Monopoly is a redesign of an earlier game "The Landlord's Game", first published by the Quaker and political activist Elizabeth Magie. The purpose of that game was to teach people how monopolies end up bankrupting the many and giving extraordinary wealth to one or few individuals.
Since the game was created, more than one billion people have played it, making it "the most played (commercial) board game in the world." The 1999 Guinness Book of Records cited Hasbro's previous statistic of 500 million people having played Monopoly. Games Magazine has inducted Monopoly into its Hall of Fame. The mascot for the game, known as Mr. Monopoly or Rich Uncle Pennybags, is an elderly moustached man in morning dress with a walking cane and top hat.
The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903, when a Quaker woman named Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George (it was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies). Her game, The Landlord's Game, was commercially published in 1924. Other interested game players redeveloped the game, some changing its name to Auction Monopoly and later to plain Monopoly, and many making their own sets customized for their own cities. Several people, mostly in the U.S. Midwest and near the U.S. East Coast, contributed to the American version of the game's design and evolution. Phillips herself patented a revised edition of the game in 1923, and similar games of this nature were published commercially.
Charles Darrow is known to have played an Atlantic City variation of "Monopoly", created by his friends, the Todds, who lived in Philadelphia. He became unemployed in the 1929 crash and decided to sell copies of the game taught to him by the Todds. He launched it in 1933 and it quickly made him rich. In 1935 Parker Brothers bought the rights from Darrow and started manufacturing a slightly updated version. In the same year Waddingtons bought the UK rights to the game and made a version based on the streets of London.
In 1941 the British Secret Service had John Waddington Ltd., the licensed manufacturer of the game outside the U.S., create a special edition for World War II prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Hidden inside these games were maps, compasses, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by secret service-created fake charity groups. This was the first "special issue" of the game.
By the 1970s, the game's early history had been lost (at least one historian[who?] has argued that it was purposely suppressed), and the idea that it had been created solely by Charles Darrow had become popular folklore. This was stated in the 1974 book The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World's Most Popular Game, by Maxine Brady, and even in the instructions of the game itself. As Professor Ralph Anspach fought Parker Brothers and its then parent company, General Mills, over the trademarks of the Monopoly board game, much of the early history of the game was "rediscovered".
Because of the lengthy court process, and appeals, the legal status of Parker Brothers' trademarks on the game was not settled until the late 1970s. Anspach won the case on appeals in 1979, as the 9th District Court determined that the trademark "Monopoly" was generic, and therefore unenforceable. However, on Hasbro's pressure, the US Congress immediately passed a statute amending the Trademark Act to protect longstanding marks against 'generic' claims. Thus the game's name remains a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, as do its specific design elements. Parker Brothers' current corporate parent, Hasbro, now acknowledges that Charles Darrow was responsible for the development of the modern Monopoly, but did not invent the original game. Anspach published a book about his research, called The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle (and republished as Monopolygate), in which he makes his case about the purposeful suppression of the game's early history and development.
The Monopoly board consists of forty spaces containing twenty-eight properties (twenty-two colored streets, four railroads and two utilities), three Chance spaces, three Community Chest spaces, a Luxury Tax space, an Income Tax space, and the four corner squares: GO, Jail, Free Parking, and Go to Jail
In the 1930s, John Waddington Ltd. (Waddingtons) was a firm of printers from Leeds that had begun to branch out into packaging and the production of playing cards. Waddingtons had sent the card game Lexicon to Parker Brothers hoping to interest them in publishing the game in the United States. In a similar fashion, Parker Brothers sent over a copy of Monopoly to Waddingtons early in 1935 before the game had been put into production in the United States.
The managing director of Waddingtons, Victor Watson, gave the game to his son Norman (who was head of the card games division) to test over the weekend. Norman was impressed by the game and persuaded his father to call Parker Brothers on Monday morning - transatlantic calls then being almost unheard of. This call resulted in Waddingtons obtaining a license to produce and market the game outside of the United States. Watson felt that for the game to be a success in the United Kingdom the American locations would have to be replaced, so Victor and his secretary, Marjory Phillips, went to London to scout out locations. The Angel, Islington is not a street in London but an area of North London named after a coaching inn that stood on the Great North Road. By the 1930s the inn had become a Lyons Corner House (it is now a Co-operative Bank). Some accounts say that Marjory and Victor met at the Angel to discuss the selection and celebrated the fact by including it on the Monopoly board. In 2003, a plaque commemorating the naming was unveiled at the site by Victor Watson's grandson who is also named Victor.
The standard British board, produced by Waddingtons, was for many years the version most familiar to people in countries in the Commonwealth (except Canada, where the U.S. edition with Atlantic City-area names was reprinted), although local variants of the board are now also found in several of these countries (see Licensed and localized versions of the Monopoly game).
The original income tax choice from the U.S. board is replaced by a flat rate on the UK board, and the $75 Luxury Tax space is replaced with the £100 Super Tax space, the same as the current German board. The U.S. Edition now also uses the flat $200 Income Tax value and the upped $100 Luxury Tax amount since 2008.
In the cases where the game was produced under license by a national company, the £ (pound) was replaced by a $ (dollar) sign, but the place names were unchanged.
For a list of some of the localized versions, including the UK "Here and Now" edition, and the names of their properties, see Licensed and localized editions of Monopoly.