Monopoly’s diamond year
Published: Monday, November 8, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 8, 2010 23:11
On Dec. 31, 1935, a poor domestic heater salesman's patent was approved for a board game that sought to bring happiness to Depression-era families.
Charles Darrow created the game of Monopoly as America knows it today, 75 years later.
In 1935, America was seeing the end of the Great Depression, a time when families had little money and little patience for the government.
Since then, Monopoly has gone on to become the number one board game of all time, selling more than 250 million copies and more than 500 million people have played the game, according to Hasbro.
There are over 120 unique, or themed, versions of the game, not counting the numerous games that have been made for colleges, universities and cities across the country.
Darrow's Monopoly was adapted from a game that had been played since the early 1900s.
The game was inspired by economist Henry George, who believed high rent caused poverty and single taxation on the land would solve the country's problems.
In a PBS show called "History Detectives," Elyse Luray said that it was funny that a man that was so anti-capitalist made a game that delved into capitalist ideals.
"In the late 1800s, [George] was one of the most famous men in America," Luray said. "At a time of unprecedented economic growth, George campaigned against corruption and the concentration of wealth among a small group of industrialists."
Darrow wasn't the originator of the game, according to Luray. Historians claim that people had been playing homemade versions of Monopoly after Elizabeth Magie claimed a patent for "The Landowner's Game" in January 1904.
Versions of Monopoly, some valued at wellover $2 million, reside in the Museum of American Finance in New York.
"This gives an opportunity to showcase a beautiful item like this, a game that's symbolic to America, popularized during the Great Depression, during the 1930s, during those tough economic times," Museum President David Cowen noted when the exhibit opened in October. "Again, we're facing tough economic times in this country."
The popularity of the board game has spread worldwide, having been published in different languages and with different sets of rules, such as in the United Kingdom.
Its popularity is also seen in the emergence of the Monopoly World Championships in the late 1970s and the regional, American Championships.
Opposition to the famous board game came in the ‘70s when 83-year-old economics professor Ralph Anspach tried to sell his version, Anti-Monopoly, and Parker Brothers sued for copyright infringement.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court whom eventually ruled in Anspach's favor. His idea was that if he proved the game was popular before Darrow's patent, then he wouldn't violate their trademark.
The deal made sure that he "kept the right to tell the truth about the origins of Monopoly, something I have always insisted upon," Anspach said, who retired from teaching in 2004. "That is a principle which is not for sale for me."
Magie's version of the game helped to prove Anspach's claim, along with various household games, which used oiled cloth with hand-drawn boards.
Twenty-first century players may still use the traditional metal tokens and board, but new ways to play are popping up across the nation.
A partnership between Hasbro and Google developed for an online version of the game last year had 1.4 million registered players, and the company released an Apple iPhone application in February.