“Children of nine or ten years (…) learn that the quickest way to accumulate wealth and gain power is to get all the land they can in the best localities and hold on to it.” Lizzie J. Magie
Lizzie J. Magie (1866–1948) was the member of a movement of followers of political economist Henry George, which supported a specific theory: that the renting of land and real estate produced an unerned increase in land values that profited a few individuals (the landowners) rather than the majority of people (the tenants). To prove her point she designed and get a patent for the board game “The Landlord’s Game” which was supposed to prove the validity of the theory and to propose the introduction of a single federal tax based on land ownership to discourage speculation and encourage equal opportunity. In Magie’s words the game was to be a “a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences. It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life,’ as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world”
The original game featured a board with the familiar circuit of increasingly pricey neighborhoods crossed with railroads and utilities. The corners read “Go to Jail“, “Public Park” and the jail itself. The fourth corner included a drawing of the globe encircled by the words “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.”
The Monopoly evolution via cmybacon.com
At some point in 1906 Elizabeth and a number of other followers of Henry George established the Economic Game Company of New York, which was able to sell the first version of the game.
Apparently, the Parker Brothers, who had previously published some other Lizzie J. Magie games in the past, bought the original game in 1935 for 500$ without granting the royalties to the author. Over the years, they consistenly revised the game and trasformed it into the famous “Monopoly”, whilst washing away its original critical content.
The first patent drawing for Lizzie Magie’s board game, dated January 5, 1904
Landlords Game board, based on Magie’s 1924 US patent (no. 1,509,312)
Lizzie Magie’s commentary on The Landlords’ Game, as it appeared in “The Single Tax Review” of autumn 1902
The rules of the game: