History of the Monopoly Board Game

Monopoly Game History

Charles Darrow is generally credited with the invention of the Monopoly Game. The Monopoly Game got its start, however, in 1904 when Elizabeth Magie-Phillips began selling her "Landlords Game." Although the Landlords Game never became a commercial success, it became popular in academic circles and was used as a teaching aid in colleges and universities. There, Don Layman generated a version that he named "Finance." Ruth Hoskins and some of her Quaker friends made a variation of the Finance Game based on Atlantic City and its streets.

It was this game that Charles Darrow first saw and played. Charles became infatuated with the game and developed his own version. His modifications included adding icons and graphics, the corner symbols and the color bands at the top of each property. Previously there were no pictures on the game board. These modifications gave the game more appeal and greatly increased its popularity.

Charles Darrow applied for and got a copyright on his Monopoly Game Board in 1934. He made some homemade sets and began selling them locally. He tried to interest Parker Brothers in the Game but they rejected it. Darrow then got the Wanamakers Department Store in Philadelphia to stock the game, where it sold well during the fall Christmas season. Parker Brothers noticed this success and recanted. They approached Charles Darrow, purchased his copyright, and helped him apply for a patent on the game. When Darrow applied for the patent, attorneys conducting a patent search discovered Elizabeth Magie-Phillips patent on the Landlords Game. Parker Brothers contacted her and obtained the rights to her patent. Charles Darrow obtained his patent in 1935.

In early 1936, Charles Darrow and Elizabeth Magie-Phillips were given joint credit by Parker Brothers for the establishment of the Monopoly Game.

In 1935, the first year with Parker Brothers, the Monopoly Game was the best-selling game in America. Since 1935 it is estimated that 750 million people have played the game. Parker Brothers came out with many other versions, or editions of the game, based on other themes and locations. The game is now issued in 26 languages and sold in 80 countries.

The Monopoly Game got its start overseas when in 1936, Parker Brothers licensed the game to John Waddington Ltd. in Leeds, England. They made versions of the game using the streets of London. The game was a success in England, and Parker Brothers extended Waddington's license to include all of Continental Europe.

Licenses were extended to France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Australia. These countries all developed games using names from their capital cities. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa also obtained licenses but retained London street names. In South America the game became known as Metropoli. The capitalistic Monopoly Game had been banned in Russia until 1988, when the first Russian-language edition was published. One of its tokens was a Russian bear.

In 1963 General Mills bought Parker Brothers and merged it with their subsidiary "Kenner." In 1987, Kenner was aquired by Tonka Inc. Then in 1991, Tonka was bought by Hasbro. The Hasbro Toy Co. now produces and sells the game.

Every few years a World Monopoly Championship has been held. Antonio Zafra Fernandez, from Spain, is the current World Monopoly Game Champion, having won the Championship Tournament held in Tokyo in 2004. Hasbro has not issued any notice of when the next World Championship Monopoly Game will be held.

Reference: "Monopoly, The World's Most Famous Game & How it Got That Way," by Philip E. Orbanes.

Monopoly Game Editions