Who invented Monopoly? Sounds like a simple question, right? Well, maybe, but the answer is not so simple.
It turns out that the game has a pretty long, interesting, and somewhat controversial history. So, let’s take a look…
Who originally invented Monopoly and why?
The Monopoly game was originally invented by Elizabeth Magie to highlight the wrongs of making money at the expense of others. She came up with the concepts that we are all familiar with today including moving around a board more than once, buying properties, and renting them out.
Lizzie Maggie was an anti-monopolist and her hope was that the game would show that land grabbing and expansion would only ever benefit a few landowners whilst the rent-paying tenants were left to live in poverty.
It was a game that aimed to do good
Magie’s game is the earliest known version of Monopoly but it actually had two sets of rules…
There was an anti-monopolist set in which everyone was rewarded when wealth was created and a monopolist set where the aim was to create monopolies and destroy your opponent.
Her hope was that the game would demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior. She would probably be pretty disappointed to learn that it’s the monopolist version that has proven to be so popular!
That is a fairly straightforward answer to the question of who first invented Monopoly and why, but I did warn you that it wasn’t such a simple question!
One man liked the game so much he made his own version
For most of its history, and in many places today, you will see Charles Darrow listed as the inventor of Monopoly, while Lizzie Magie is almost unknown.
It was Darrow that took the game of Monopoly to Parker Brothers and it was his version that went on to sell millions of copies.
In fact, many editions of the game even came with a heartwarming story that told of how he invented the game whilst penniless and went on to earn his fortune from the game!
Charles Darrow is certainly an important figure in the history of Monopoly but it definitely seems unfair that the role of Lizzie Magie has been sidelined and was almost airbrushed from history completely.
Who made Monopoly first?
Charles Darrow was the first person to make and sell the game of Monopoly. He made the first sets by hand with the help of his wife and son. In 1935 he agreed on a deal with Parker Brothers to produce the game at scale and it’s now one of the top-selling board games in the world.
The Parker Brothers game was an instant success selling 278,000 copies in its first year of release, whilst the following year sales soared to 1.75 million copies (it was only available in the USA at that time).
The first Monopoly games
Charles Darrow began making his Monopoly game having seen a similar game at a friend’s house – an Atlantic City version of Lizzie Magie’s The Landlord’s Game.
He asked his friends for a copy of the rules and gameboard and used these as the basis for his new game. He drew the earliest versions of Monopoly by hand on oilcloth before contacting a printer who put his designs onto a square board.
Charles Darrow managed to copy across some misspellings (eg. Marvin Gardens rather than Marven Gardens) from his friend’s homemade version of The Landlord’s Game, so it is kind of obvious that he was directly copying the other game.
So, who is the real inventor of Monopoly?
Lizzie Magie deserves to be credited as the original inventor of Monopoly for the game she created called The Landlord’s Game. Many of the key ideas and themes of Monopoly were originally in this game and it should be recognized as the earliest version of Monopoly despite a number of differences from the famous version.
About Magie’s original game
Lizzie Magie patented The Landlord’s Game in 1904. This game included a square game board with nine rectangular spaces on each side. Each of the properties could be bought and other players had to pay rent if they landed on that space.
In the corners were spaces that included ‘go to jail’ and a free public park. Players would continue round once they passed the start space, this was quite unusual at the time since almost all games followed a linear path.
Over time, numerous homemade versions of The Landlord’s Game game were made including one version which used streets in Atlantic City as the properties. Many people colloquially referred to the game as ‘Monopoly’, rather than by its given name.
Charles Darrow’s contribution
Charles Darrow was introduced to an Atlantic City version of The Landlord’s Game by some friends. He took inspiration from this and began to produce his own version of the game under the name ‘Monopoly’.
This game was patented, sold to Parker Brothers, and went on to sell millions of copies.
Whilst you could argue that Darrow largely copied an existing game, he did come up with some of the classic design elements that helped to make the game so popular.
With the help of graphic artists, he introduced iconic elements like the black trains on the railroad stations, the red arrow on the Go space, the car on ‘Free Parking’, and the faucet and light bulb that go with the ‘Water Works’ and ‘Electric Company’.
Lizzie Magie rarely gets credited as the inventor or co-inventor of the game, particularly in official releases from Parker Brothers.
How much did the creators of Monopoly make?
Charles Darrow became a multi-millionaire for selling the game of Monopoly to Parker Brothers. He wisely struck a deal that gave him a share of the royalties of one of the best-selling games of all time. Lizzie Magie, who came up with the original idea, made almost nothing.
Once Parker Brothers had bought Monopoly from Charles Darrow they also bought the patent for The Landlord’s Game from Lizzie Magie. It is likely that this was to avoid any potential legal issues given the obvious similarities between the two games.
Lizzie Magie received just $500 in return for the patent The Landlord’s Game.
She hoped that both games would be widely released and her game found to be superior. In reality, very few copies of The Landlord Game were made by Parker Brothers, just enough to ensure the patent and ownership were safe.
Once production costs and legal fees are factored in it is believed that Magie made no profit at all from her invention.
When did Parker Brothers buy Monopoly?
Parker Brothers bought Monopoly in 1935 from Charles Darrow. The company had previously turned down the rights to the game on three separate occasions as they thought the rules were too complicated and the game was too long.
The rights to The Landlord’s Game
Lizzie Magie offered Parker Brothers the chance to buy the rights to The Landlord’s Game in 1909. They were not interested in it at the time (although they bought one of her other games), and the game continued to be produced by smaller manufacturers.
The Landlord’s Game gained some word-of-mouth appeal and many homemade versions appeared but it did not achieve widespread commercial success.
Magie again contacted Parker Brothers in 1924 with an updated version but it was turned down for being too political.
The rights to Monopoly
In 1934, Charles Darrow offered the rights to Monopoly to Parker Brothers, but it was rejected on the grounds of being “too long and too technical”.
However, the game achieved strong sales over the Christmas period and Parker Brothers realized their error and bought the game less than five months after the initial refusal.
It is lucky for them that they struck the deal as Monopoly soon became one of the fastest-selling games ever.
What company owns Monopoly now?
The rights to Monopoly are now owned by Hasbro since the company acquired Parker Brothers in 1991. Hasbro has since licensed the creation of hundreds of different editions of the Monopoly game.
Hasbro has sought to move with the times and introduce elements that appeal to modern consumers. There have been numerous tie-ins with movie and TV franchises like The Walking Dead and Star Wars (although strangely not Harry Potter).
So, now you know who invented Monopoly! I think it is pretty unfair that Charles Darrow was able to take all the glory for himself whilst Lizzie Magie was almost completely erased from the history of the game. She died more or less penniless despite coming up with much of the original concept behind the Monopoly.
I guess credit is due to Charles Darrow for seeing a popular homemade game and adding some great artwork and nice design features that surely helped to secure its popularity.
It would have been nice if he or Parker Brothers had acknowledged the contribution that Lizzie Magie had made and given her co-creator status. But, maybe, after all, this is appropriate since this would go against the winner takes all mentality of Monopoly itself.
If you would like to know even more about the history of Monopoly please head over to see my Complete Monopoly History Timeline.
Monopoly History FAQs
A woman named Elizabeth Magie came up with the original concept behind Monopoly. Her game was known as The Landlord’s Game and it allowed players to move around a board buying properties to let out. A man named Charles Darrow played this game, made his own version, and released it as Monopoly.
Monopoly was not invented by a Quaker, it was invented by Lizzie Magie. However, a group of Quakers in Atlantic City did help the game to progress from Magie’s original idea to something closer to modern Monopoly as their homemade version added their local Atlantic City street names, simplified some of the rules, and added fixed prices to the board.
Monopoly was invented in the United States of America. The original concept was thought up by Lizzie Magie in 1903 and was known as the Landlord’s Game. This game was redesigned as Monopoly by Charles Darrow and released in 1935 by Parker Brothers in the USA.