My Know-It-All Moment of Disaster (Monopoly Game Inventor)

When I was a kid, Monopoly was a favorite game. And as should surprise no one, I was pretty fanatical even then about sticking to the rules (no “money in the middle” to be awarded at Free Parking, etc). I read the rules completely, knew them, lived them.

I also read the account of how Monopoly was developed. Charles Darrow fashioned a game using odd little trinkets he found around the house as game pieces, and the game involved moving around a board buying, selling, and developing property. he used the streets of Atlantic City as the basis for his property names.

The game quickly caught on with friends and neighbors, and Darrow was soon overwhelmed trying to make copies for people by hand. He soon engaged a commercial printer, and tried to sell the game to Milton Bradley, who rejected it claiming it had “fifty two fatal errors.” After the game moved briskly off the shelves of a local department store, Parker Brothers bought the rights and the game broke all sorts of sales records in the ensuing years.

This must be true, because it was in the officially distributed version of the game!

Except, it turns out, it was all a lie, as I discovered after confidently asserting the story this weekend, only to be shot down by someone who had doen his homework.

Guess I missed all this uncovering of history.

The origin story of Monopoly isn’t as clearcut as the game inserts say it is. It’s also not as straightforward as presented on that page.

As far as I’ve heard, the definitive history is most thoroughly laid out in this book, which if you’re a fan you’d probably enjoy.

I grew up reading that Darrow version, but learned that it wasn’t the full story on one of those “History Detective” shows where they looked into an early pre-Darrow board.

Actually, the evidence was there all along, in the copyright or patent numbers printed on the Board. But before the internet, looking those up was a real pain.

Fascinating, Bricker! Thank you for posting that.

I did note that Moe Pep was apparently the public face of Monopoly, until he lost the gig to Milburn Pennybags in 1936.

Fortunately, he was able to land on his feet and go into the auto parts business with his brothers Manny and Jack.

Fifty-two fatal errors?

There’s a recent TV commercial (couldn’t find a link) which features a Monopoly game with the properties replaced by countries --like Iraq, Pakistan, Korea, etc.

I so totally want that version of the game.

  1. Board’s sharp corners could cut someone’s throat
  2. Pet dog a choking hazzard
  3. Diseases picked up from the community chest

The list goes on.

No Ace of Diamonds.
No King of Diamonds.
No Queen of Diamonds.
No Jack of Diamonds.
No ten of Diamonds.

I found that to be a very entertaining read, not only on Monopoly, but on the history of board games as well.

Fun fact: Darrow’s first draft required players to eat broken glass rather than declare bankruptcy.

Moved MPSIMS --> The Game Room.

Did not pass Go; did not collect $200.