I was sad to read this week that the tokens on the Monopoly board are changing. This is notwithstanding the fact that I acknowledge that most people under the age of 50 do not know what a thimble is, let alone have ever used one (the rocking horse, cannon and lantern having been consigned to the dust bin some years ago). I am not disappointed that a winking emoji did not make the cut although I think the 1980s mobile phone and bunny slippers might have been fun. But I had no idea that the origin of the billion selling game was mired in such controversy. According to Mary Pilon writing in the New York Times in 2015, the original game was invented in 1903 by a “bold, progressive writer” named Elizabeth Magie. Magie invented the “Landlord’s game” with two sets of rules, one for anti-monopolists, where rewards were shared and the other (the version which Darrow later developed and sold to Parker Brothers), where weaker opponents were crushed by monopolies. Her aim, apparently, was to protest against monopolists of the time like John D Rockefeller. She preferred the theories of Henry George who propounded that all natural things should be shared and whatever a person made he should own 100% outright. Magie’s version of the game, which included even then the notorious “go to Jail”, was played at several college campuses before Darrow adopted it. But she died without ever getting recognition for her contribution. It just goes to show when you start scratching below the surface what amazing stories you can uncover.
What do a scottie dog, a battleship and a top hat have in common?