The story of Monopoly starts off at the beginning of the 20th century with a clever and progressive woman named Elizabeth Magie. Hardworking and well educated, she could not accept the inequalities of her time and society. Working as a stenographer and later a writer, she undertook many different campaigns in order to raise awareness on important issues, like woman’s rights and the disproportion of wealth. As a way to reach a wider audience, in 1903 she released a boardgame, named “The Landlord’s Game”, designed to illustrate the harmful effect of monopolism on the economy.
The game featured money and properties to be bought and sold and was one of the first ever, where players moved around the board in a circle. Every time one of them passed the starting field, he received wages and when he ran out of money, he went to the Poor House. In her design there were two different sets of rules - one, where players worked together for the benefit of all and one, which put them against each other until there was only a single winner left. This dualism was supposed to show how different approaches could lead to completely different effects on society. Because of the nature of its ideas, the game became popular around leftwing communities as well as college campuses.
For the next 30 years the game was passed along freely, with many playing on homemade versions, until finally in 1932 it crossed the path of Charles Darrow. It was the middle of the Great Depression and he was unemployed and quite desperate for money. Soon he started making copies of the game and selling it around Philadelphia. Finally, in 1935, he sold the rights to the Parker Brothers. They did not want to take any chances and were quick to buy up the rights to all similar variations, including Magie’s original. She assumed her game would finally be able to educate the masses and sold the patent for just $500. It did indeed become an instant hit and made Darrow a millionaire, but to the great disappointment of its creator, for all the wrong reasons. The “anti-monopolist” set of rules were discarded and instead of criticizing greed, it taught countless future generations to champion it.