versions of the game board patented by Magie
versions of the game board patented by Magie
tdg.typepad.com
License: Unknown

Lizzie Magie is Granted US Patent for The Landlord's Game (Monopoly)

Elizabeth "Lizzie" J. Phillips nee Magie (1866–1948) was the games inventor of The Landlord's Game, the precursor to Monopoly.

Magie first made the game, known as "The Landlord's Game", popular with friends while living in Brentwood, Maryland, and sought her first patent on it while living there. On March 23, 1903, Magie applied to the US Patent Office for a patent on her board game, which was designed to demonstrate the evils of land monopolism. She was granted U.S. Patent 748,626 on January 5, 1904.

In 1906, she moved to Chicago. That year, she and fellow Georgists formed the Economic Game Co. to self-publish her original edition of "The Landlord's Game." In 1910 she married Albert Phillips and Parker Brothers published her humorous card game "Mock Trial." In 1912, "The Landlord's Game" was adapted in Scotland by the Newbie Game Co. as "Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit." Although the instructions claimed it was protected by a British patent, there is no evidence this was actually done.

She and her husband moved back to the East Coast and patented a revised version of the game in 1924; it received U.S. Patent 1,509,312. As her original patent had expired in 1921, this is seen as her attempt to reassert control over her game, which was now being played at some colleges, where students made their own copies. In 1932, her second edition of "The Landlord's Game" was published by the Adgame Company of Washington D. C., probably another self-publishing effort. This version was two games in one, as there were alternate rules for a game called Prosperity.

After a January 1936 interview with her appeared in a Washington D. C. newspaper, in which she was somewhat critical of Parker Brothers, they agreed to publish two more of her games.

They sold her final board game inventions "Bargain Day" and "King's Men" in 1937, and a third version of "The Landlord's Game" in 1939. In Bargain Day, shoppers compete with each other in a department store; King's Men is an abstract strategy game. Few copies of the Parker Brothers version of "The Landlord's Game" are known to exist, but "Bargain Day" and "King's Men" are less rare.

On March 23, 1903, Lizzie J. Magie, a young Quaker woman living in Virginia, applied to the US Patent Office for a patent on a board game she had invented as an easy, fun-filled method of teaching the evils of land monopolism. Lizzie Magie was an ardent follower of the single tax movement originated by Philadelphia-born Henry George, who began preaching in San Francisco circa 1869 that the economic rent of land and the unearned increase in land values profited a few individuals rather than the majority of the people, whose very existence produced the land values. He therefore advocated a single tax, on land alone, to meet all the costs of government. He thought this would erode the power of monopolies to suppress competition, and equalize opportunities.

That was all heady, abstractly theoretical stuff for plain working folks to comprehend. So, Lizze Magie decided to teach it through her playtime invention, which she called "The Landlord's Game." She got her patent on January 5, 1904. It's registered as number 740,626 in the US Patent Office. Copies of the original game board are still available.

The board for Lizzie Magie's game bears a striking resemblance to the one now labeled "Monopoly", except that names, drawings, colors and the like are different. It is painted with blocks for rental properties such as "Poverty Place" (land rent $50), "Easy Street" (land rent $100) and "Lord Blueblood's Estate " ("no trespassing - go to jail"). There are banks, a poorhouse, and railroads and utilities such as the "Soakum Lighting System" ($50 for landing on that) and the "PDQ Railroad" ("fare $100"). And of course there is the well known "Jail" block.

The properties on Lizzie Magie's board were for rent only, not acquisition. Otherwise, the game was played much like the Monopoly of today.

You might not think so if you read and compared only the rules introductions to Lizzie Magie's and Parker Brothers' games. Lizzie Magie's reads like this:

"The object of this game is not only to afford amusement to players, but to illustrate to them how, under the present or prevailing system to land tenure, the landlord has an advantage over other enterprisers, and also how the single tax would discourage speculation."

But the introduction to Parker Brothers' Monopoly reads approximately like this (depending on the year of your set):

"The idea of the game is to buy and rent or sell property so profitably that one becomes the wealthiest player and eventually monopolist... The game is one of shrewd and amusing trading and excitement."