The Landlord's Game 1904 Patent Drawing

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 produced commercially until 1906 by Lizzie and Georgist friends as the Economic Game Company.  It does not appear the game was commercially successful. The game board underwent significant change during the transition from her patent application, the original folk landlord's game board by Robert (Uncle Bob) Woolery of Arden, Delaware and finally to the first commercial version of The Landlord's Game in 1906 - 3 years after the Bob Woolery created his board.  

Meanwhile, folk landlord's games were proliferating from the original 1903 hand made folk landlord's game board produced by Bob Woolery (a recycled wood circa 1901-1903 Carrom-Archarena Combination F Carrom-Crokinole game board). 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 during this period when her first patent lapsed into the public domain in 1921. It appears she was also unaware of the independent folk monopoly game evolution during this era. 

Well after her first patent expired in 1921, Lizzie modified The Landord's Game as evidenced by her second patent issued in 1924, Pat. # 1,509,312. The second patent had a revised game board with the railroads as the corner spaces. It appears there was little commercial interest in this patent at the time as "The Landlord's Game" was never issued as depicted in the second patent. However, 8 years later in 1932, Lizzie produced a game called "The Landlord's Game and Prosperity" under the second patent. This was the second commercial Landlord's Game related game and the first of the commercial games that evidently had two different rule sets. Once again however, the game was not commercially successful. Curiously, the patent for this second commercial game was the same patent Parker Brothers purchased in 1935 for it's newly acquired Monopoly game.  Although by this time the second commercial game board no longer resembled the original commercial Landlord's Game, nor the distinctly different folk monopoly games that evolved out of the Wharton School, including Charles Darrow's version of the Atlantic City Quakers folk monopoly game. 

It appears that it wasn't until sometime around 1935 that Lizzie became fully aware of the popularity of the folk monopoly games that far surpassed interest in the commercially unprofitable Landlord's  Game related games. Probably about the time she became aware of the Charles Darrow monopoly game and the budding Parker Brothers relationship.  

It was during this period that she engaged in a publicity campaign, including a photograph of her holding two game boards for the "The Landlord's Game and Prosperity" game and a mockup of a fictional Monopoly Game board that was never produced.  At least there is no evidence that it was produced as part of any board game. This was 14-15 years after the creation of The 1920 Philadelphia Folk MONOPOLY Game - a 97 year old MONOPOLY game today.

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 School") to study economics. Nearing obtained his BS in Economics in 1905 and his PhD in 1909. From 1908 until 1915 while living in the Georgist enclave of Arden, Delaware, he taught economics 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 had very little knowledge of Lizzie Magie and no first hand knowledge of her as they had never met during his time at Arden, Delaware while teaching at Wharton and Swarthmore.

While teaching at Wharton, 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. 

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

Although folklore exists that Lizzie Magie created the monopoly game, there does not appear to be tangible evidence, rule sets or otherwise, that supports the folklore. Unfortunately, it also appears that the wealth of information contained in the Anspach Archives are generally  unavailable for use in independent research into the history of Monopoly.  While not not a necessary condition in this day and age, one can hope that will change some day in order to facilitate ongoing research.



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. During the Wharton period, folk monopoly quickly evolved from the folk landlord's game as a separate and distinct game. Folk monopoly game players created their own customized game boards, primarily using wood or oilcloth, and game rules over time.   It appears that most of the folk monopoly games discovered by Dr. Ralph Anspach, during the Anti-Monopoly lawsuits, have a historical lineage back to either Scott Nearing or Rexford Tugwell and the Wharton School.  Although there is clearly a direct linkage between folk monopoly and folk landlord's games, the same clarity of linkage, or evidence, has yet to be demonstrated 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. It is especially true regarding The 1920 Philadelphia Folk Monopoly Game which originated out of the University of Pennsylvania as MONOPOLY.

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. 

Conversely, there are technical  similarities between the folk landlord's and folk monopoly games that remained up to and including the time when the Charles Darrow monopoly game was taken over by Parker Brothers. Therefore, there are other folk monopoly games, beyond the Atlantic City Quaker folk monopoly game, that provide sufficient 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 game 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 and oldest MONOPOLY game to display the word “MONOPOLY” on the game board.    

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.  Soon, this old MONOPOLY game will become an antique MONOPOLY game when it turns 100 years old in 2020.  It is formally known as the oldest MONOPOLY game documented to date as evidenced by its age at 97 years old and the word MONOPOLY prominently displayed on the game board.