♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (dice thudding) PATRICK JAGODA: We played on vacation, and it never ended well.
I mean, it would always end in a fight.
It was either somebody was cheating.
These weren't the rules, right?
There were always house rules that we were applying.
So it was a very intense series of games growing up.
MARY PILON: We always played Monopoly at Christmas Eve.
That was our family tradition, still is.
As a kid, it wasn't just exciting to win at a game, but also seeing my brother get destroyed.
As the little sister, it was, like, a very exciting feeling, if I had to be honest about it.
It's America's game, right?
It's all of our game.
It's the games of our childhood.
ERIC ZIMMERMAN: But there's a dark side, too.
It's not all, you know, rainbows and, and unicorns.
It's a cut-throat game: "I only win when you lose."
(dice clattering) BRYANT SIMON: In America, we've created a myth that capitalists like competition, but no capitalist wants competition.
What all companies want is monopoly.
JAGODA: This story about Monopoly is filled with ironies.
I mean, this is one of the things that makes it so compelling.
It's not just the twists and turns, but the fact that it is a game about capitalism that was created to teach people about something completely different.
KATE RAWORTH: The dynamics written into the rules of this game were never intended to be the rules.
It should come with a health warning, like a packet of cigarettes.
"You are playing a twisted version of this game."
TOM FORSYTH: It was supposed to be a critique of capitalism, and it turned out to be a celebration of it.
RAWORTH: And so it's a story that teaches us: compete, acquire, be ruthless, and you will go on to conquer the world.
It's monopoly through and through.
(kids talking in background) Read the instructions.
Pass me the instructions.
Uh, what piece do you guys want to be?
I'll be car.
I wanna be the hat.
You're the banker?
I want to be the banker.
So, how much money do we give out?
I think, like, $500.
No, "two of each, 500s."
Everybody gets two 500s.
That's a lot of money.
That's so weird.
And six 20s.
Okay, this is a lot of money.
My goal in life is to win and beat you all.
(dice clattering) ♪ ♪ PILON: Once upon a time, in the great Great Depression, there's this man named Charles Darrow.
He's unemployed, as are millions of Americans.
He has this big light bulb moment, this big eureka moment, and out comes Monopoly.
He's told no one will buy this game.
It's a game about property and money at a time when Americans are so desperately lacking in exactly those things.
But undeterred, he ultimately ends up at Parker Brothers.
They decide to sell the game, it becomes a massive bestseller, and it saves him and Parker Brothers from the brink of destruction.
(laughs): Everybody lives happily ever after.
There's just one problem with that story, and it's that it's not true.
SINGERS (on radio): ♪ KNBR, 68, it's San Francisco ♪ RADIO HOST: 24 until 11:00... PILON: In the early 1970s, Ralph Anspach is an economics professor at San Francisco State University.
Ralph is an impassioned anti-monopolist.
He thinks that monopolies are at the root of all that is wrong in this country and create power imbalances.
His ideas aren't getting across, and he's frustrated, because at this point, the OPEC oil cartels are dominating headlines.
(car horns honking) TRISTAN DONOVAN: OPEC, the Arab oil monopoly, controls the oil supply.
They've just hiked up prices, there are queues at the petrol pumps, the economy is in tatters.
It's a crisis, an absolute crisis in 1973.
6:00 tomorrow, we'll be open again.
Ralph believed that monopolies were one of the major forces holding back the optimal version of American capitalism.
And so what better way to teach people about those complex systems than having them play and experience a board game?
INTERVIEWER: Ralph, tell me about the board game that you invented, and how did it come about?
ANSPACH: It was a very hot day, chaos on the roads.
It took me about four hours rather than one hour to get home.
And when I finally got, sat down at the dinner table, I was X-rated cussing out the oil monopolists.
And suddenly my eight-year-old son says, "Dad, you are a really poor loser."
I said, "Why, William?
Why am I a poor loser?"
He said, "Yesterday, we played Monopoly, "I won the game, and now you're such a poor loser, you're attacking my victory."
I tried to explain to them, "You shouldn't take it personal."
And I started looking for a game that would show the anti-monopoly side.
Unfortunately, there was no such game.
I began to think about that, and that's what happened.
I invented Anti-Monopoly.
♪ ♪ PILON: Anti-Monopoly becomes a hit in the Bay Area.
It's sold at local stores.
Patty Hearst reportedly plays a version of the game.
And it becomes kind of this counter-cultural icon.
ANSPACH: The point of Anti-Monopoly was to retain all the fun of Monopoly, but at the same time, make it very clear that the monopolists are the bad guys when they play.
Anti-Monopoly has a message.
Monopolies are not a nice thing in capitalism.
It's the dark underside of capitalism.
DONOVAN: Anti-Monopoly is there to basically turn the tables on the Parker Brothers game.
Instead of trying to build a monopoly, you try to break them up.
There'll be steel monopolies to smash, oil monopolies to smash.
So, you know, it was about busting these giant corporations.
PILON: Anti-Monopoly takes off, it starts selling, all over the country, and it looks like it's going to be a huge hit.
And then one day, Ralph receives a letter.
It is from attorneys who represent General Mills, which at that point owned Parker Brothers, and they say, "You cannot sell Anti-Monopoly-- you are infringing upon our right to sell our game."
ANSPACH: The letter said, "Take the game off the market immediately, "destroy all games you have, and also, "we want you to put an ad in newspapers saying that you're sorry that you attacked us," and so on and so forth-- that's how it began.
It was enough to frighten anybody out of their wits, but I get mad about things like that, when some big company attacks a little guy for what I consider to be no valid reason.
So, I got ready to fight.
PILON: Ralph's a very cause-driven guy, and I think some of that's from his childhood.
Ralph was born in the city of Danzig.
He was Jewish.
Somewhere around the age of 12, his family moved to New York to escape the coming Nazi threat.
PILON: He's a scrappy kid in New York City, he doesn't know the language.
And then works his way through school, eventually to getting his doctorate.
DONOVAN: I think this gave him a kind of attitude of, "I need to stand up to bullies."
You know, if someone was trying to push him into a corner, he's gonna hit back.
We've sold a half a million Anti-Monopolies, and not a single consumer has complained to us or to Parker Brothers.
REPORTER: Complained about confusion, you mean?
That's right, not a single person claimed that they had bought Anti-Monopoly and they thought it was a General Mills game or something like that.
PILON: Now he lawyers up and he serves a counterpunch.
He actually sues Parker Brothers first, so that way, he can claim jurisdiction in California.
Part of Ralph's strategy is to prove that the Monopoly trademark is dubious.
So Ralph is on a mission to piece together Monopoly's early history, trying to find out what happened with the game before Parker Brothers started to sell it.
FORSYTH: And then one day, Ralph is working at home, and his son Mark comes running into his office, and he said, "Dad, Dad, there's this book I've been reading "and it says that Monopoly was invented by a woman.
This woman Lizzie Magie."
And Ralph is, like, "Wait, who's Lizzie Magie?"
♪ ♪ PILON: Elizabeth Magie was born in 1866 in Macomb, Illinois.
Her family was very political.
Her father was a very influential newspaper owner.
He was one of the early founders of the Republican Party.
He had traveled with Abraham Lincoln during the Stephen Douglas debates.
She was exposed to a lot of big ideas.
And at a time when women were not afforded many opportunities to be in the public space, she took every single one that she could.
She was an actress, she was politically very active.
She is a writer, and she produced plays, and she also invented a way for typewriters (typewriter keys clacking) to move paper more efficiently.
(carriage slides) JAGODA: I think of Lizzie Magie as a performance artist in some ways.
I'm serious, I mean, how do you, how do you classify her, right?
I mean, she's an engineer, she's a poet, she's a writer, she's an activist, she's a staunch feminist.
SPARROW: She is doing all of these things that a lot of women in that time were not allowed to do, or able to do.
She was really pushing boundaries.
♪ ♪ JAGODA: In 1906, she's living in Chicago and she puts out a newspaper ad describing herself as a young woman American slave.
The idea is that she's selling herself to the highest bidder, and to her dismay, people actually put forward offers.
But the idea of this is completely performance art.
And so she tried to show how poorly women are paid relative to men, and how difficult it is in particular to be an unmarried woman in America.
RAWORTH: She was a social rebel on many fronts, and she used shocking performance and play to throw counter-intuitive ideas into society.
PHIL ORBANES: During the Gilded Age, in the 1890s or early 1900s, when capitalism was highly unregulated, if you had a dominant position in the marketplace, you could dictate price and availability.
These big industrialist millionaires dominated industries in the U.S., and they became monopolists in their field.
ORBANES: And so people who had it made, the wealthy, employed lots of servants, had lavish homes, and everybody else struggled to get by.
JAGODA: Lizzie Magie, even in the early 20th century before the Great Depression, is seeing poverty and inequality everywhere.
And so much of that poverty is organized around land monopoly: the idea of people being able to own land and extract immense amounts of profits from the working class.
PILON: Lizzie Magie sees this income inequality, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and she becomes an impassioned follower of Henry George.
Henry George was a hugely influential public speaker and thinker of his time.
He published a book called "Progress and Poverty" that was a massive, massive bestseller.
There's an estimate that as many as five million of his books are sold during his lifetime.
PILON: He was really interested in land, landlords, property ownership, and how should that be taxed.
ENGLAND: George, like many people before and after him, say, "Land's not something anyone's ever made.
It's a gift of God, and it belongs to all of us."
You know, we think of the American dream as owning a home.
Well, it was back in the 1890s, but it was out of the reach of most people.
They had to rent.
And the landlord, according to Henry George, was the devil.
ENGLAND: He sees rent and growing property values as a source of inequality.
His solution is what his supporters eventually call the single tax.
The single tax.
The single tax.
The single tax.
This is the Georgeist idea that you would tax land at such a high level that it would essentially be communal, and nothing else would have to be taxed.
For George, this wasn't, like, an anti-capitalist statement.
This was, this was more about fairness.
This was more about leveling the playing field.
(hissing) RAWORTH: Lizzie Magie wanted to make Henry George's point clear.
Not everybody's going to read a political tract.
She had a genius idea.
She wanted to make it visible through the dynamics of a game.
♪ ♪ JAGODA: In 1904, Lizzie Magie receives the patents, the first patent by a woman for a board game in U.S. history, for The Landlord's Game.
RAWORTH: The Landlord's Game is making a piercing political point and with humor.
So she's got Lord Blueblood's estate.
"No trespassing, go to jail."
We've got a poorhouse, Beggarman's Court, Gee Whiz Railroad, Slambang Trolley.
"Labor upon Mother Earth produces wages."
One of the interesting things about The Landlord's Game is that it, it has two sets of rules.
One was to show how evil monopolies were.
And in this version, players would compete to be the last person standing, just like present-day Monopoly.
But she introduced, along with it, a second set of rules.
Instead of paying rent to the landlord whose property you've just landed on, the rent actually goes into the public treasury, reinvested in the community to create more public goods, public utilities, public education, and of course, this changes everything.
It perhaps de-emphasized our traditional pleasures-- dominating other players, coming out ahead, being the winner-- in favor of critical points about how economy and, and the social fabric is structured, and might be structured differently.
JAGODA: I get why Elizabeth Magie would have wanted to make The Landlord's Game to teach people about the single tax.
Because games are such a powerful way of internalizing a new set of rules, of practicing it, of experiencing it in a hands-on fashion.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight-- what's that?
St. Charles Place.
I own it.
JAGODA: When we play a game, we sit down for a couple of hours and we enter into a different kind of narrative, a different set of roles, a different series of rules.
LINDSAY GRACE: The whole idea in playing a game is that you get to experiment with things you may not get to experiment without cost.
"You've been elected chairman of the board.
Pay each player $50"?
(others cheer) Good Lord!
ZIMMERMAN: That's what play is.
Play is playing with these structures.
It's not just what happens on the board with the pieces.
It's in the players' heads and in the social space that kind of ties them all together as they play.
You need another 100.
No, I, I already gave you the other 100.
I, I had, I had two 100s, and then I gave him one, and then I was, like, realized I owed three, so I gave him a 500, and he gave me $100 back, and that's $400.
Here, I passed go.
ZIMMERMAN: That relationship to me is incredibly powerful, that we enter into the system of rules, but then what results is this experience that's sort of wildly creative and, and social and chaotic, and that's the emotional experience of play.
CHILD: Oh, my God, chill!
That was so terrible!
ZIMMERMAN: And I think that Lizzie Magie, like many game designers, recognized the sense of power a board game can have on its audience.
♪ ♪ PILON: The Monopoly board is an iconic image and its design is universal.
And when you look at Lizzie Magie's Landlord's Game, you see the origins of Monopoly in it.
And one of the first things that Ralph Anspach finds when he starts to research who Lizzie Magie was is her 1904 patent.
This discovery completely changes Ralph's case, and he can start to work from that 1904 date and see, where did this game go?
And that kind of starts the detective story that ends up taking over a lot of Ralph's life.
ANSPACH: The whole thing became a little suspicious, but I got even angrier thinking, here's these guys who seem to have stolen this game and they're attacking me, when I invented my game.
And my game was, you know, was different from their game, and yet they're coming after me.
PILON: Ralph is undeterred.
He knows that Lizzie Magie had a patent for her Landlord's Game in 1904 and had one renewed in 1924.
So how Charles Darrow was able to go in in 1935 and get a patent for Monopoly with his name on it is mysterious.
♪ ♪ Ralph and his lawyers put out ads trying to find people who can testify in his case that they played Monopoly prior to 1935.
He's hoping to discover how Lizzie Magie's Landlord's Game transformed into the game that we know today.
And this has him traveling all over the country and talking to all sorts of people.
♪ ♪ (airplane engine roars) He goes into people's homes, and they start pulling these boards out of their closets.
They hoist them up.
This is critical evidence for him.
♪ ♪ ANSPACH: When I uncovered the folk game, the people that were playing on homemade boards and so on, I thought that that was enough to win the lawsuit, but my lawyer said, "Hey, Ralph, you're not there yet, "because nobody seems to know "where Parker Brothers' Monopoly came from.
"So maybe Darrow did invent it from scratch, you never know.
Sometimes that happens, they're parallel inventions."
So, I had one more hurdle to overcome: where does Parker Brothers', Darrow's Monopoly come from?
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ DONOVAN: Until the 1800s, pretty much all board games were folk games, you know, people just passed them down.
No one owned them, anyone could do what they like with them, just like folk music.
♪ ♪ That started to change in the 19th century, when you have box-packaged, mass-produced games.
And Monopoly, in a way, was the very last folk game.
♪ ♪ FORSYTH: Shortly after inventing The Landlord's Game, Lizzie Magie is starting to share it, and some of the people she's sharing it with are single taxers.
PILON: One of them is Scott Nearing, this economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and the game starts spreading on college campuses.
DONOVAN: And people started copying it and sharing it.
No one is really sure where it came from, no one remembers the name, so they call it names like Monopoly, or Finance, or Business.
PILON: A few people actually market their versions of the game in places like Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and the folk game continues to spread, from one community to the next, up and down the East Coast.
DONOVAN: As it gets spread around, people adapt it to reflect their own interests.
One of the first things that gets lost is Magie's kind of single tax rules.
In the single tax version of the game, again, you got to remember this was not Monopoly, it was the opposite.
It was about not putting wealth in one person, but putting it in the entire community.
It was boring, of course, to players, because players, when you play a game, you want to win.
And so Lizzie's rules for single tax, Georgeist-type play just didn't really catch on.
DONOVAN: But the game is spreading, people keep changing the rules around to suit themselves.
And so it actually spent 30 years evolving, just like folk games used to do.
Eventually, a Quaker teacher moves to Atlantic City and she introduces it to the local Quaker community there.
(riders cheerfully screaming) PILON: In the late 1920s, the Quakers in Atlantic City were playing the folk game.
So they put Atlantic City properties onto the game board.
♪ ♪ Atlantic City was a very segregated city at that point, and the Quakers reflected that, too.
SIMON: Looking at the Monopoly board, the first two properties you confront, Baltic and Mediterranean, which was the segregated Black part of town.
And perhaps it's not surprising.
Those are the cheapest properties on the board.
Go to the light blue properties.
Oriental Avenue, for instance, was an area of relatively modest rooming houses.
Many of them were places patronized by lower-middle-class Jews.
But then as you turn the board, and you get to the yellow properties, and the green properties, those were always more established, more residential, wealthier parts of town.
And then the highest end in Atlantic City is the Boardwalk.
Here's where first- and second- generation immigrants came to show off they'd made it in America by having a Black man push them down the Boardwalk.
We've believed this kind of illusion that segregation was a Southern phenomenon, but Atlantic City is really a reflection of the larger nation, and Park Place and the Boardwalk are perfect examples of it.
PILON: The changes that the Atlantic City Quaker community make to the board, they're also creating, inadvertently, this snapshot of race and class in one of America's most popular vacation destinations in the 1920s.
Ultimately, as Ralph discovers this Atlantic City version of Monopoly, he realizes there is no way that Charles Darrow invented this game.
I got a lot of people who played the game before, but no hint of the missing link between the folk game and, uh, Parker Brothers' Monopoly.
PILON: Finally, one of these early players says, "You know who you really need to talk to is Charles and Olive Todd."
ANSPACH: A certain Charles Todd.
He was the one who introduced a game that was developed by Atlantic City Quakers.
He introduced it to Charles Darrow.
So I wandered down to Augusta, Georgia, and I met Charles Todd and his wife.
And they told me that something very peculiar happened, because they said the Darrows were real pains in the neck.
♪ ♪ PILON: One evening in the early 1930s, the Todds invite Charles and Esther Darrow to their home for dinner, and at this point, people would make their own boards at home, and you would have a Monopoly night.
DONOVAN: The Todds introduce the Darrows to this game they know called Monopoly, and the Darrows love it.
So a few days later, Charles Darrow gets in touch and goes... PILON: "That Monopoly game was so great.
I would love for someone to write down the rules for me."
ANSPACH: Todd said he wasn't very enthusiastic, but he did it.
PILON: Charles Todd has his secretary write up the rules.
ANSPACH: So he gave him the rules.
Then he didn't see him for a while.
(objects clattering) DONOVAN: All contact ceases.
It's a mystery to the Todds.
They're kind of, like, "Have we done something to offend them?"
And then one day, Charles Todd is passing a local bank.
ANSPACH: He saw an advertisement in the bank.
DONOVAN: And it says, "Come to this event.
"Charles Darrow is introducing everyone to his wonderful new game, Monopoly."
So Charlie Todd told me he was in a fury.
And I asked, "Well, did you ever see the Darrows again after that?"
And he said, "No-- whenever they saw me, "they would quickly go across the street or walk someplace else."
And that's how Darrow got the game.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ PILON: If you wanted to publish a board game in America, one of the first places you would go to was Parker Brothers in Salem, Massachusetts.
DONOVAN: In the late 19th century, board games were all produced in New England, and games, per se, were seen as slightly sinful.
Games, certainly for children, had to have a kind of moral element.
They had to be a teaching tool, they couldn't just be for fun.
The first significant board game published in America was The Mansion of Happiness, and it was emblematic of what games were supposed to be-- they were moralistic and educational.
One of the big changes that came along was a guy called George Parker.
He started his own game company, Parker Brothers, and his emphasis was on, "This isn't an educational tool, this is entertainment."
PILON: So, thanks to George Parker's innovation, Parker Brothers become the biggest company in the industry.
But not without their share of mistakes, and he was haunted by them.
(Ping-Pong game playing, ragtime music playing) ORBANES: In the early 1900s, Parker Brothers decided to license Ping-Pong from London, and they began to market it in the country.
JAGODA: And this works for a few years.
And they're able to market this as a game that not only men, but women can play.
So this becomes a really generalized sort of game.
ORBANES: Unfortunately for Parker Brothers, it didn't stop anybody else from selling the same equipment under the generic name table tennis.
And this difference between Ping-Pong and table tennis gets in the way of their, their market, and so they lose a monopoly over Ping-Pong.
Parker Brothers loses multiple times on huge games.
They lose on Ping-Pong, they lose on Tiddlywinks.
Is that what it's called?
And so you could not control Ping-Pong or Tiddlywinks, and worse, as far as George Parker was concerned, was Mah-Jongg.
Many people don't know this, but Mah-Jongg in the 1920s was the biggest game fad ever in America.
And Parker let that slip away.
(stock market bell ringing, people clamoring) PILON: By the beginning of the Great Depression, Parker Brothers is not doing well as a company.
Robert Barton, who's the son-in- law of George Parker, had just taken over the firm.
DONOVAN: Robert Barton was a capable businessman, but he was in circumstances that were horrendous for any business.
Parker Brothers finds themself in this really dire situation.
They're laying off employees.
They're actually potentially looking at going bankrupt.
And Barton hears about this game out of Philadelphia that's doing, actually, quite well, invented by this local guy named Charles Darrow.
ORBANES: Charles Darrow in the early 1930s was a heating repair engineer, which meant he fixed steam radiators.
But during the Depression, he lost his job, like so many other millions of Americans.
PILON: He has a wife and these two children, and one of his children has pretty advanced health problems.
He needs to be at a special type of school, and the Darrows cannot afford it.
So he needs money and he needs it very, very fast.
ORBANES: Charles Darrow begins to make, by hand, copies of Monopoly.
He actually took a round table that he had, and the first Monopoly board you see from him is actually a gigantic circle.
ORBANES: But then he began to automate the process little by little.
Darrow actually hires a professional artist to do the artwork for his board.
He provided the everyman's touch to the appearance of the game.
A much more pleasant, engaging, simpler look.
And so, Charles Darrow made 500 copies in the summer of 1934.
Essentially he's self-publishing.
He's making a few sets with money he has, selling those, taking the money he's earned, building some more.
Really bootstrapping to make this business work.
Charles Darrow does go to the big game manufacturers, including Parker Brothers.
And he gets rejected at first.
They look at the game, and it's a game about mortgages, and building houses, and building hotels.
It's, for the time, a really complicated game.
So, essentially they all say no.
And eventually, he goes to Wanamaker's in Philadelphia, a big department store, and he persuades them to start stocking the game.
ORBANES: And that gives Darrow the opportunity to go to a few other stores in Philadelphia and to F.A.O.
Schwarz, the leading toy emporium here in New York.
By the time Christmas of 1934 has come and gone, Darrow has made a thousand copies-- two print runs-- and they have sold out.
It starts selling, and selling, and selling, and eventually, Charles Darrow is making enough sales there for Parker Brothers and other game manufacturers to take a look at Philadelphia and go, "Hmm."
(train clacking on track) PILON: Robert Barton had already turned Darrow down, but now he invites him to New York City with the intention of buying his game.
DONOVAN: They negotiate to buy the game from him, and during this negotiation, Robert Barton asks Charles Darrow, you know, "Is this your game, 100% yours?"
And Charles Darrow goes, "Yes, of course."
And so they sign it, and start putting out Monopoly.
ORBANES: Parker Brothers acquires Monopoly in March of 1935, and around June 1, they've moved heaven and earth, and they make their first 10,000-print run.
And the game sells pretty well.
FORSYTH: But the very fact that Monopoly could actually be the hit they're looking for actually makes Barton nervous.
Parker Brothers didn't want to lose Monopoly the way they'd lost Mah-Jongg.
I mean, Barton realizes he had to do something.
Parker Brothers writes a letter to Charles Darrow asking him for his origin story about how he came up with Monopoly.
PILON: Darrow writes back, "Dear Mr. Barton, "The history of Monopoly is really quite simple.
(typewriter keys clacking) "Being unemployed at the time "and badly needing anything to occupy my time, "I made by hand a very crude game "for the sole purpose of amusing myself.
"Later, friends called, and we played the game, "unnamed at that time.
"One of them asked me to make a copy for him, "which I did, charging him four dollars.
"Friends of his wanted copies and so forth.
"So much for the outline of the history of Monopoly."
That's all we get.
(laughing): Charles Darrow is a charlatan.
But for Parker Brothers, it doesn't matter.
If you can sell the origin story to consumers, they're much more likely to accept him as the creator.
And because so many people could identify with the Great Depression story and the movement from poverty to riches, the right origin story might just be enough to, to win the public imagination.
(car horn honking) It's remarkable that this game took off on the back end of the Great Depression.
Why would people want to play a game about accumulating wealth after most of them had lived in abject poverty for years?
I think part of the reason is wish fulfillment.
What better fantasy to have during and after the Great Depression than being able to be in a position of power and being able to accumulate mass wealth, when you know you'll never be able to do that in your own life?
Monopoly is a quintessential American game by virtue of how it plays.
Everyone, regardless of your race, religion, or creed, starts off with the same amount of money.
GRACE: Everybody has a fair chance, everyone collects $200 when they pass go, everyone has the opportunity to purchase.
All of these things are baked in.
RAWORTH: Monopoly creates a very false sense of, "Well, we all started off equally.
"If I've got ahead, it must be my skill, it must be my hard work."
(dice rattling) I got you, John.
And that'll be $100.
RAWORTH: When actually, in real life, we do not start on that same starting line.
SPARROW: Monopoly makes it easy to imagine that you can, you know, accomplish your goals, accomplish your vision.
You can start a business, and you don't have to think what you, about what you look like, where you come from, that you're from a different class, from a different race, from a, have a different gender, have a different gender expression.
You don't have to think about any of that at all.
And that is the problem in the myth that Monopoly continues to just push forward.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ DONOVAN: Monopoly becomes an instant success.
(register rings) ♪ ♪ The orders flood in.
They can't make games fast enough.
They put on extra shifts in their factory and they still can't catch up.
It's one of those games that just hits at the right moment, and suddenly everyone wants one.
ORBANES: In 1936, the game went from a quarter of a million to nearly 1.8 million, which literally was the maximum number of games that Parker Brothers could make, even mobilizing the entirety of Salem, Massachusetts, to help.
It's the biggest success the board game industry has ever seen.
(coins jingling, cash register rings) ♪ ♪ And then, one day, Parker Brothers' lawyer rushes into Barton's office and goes, "There's a game just like Monopoly "called Finance.
"And actually, there's another game "that is just like it, as well, and another game."
And suddenly, he's in a position where he thought he had the biggest hit ever and he had the rights to it, and now it's pretty obvious that Charles Darrow has copied this game.
Robert Barton has a problem, that the thing that is saving his company from bankruptcy, Monopoly, that is this runaway hit, was not invented by Darrow.
He needs to protect Monopoly at all costs.
ORBANES: And so Robert Barton, attorney by trade, decides he has to own every game that's remotely similar to Monopoly.
PILON: He needs to get control of these other competing games: Finance, Easy Money, Inflation.
But Barton has another problem, and that is Lizzie Magie.
At this point, Lizzie Magie is married and working as a secretary in Washington, D.C. We don't know if she realized that The Landlord's Game had been spreading.
But we do know by 1935 that the Darrow story starts to take off.
♪ ♪ FORSYTH: Lizzie is reading about this inventor Charles Darrow, and she actually goes to the press and says, "Wait a second, that's my game."
You know, "That's my invention."
DONOVAN: For Parker Brothers, this is a complete disaster.
And so Parker Brothers decides it, it needs to shut this down.
It needs to preserve Charles Darrow's story.
PILON: So, George Parker comes from retirement in a very dramatic fashion and he takes a train to Washington, D.C. ♪ ♪ DONOVAN: George Parker is quite elderly at this point, and he goes to Lizzie Magie to sweet-talk her into selling the rights.
He says, "We, Parker Brothers, are going to publish your Landlord's Game and two other games of yours."
"We'll put your picture on the front of these boxes and talk about you as an originator of board games."
And she thinks, "Wow," you know, "My Georgeist teaching tools "are going to be front and center with one of the biggest game companies in the world."
She kind of figures, "Well, no one paid any attention to "The Landlord's Game before.
Maybe this is a chance to revive interest in single tax."
So for $500, she signs over the rights.
They pay her $500.
And Parker Brothers acquires the rights to her game.
FORSYTH: This is the great irony of it all.
Parker Brothers comes in and monopolizes Monopoly, and Lizzie, she's that kid sitting on the sideline of Monopoly who just got taken out of the game.
PILON: Per the terms of their agreement, Parker Brothers released The Landlord's Game and two other Lizzie Magie titles, but did little to publicize them and they didn't sell well.
Then, when they release the new version of The Landlord's Game, it bears no resemblance to the original.
Even worse, she discovers that Parker Brothers took advantage of the fine print in their contract which gave them editorial control, and they published the game with only one set of rules, omitting the single tax version.
Finally, two years later, when her patent expires for good, they erase her from the history of the game and betray her again.
Any acknowledgement of her in the press or that she had any role in the game is very, very quickly lost to history.
RAWORTH: She was hanging onto the belief that Parker Brothers would now finally publish her game.
They would print her face on the cover of the board.
And so they say, "There you are, Lizzie, there's your face.
"You see, we've acknowledged you "as the inventor of the game, but we'll just let that edition quietly slip."
And so, they flatter her into insignificance.
Magie makes $500, Darrow makes over a million dollars.
(laughing): Not exactly fair.
♪ ♪ PILON: One of the last traces we have of Lizzie Magie's life is the 1940 U.S. Census.
What's interesting about that census is that she died in 1948, so it's the last one that she would've been able to participate in.
And she lists her occupation as maker of games.
And her income as zero.
(birds chirping) DONOVAN: By the late 1970s, the Anti-Monopoly case has dragged on for years.
Ralph is on the verge of ruin.
It's not like he's a rich man.
He's kind of there scraping it together, paying lawyers, paying court fees, trying to fight this Goliath.
FORSYTH: It's not just Ralph's case.
His son Mark had helped him to design the game and his wife, Ruth, was busy running the company.
And so it's really taking a toll on his whole family.
We were in real financial trouble.
We had three mortgages on our home, and one of the mortgage holders was about to foreclose on us.
PILON: He takes out loans on his home, these second mortgages, which is, when you think about Monopoly, very ironic.
So he's just completely worn down in every sense.
DONOVAN: And then, on the eve of the court case, lawyers inside General Mills and Parker Brothers make Ralph an offer.
And it's big, it's a good one.
Equivalent of more than two million dollars.
There's just one catch: he's not allowed to talk about the game's origins.
And Ralph says no.
He's come this far, he's going to see it out.
People said "You're crazy," you know.
"Take the money and run to the bank."
But I just can't live with myself if I cave in.
This was about something beyond money.
This was about proving a story, proving a case.
That was not something that was up for sale at any price for him.
Ralph now has the evidence of how the board game changed over the years, and he doesn't just want to be paid off and to let Parker Brothers carry on as before.
He wants to win.
♪ ♪ PILON: Ralph and his attorneys are trying to prove that the Monopoly patent itself is fraudulent.
And that's a pretty scandalous thing to be alleging at this time.
You have to remember that when this case was coming about in the mid-1970s, the Monopoly story hadn't really been challenged, and certainly not to this extent, and where the stakes were so high.
So for this trial, Ralph calls upon nine of the folk game players.
These folk players testify to playing this game before 1935.
So it goes from rumor to record.
LAWYER: Mr. Harvey, did you ever play a real estate trading game?
LAWYER: And what year did you first play such a game, sir?
HARVEY: I would say it was 1931.
WOMAN: I had a Quaker friend at Smith, and I went to visit her in the spring of 1922.
We played it all the time.
MAN: I was at M.I.T.-- I copied theirs.
That's the way it went, from one person to another.
LAWYER: ...give a name to the game?
WOMAN: It was called Monopoly.
MAN 2: Monopoly.
WOMAN: They were all playing Monopoly.
♪ ♪ ANSPACH: We had them.
You know, we had them over a barrel now.
Because they were sitting there with a game that seemed to have been stolen.
We were really quite confident we were going to win.
So they go through this whole trial, and the judge issues a ruling, and it is not good.
But I think we have to be realistic.
This was a David vs. Goliath story, and Ralph's judge generally ruled on Goliath's side.
DONOVAN: The judge rules in Parker Brothers' favor.
It says, "You must not put out Anti-Monopoly," and for Ralph, this is an absolute disaster.
I mean, this is ruin.
He's not only lost his game, he won't get court costs, he won't get anything.
ANSPACH: That was it, we were finished.
I remember I was terribly depressed.
We lost the case.
The judge ordered us to turn over all our games to Parker Brothers.
Then Parker Brothers did something which is not usually done, but Parker Brothers was determined to teach others a lesson.
(machine grinding) PILON: Part of the ruling is that Ralph has to hand over his Anti-Monopoly games.
Parker Brothers take these games, and they're in Mankato, Minnesota, which is not far from where they're being manufactured... ANSPACH: 40,000 of our games were literally buried in Minnesota with a national story describing this.
"This is what happens to people who challenge this great company and this great game."
PILON: Ralph later told me something to the effect of, "It felt like they were dumping me in the trash."
ANSPACH: I just couldn't face it.
I couldn't face to see these games turned into trash, you know?
I didn't have the, the courage to see that.
♪ ♪ Is it your turn or Louis?
(chanting): Four, four, four...
I didn't cheat!
(laughing, talking at once) No!
Why are you happy?
JAGODA: I think the competition of Monopoly is quintessentially American.
Monopoly might not be the perfect game for teaching people about economics, but it's a really great way of training people's emotions to be aligned with competition, and wanting competition, wanting victory.
Believe in the dice!
GRACE: Monopoly claims that there is a sort of right way to win that means some other people are going to have to lose.
How much is that?
Well, I don't have enough, so, whatever.
You're bankrupt, you're out.
Yeah, I know.
RAWORTH: Why is this game the game that we remember and loved and wanted to play?
And the traits it brings out are ruthlessness, greed, acquisition, accumulation, no pity for your opponent, and the irony is that we're drawn to playing it.
I have the most money!
It is a zero-sum game, and so the, the kind of rhetoric there is that there can be only one victor.
And I think that's an interesting metaphor of the way that our capitalist system works in the United States.
(claps) You got lucky.
(wildlife chittering) PILON: After his defeat, Ralph is determined to keep fighting.
He appeals, and it takes another six years for his case to go through the legal system, until there's only one place left to go.
♪ ♪ Ralph gets on a train to Washington, D.C.
He's got all of his legal papers with him, and he walks them himself to the Supreme Court.
And that's kind of an amazing moment, because when you think about, here's Ralph, this guy who ten years ago is making a game called Anti-Monopoly, and gets a cease-and-desist at his doorstep about a board game, now finds himself appealing for his right to make these games at the Supreme Court of the United States.
DONOVAN: And when it comes down to the Supreme Court's decision, they back Ralph.
The makers of the popular board game Monopoly today drew a chance card and lost, for real.
They didn't go to jail, they didn't pass go, but lost their monopoly on Monopoly.
PILON: Ralph pretty much wins it all.
He gets a significant lump of money.
DONOVAN: Parker Brothers has to repay him for all the copies of the game they destroyed, and cover his court costs, and pay him damages.
PILON: He wins his right to produce Anti-Monopoly and to keep making his games, but he also wins the right to talk about the game's history and its origins openly.
That, for him, is a huge, huge win, because at this point, he had been talking about the game for a decade, but he wanted to keep telling the story of Lizzie Magie, Darrow, and what really happened.
♪ ♪ ANSPACH: Most people thought that I was crazy.
And, of course, I felt very vindicated.
Because, you know, it was a long struggle, but I was determined to accomplish my goals, regardless of all the opposition and so on.
And maybe the... Maybe the idea that there's something else in the story.
Namely, the little guy can win out sometimes, and overcome.
♪ ♪ Monopoly is more than a game.
It's a commentary on both what's great and what's dark about our business empires.
JAGODA: Is anything just a game in American society?
When games are one of the most popular cultural forums that we have, when they train us in so many norms and ideas that we move outside of the game space, can we say that something is just a game?
PILON: Monopoly is tied to so much history and so many memories for people, that belongs to everybody.
But I think that the myth of Monopoly does obscure a lot of realities about this country.
About class, about race, about gender, about how our current, dare I say, game of capitalism is played, and has been for centuries.
So it ends up becoming this microcosm of the bigger story of this country and how we perceive it now and look back on it.
SIMON: It's an interesting question, if Monopoly creates a misguided view about the United States.
And maybe the way to think about it is, what if the original game had caught on?
Would that have paved the way for an alternative political vision of America?
That puts a lot on a game, but I think capitalists have always wanted to tell a story about how, in America, some people get ahead and other people fall behind, and that's either luck, that's the roll of the dice, that's because they didn't play the game the right way.
It's just like Monopoly.
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