THE LANDLORD'S GAME | 1903 - 1932


ELIZABETH MAGIE-PHILLIPS: B: 1866 · Macomb, IL | D: 1948 · Arlington, VA 

In the late 1800s, a young woman named Elizabeth Magie was introduced to the writings of Henry George by her father James Magie, a newspaper publisher and abolitionist during the mid-1800s. Elizabeth eventually began teaching others what she learned from studying Henry George's book "Progress and Poverty" and his other works.   

Elizabeth, or "Lizzie" as she came to be called, was a regular visitor to the Single Taxer enclave of Arden, Delaware circa 1903. Lizzie worked with the Single Taxers on the design of The Landlord's Game as a way of explaining how Henry George's system of political economy would work in real life - as a "practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences”. She applied for a patent in March of 1903, which was granted on January 5th, 1904 (Pat. No. 748,626).  However, The Landlord's Game was not commercially produced until 1906 by Lizzie and Georgist friends as the Economic Game Company.  It does not appear the game was very sucessfull commercially.  The center of the game board changed a bit during the transition from the patent application, the original folk landlord's game board, and the commercial version of the game board.

Meanwhile, folk landlord's games were proliferating from the original 1903 hand made folk landlord's game board produced by Robert Woolery, of Arden, Deleware (a recycled wood circa 1901-1903 Carrom-Archarena Combination F Carrom-Crokinole game board) in collaboration with Lizzie.  It appears the Georgist Ardenites were unaware Elizabeth Magie patented and commercially produced The Landlord's Game during this era. Conversely, Lizzie did not realize how far the folk landlord's game subsequently evolved until after the expiration of The Landlord's Game patent in 1921.  It appears she was unaware of the folk monopoly game history being developed during this era.

SCOTT NEARING: B: Aug 06, 1883 · Kittanning, PA | D: Aug 24, 1983 · Harborside, Maine 

Scott Nearing was born in Morris Run, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. He graduated from high school in 1901. Thereafter, after abandoning the study of Law, he enrolled in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (hereafter "Wharton") to study economics. Nearing obtained his BS degree in 1905 and his PhD in 1909. From 1908 until 1915 while living in the Georgist enclave of Arden, Delaware, he taught economics and sociology at the Wharton School and Swarthmore College. As a resident of Arden, Nearing was introduced to the folk landlord's game circa 1908.  Research to date suggests Nearing never met Lizzie Magie and may not have known much, if anything, about her at the time or during his tenure with Wharton.

As a professor, Nearing introduced and used the folk landlord's game as part of his teaching method, initiating a game theory approach to learning still evident, albeit evolved, at Wharton today. During the Wharton period and thereafter, folk monopoly players created their own customized game boards, primarily using wood or oilcloth and evolved the rules of play over time.

Scott Nearing’s support of Henry George's proposals to raise pubic revenue exclusively from those who owned land, and his opposition to child labor, caused him to be dismissed from the university in 1915.  However, his reputation at the University was belatedly resurrected in modern times, when the university recognized the injustice of his dismissal. 



Academic interest in folk landlord's games originated via Scott Nearing, and later promoted by Rexford Guy Tugwell – a former student of Nearing, at Wharton. Many of the folk landlord games discovered by Dr. Ralph Anspach, during the Anti-Monopoly lawsuits, have a historical connection back to Nearing and in turn, back to Robert Woolery and Lizzie Magie. Although there is clearly a direct linkage between the folk monopoly and the folk landlord's games, the same clarity of linkage does not exist between the folk monopoly games and Elizabeth Magie.  

Based upon research to date, it appears the known folk monopoly games can trace their origin, evolution and/or lineage back to Wharton as a distinctly different game evolved by Wharton students from the folk landlord's game Scott Nearing introduced at the school circa 1908.  This includes the folk monopoly based FINANCE game created by Dan Layman, first published in 1932, and by extension, the Atlantic City Quaker folk monopoly game taught to Charles Darrow in 1933. 

Charles Todd, a friend of Charles Darrow’s Quaker wife Esther, along with Jessie & Ruth Raiford taught Charles Darrow the Atlantic City Quaker folk monopoly game and gave him typed rule sets in 1933. Although Charles Darrow embellished the game into what turned out to be the most successful board game in history, he misrepresented himself as the game’s creator.     

Ralph Anspach later disproved Darrow's inventor status by establishing indisputable and obvious linkage between the Atlantic City Quaker folk monopoly game and Darrow’s version of the monopoly game sold commercially. 

One of the distinctions between the folk landlord's games and folk monopoly games is reflected in the properties from a naming and sequencing perspective.  The folk landlord's games generally followed the same fictional names and sequence of properties presented in the original 1903 Woolery board.  In other words, there was very little customization in the folk landlord's games beyond the artwork. There is one known exception to that trend - Roy Stryker's circa 1927 folk landlord game uses actual USA and Canadian place names.  In contrast, folk monopoly games were highly customized using actual local property names to suit the owner/ designer of the game. Board space sequencing was customized to taste.  Consequently, there are folk monopoly game board properties representing various cities in Pennsylvania and around the USA and other countries. The earlier folk monopoly games used a blend of actual and fictional space names, including folk landlord's game standard fictional names. As early as 1920, some of the later folk monopoly games dropped the fictional names entirely. Interestingly, there are only two known folk monopoly games that rearranged the corner sequencing. 

Conversely, there were many similarities between the folk landlord's and folk monopoly games that remained up to and including the Charles Darrow monopoly game.  Therefore, there are other folk monopoly games, beyond the Atlantic City Quaker folk monopoly game, that provide evidence that Charles Darrow's monopoly game was not created solely, nor primarily, from his ingenious imagination. More details to follow at a later date.   

Over forty years ago, Ralph Anspach began his quest for locating early folk monopoly sets in order to prove monopoly was in the public domain long before Charles Darrow claimed to invent the game.  However, Anspach was unable to obtain his ultimate goal to discover a game set with the word "monopoly" depicted on the game board.

In 2014, over forty years later, such a game resurfaced out of an estate sale, ironically about 7 miles from Arden, DE.  This game, The 1920 Philadelphia Folk MONOPOLY Game, is the first known folk monopoly game displaying the word “MONOPOLY” on the game board.  Additional information regarding the game's origins were discovered in 2017.  

The 1920 Philadelphia Folk MONOPOLY Game establishes an important new chapter in the early pre-Darrow and pre-Parker Brothers history of the MONOPOLY game.  The game set turns 100 years old in 2020.