they know
what to do with.”
Monopoly became a hit, selling 278,000 copies in its first year and more than 1,750,000 the next. But the game lost its connection to Magie and her critique of American greed, and instead came to mean pretty much the opposite of what she’d hoped. It has taught generations to cheer when someone goes into bankruptcy.
Charles Darrow, envisioned players using small items from around
their homes as playing pieces. It was at the suggestion of Darrow’s niece that
the pieces be charms from a girl’s charm bracelet. The first Monopoly
tokens, produced in 1937, were the car, the iron, the lantern, the thimble, the
shoe, the top hat, and the rocking horse.
There are various theories as to why those particular icons were
Like the shoe, the wheelbarrow was said to be a symbol of hard
work. Which basically means the game ended up as rich versus poor.
My favorite piece was the iron. I don't have a clue why,
since I never iron and hate ironing, but for all the decades that I played
Monopoly, I always used the iron....and then they replaced it with a cat in
1999. I won't be able to play Monopoly again! Perhaps saddest to see
the iron go is Monopoly World Champion, Bjorn Halvard Knappskog, who used the
piece in his last championship match.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Remember when gas prices were this low?
I'd love it if you'd leave a comment! (Comments show up after I
This is entry #7788