Inventors, Impostors and Corporate Greed.

This is a tale right out of today’s headlines about corporate greed and malfeasance in which life imitates art – real life monopolism imitates the game of Monopoly. This is what happened in a nut shell.

Before Anspach started to investigate the history of Monopoly to gather evidence in the trademark infringement suit brought by the produces of Monopoly, it was accepted by everyone that Monopoly was invented in 1932 by an unemployed man named Darrow who placed it with Parker Brothers. His inspirational story was hyped into an American success epic  about a poor man defying the odds of the Great Depression and becoming a self-made millionaire in our land of opportunity. But Anspach discovers that the story is a scam to cover up a corporate fraud with which a company took a game out of the public domain and monopolized it through a fraudulent patent. Anspach’s research and rectification of history has been validated by the courts.

The monopolizing concept which characterizes Monopoly was invented in and about 1904 by a populist, woman named Elizabeth Magie Phillips who however did not commercialize it. Left-wing professors called it monopoly (lower cap “m” like chess) and taught it to their students as a lesson in the evil of monopolism. They thought erroneously that the players would understand that one got rich in the game by monopolizing real estate, utilities, and railroads and then profiteering from sky-high prices and utility rates. The students passed it on to others and it became a folk game played on homemade boards all over the Eastern United States.

In about 1931, monopoly arrived in  Atlantic City where a group of Quaker teachers put Atlantic City street names on it, created the prices so well-known now, and replaced the auction system with fixed prices  so that children could play it. This change explains why Monopoly has become the world’s best-selling board game year after year because children play it and then teach it to their children.

An acquaintance of theirs, Charles Darrow, copied the game surreptitiously and sold it to  Parker Brothers claiming that he was the inventor but the company learned immediately that this was a lie. But then Parker Brothers ran into marketing problems because its Monopoly was outsold by another publication of the folk game offered at a lower price. To get rid of the competition and monopolize monopoly, it had Darrow get a fraudulent invention patent  which earned it about an extra one billion dollars in monopoly profits. The company then embarked on a brilliant cover-up of the existence of the folk game monopoly. A part of this operation was to suppress the real history of the game and substitute the story of an All-American hero  whose ingenuity and drive raised him from rags to riches.

The company also neutralized Elizabeth Magie Phillips from spilling the beans by promising to make her other game which had an anti-Landlords theme into a best-seller. She was then betrayed by the company and airbrushed out of history. Some of the Quakers complained but their story was swamped by the corporate spin machine and they disappeared from history. Parker Brothers lucked out that they were Quakers, a creed which shuns litigation. The  Darrow story scam became a cautionary tale told and retold again and again to prove how a poor and honest man with ingenuity and guts can become a millionaire. That certainly can and does happen in America but not in this case.