The Signal

Monopoly’s History — What We Thought Isn’t True

- By Richard Roeper Signal Contributi­ng Writer Copyright 2022 Chicago Sun-times

Charles Darrow and the inception of a prominent feminist, economic acMonopoly. But as writer Mary Pilon tivist, performanc­e artist, writer and says in “Ruthless: Monopoly’s Sedesigner. Magie was living in Chicago cret History,” a fascinatin­g “American in 1906 when she began selling her Experience” documentar­y on PBS, self-published “The Landlord’s Game,” ★★★ (out of four)

“There’s just one problem with that with a square board containing landA documentar­y airing on PBS and

story. It’s not true.” ing spots such as railroads, trolleys,

After an opening montage of “Fifth Avenue,” “Madison Square,” f you’ve ever played Monopoly home-movie footage of folks playing “Boomtown,” “Rubeville” and “Lord — and who hasn’t — you might Monopoly, including Muhammad Ali Blueblood’s Estate, No Trespassin­g, recall reading the instructio­n with his kids and Hugh Hefner not GO TO JAIL.” Hmmmm. booklet, which led off with, “In with his kids, “Ruthless” takes a trip “Ruthless” has a bit of a mean1934, Charles B. Darrow of Gerto the 1970s, when Ralph Anspach, dering style — at one point, we get mantown, Pennsylvan­ia, presented a an economics professor at San Frana history of board games, complete game called MONOPOLY to the excisco State University, invented Anwith old-timey drawings and phoTheatre­s • Santa Clarita Signal ecutives of Parker Brothers. Mr. Daradsourc­e@exhibitora­

ti-monopoly, a counter-cultural game tographs — and sometimes risks 5.9” row, like many other Americans, was designed p. to “make 888.737.2812 it clear that the f. 203.438.1206 losing its audience, but the central unemployed at the time. … Since monopolist­s are the bad guys,” as Ansstory of Monopoly’s murky origins Sunday-thursday, 1935, when Parker Brothers February acquired 26-March 2, 2023

pach explained in a 2005 interview. remains intriguing. We learn there the rights Tuesday, to the game, February it has be21, 2023 at When 3:21:13 Parker PM Brothers CASCS_LEM0226-0302.QXP sent Anwere a number of other board games come the leading proprietar­y game spach a cease-and-desist letter, he sprouting up in the early 20th centunot only in the United States but responded with a lawsuit and started ry, including one played by Quakers throughout the Western World …” digging into the Parker Brothers’ 1935 who were living in Atlantic City in the

This was followed by that long list trademark on Monopoly — and that’s 1920s and put local properties such as of instructio­ns that none of us ever when he learned about one Elizabeth Baltic, Marvin Gardens and Boardread all the way through. Still, many “Lizzie” Magie, who was born in Mawalk onto the game board. a Monopoly fan knows the story of comb, Illinois, in 1866 and became We also learn Charles Darrow played a version of The Landlord’s Game at a neighbor’s house in the early 1930s, asked the neighbor to write down the rules for the game — and essentiall­y hijacked the entire concept and took it to Parker Brothers, who bought the copyrights from Darrow in 1935. An iconic American game was born and was credited with saving Parker Brothers from possible bankruptcy.

“Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History” is a reminder that Darrow was simply the man who refined an idea and sold it and perpetuate­d the myth he had come up with it out of thin air. Parker Brothers had paid Magie a total of $500 (no royalties) for the patents to The Landlord’s Game and two other game ideas, none of which took off. Monopoly had a monopoly on Monopoly — until Ralph Anspach’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Anspach, who received a sizable settlement and was allowed to continue to speak freely about the true origins of the game. One is left with the distinct feeling Lizzie Magie would have loved this victory for the little guy.

‘Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History’



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