A political book planted seeds in the heart of Lizzie Magie, from McComb, IL, for a game she would later create that became the most popular board game in the world. That game, Monopoly, grew out of Lizzie taking to heart anti-monopolist theories she read about when her father, James Magie, shared with her a copy of Henry George‘s best-selling 1879 book, “Progress and Poverty”. James Magie was a supporter of these anti-monopolist theories of Henry George, a charismatic politician and economist who believed that individuals should own 100 percent of what they made or created, but that everything found in nature, particularly land, should belong to everyone.
The Timeline of the Birth of Monopoly
In the early 1880s, Lizzie Magie worked as a stenographer. In her spare time, she spent many hours drawing and redrawing, thinking and rethinking the game that she wanted to be based on these theories of Henry George.
Early Creation, Modifications, and Final Game:
- Magie’s concept was unique for its time, featuring a path that allowed players to circle the board, in contrast to the linear-path design used by many games at the time.
- The plat of the board game was and still is surprisingly similar to Macomb’s Downtown Square.
- In one corner is the Poor House and the Public Park, and across the board was the Jail.
- Macomb’s actual Jail was, at that time, in one of corners of the Square.
- Also included on the board were three words that have endured for more than a century after Lizzie scrawled them there: “Go to Jail.”
- She called her creation, The Landlord’s Game, and in 1903 filed for a patent. This was at a time when less than one percent of patent holders were women.
- After Parker Brothers passed on publishing the game, Lizzie self-printed it with lack-luster sales.
- Bootlegged copies sprung up in other towns with street and business names being changed to match their towns.
- Decades later it was named, Magie’s Landlord’s Game, which was the version Charles Darrow was taught by a friend.
- Charles Darrow enjoyed playing the game and in 1935 appropriated and sold it to Parker Brothers under the name of Monopoly.
- This version held the core of Magie’s game but included modifications by the Quakers to make it easier.
- Changes such as properties named after Atlantic City streets, and fixed prices added to the board.
- Soon after making its deal with Darrow, Parker Brothers, in its effort to seize total control of Monopoly and other related games, struck a deal with Lizzie to purchase her Landlord’s Game patent and two more of her game ideas.
- If not for her trailblazing patent, the original game and the role of Lizzie Magie may have been lost in history.
- Sadly, while Darrow made millions with an agreement that ensured he would receive royalties, Lizzie’s income for her creation was reported to be a mere $500.
- Lizzie Magie or even Parker Brothers and Charles Darrow, could not have imagined that Monopoly would not only be hit, but a global sensation and perennial best-selling game for generations.
1906 Advertisement Description of the Game
The play on the board is started by the throw of dice which indicates the moves of the players and from that time on the transactions between individuals, corporations and the government are entered into with vim and interest. At the start the players are equally equipped but as the moves continue the majority of the players are apt to be forced into poverty, some even arriving at the Poor House, while one player generally becomes the millionaire.
THE SINGLE TAX
This condition prevails until the adoption of the single tax on land values, when the land rents, instead of being appropriated by individual players, are turned into the public treasury and used for public improvements. The game as then continued equalizes opportunities and raises wages, while it is impossible for one player to get any great advantage over the others.
The game brings out with great cleverness the exact position in the commercial world of money, transportation and land monopoly. Unlike most games, preserves all the principal features of the popular chance and skill games, at the same time demonstrating the problems with clearness and simplicity. It is easily learned and is played with great enthusiasm by children as well as adults.
More About Lizzie
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie-Phillips was born in Macomb, on May 9th, 1866, the year after the Civil War ended and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Her father, James K. Magie, was a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who accompanied Lincoln as he traveled around Illinois in the late 1850s debating politics with Stephen Douglas. Lizzie later resided in Washington, D.C. and then New York, NY. Aside from being an actress, writer, poet, pioneering feminist and an inventor who held several patents, Lizzie Magie is best known for creating Monopoly.
Celebrate Lizzie Magie Day with us!
Macomb has officially proclaimed May 9th, Lizzie’s birthday, as “Lizzie Magie Day”. You can see an exhibit of Lizzie’s authentic games, including an original example of her Landlord’s Game on display for the public in Macomb’s historic Amtrak Train Depot outside the Unforgettable Forgottonia / MACVB offices.