The Monopolists : Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
Publication Date: 2015
The Short Version:
The story of the origin of the game of Monopoly that I knew growing up was a fable perpetuated by Parker Brothers to protect it’s interests and hide the truth.
Why I Read It:
I heard about this one when Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness shared a photo of it on Instagram. I looked it up at my library and put in a request that same day.
From the publisher:
The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man’s lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game’s questionable origins.
Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily–and richly–ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord’s Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game–underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today–was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt’s famed Brain Trust.
A fascinating social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly’s real-life winners and losers.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I had grown up with the story of Charles Darrow creating the game of Monopoly during the Depression. I learned a lot about not only the history of the game but also about toy companies, trademark and patent law, the legal system and the occasional side trip to completely unrelated things.
For the most part this was a fun and interesting read. There were a few of those side trips to completely unrelated things that I felt could have easily have been left out but it wasn’t enough to change my overall opinion of the book.
My inner trivia buff and collector of random useless information absolutely loved this book. I think The Hubster got tired of me and my “Did you know …?’ comments. It’s a fun little trip through history in both the early and late 20th century.
About half of the book is devoted to the history of the game Monopoly and half is about Ralph Anspach’s battle with Parker Brothers to sell his own game Anti-Monopoly in the 1970’s.
This is one that is worthy of a trip to your local library.