The original Monopoly board patent from 1935
The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903, when American anti-monopolist Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George. It was intended as an educational tool to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies. Magie took out a patent in 1904. Her game, The Landlord’s Game, was self-published, beginning in 1906. A series of variant board games based on her concept was developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. Cardboard houses were added and rents were increased as they were added. Magie again patented the game in 1923.
According to an advertisement placed in The Christian Science Monitor, Charles Todd of Philadelphia recalled the day in 1932 when his childhood friend, Esther Jones, later married to Charles Darrow, came to their house with her husband for dinner. After the meal, the Darrows played The Landlord’s Game several times with them, a game that was entirely new to the Darrows, and before he left, Darrow asked for a written set of the rules. After Darrow brought his own Monopoly game out, the Todds never spoke to the Darrows again. But see below (under Board > U.S. versions) for a version in which the Todds shared their own Monopoly-like game with the Darrows.
By 1933, a variation on “The Landlord’s Game” called Monopoly was the basis of the board game sold by Parker Brothers, beginning on February 6, 1935. Several people, mostly in the midwestern United States and near the East Coast, contributed to the game’s design and evolution, and this is when the game’s design took on the 4×10 space-to-a-side layout and familiar cards were produced. The original version of the game in this format was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey. By the 1970s, the false notion that the game had been created solely by Charles Darrow had become popular folklore: it was printed in the game’s instructions.