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The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game

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The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins. Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parke The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins. Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily--and richly--ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord's Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game--underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today--was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt's famed Brain Trust. A fascinating social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly's real-life winners and losers.


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The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins. Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parke The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins. Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily--and richly--ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord's Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game--underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today--was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt's famed Brain Trust. A fascinating social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly's real-life winners and losers.

30 review for The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game

  1. 5 out of 5

    Saba Imtiaz

    I absolutely loved this book, and I suspect if you've ever played Monopoly, you will too. This is a really wonderfully told account of the origins of Monopoly, the economic and political beliefs behind its creation, and how it spread - without leaving a trace of the woman who came up with the idea and the board. There is so much fascinating stuff in the book, including about how a Anti-Monopoly game was invented and that led to the eventual unraveling of the myth Monopoly's sellers had built. Ca I absolutely loved this book, and I suspect if you've ever played Monopoly, you will too. This is a really wonderfully told account of the origins of Monopoly, the economic and political beliefs behind its creation, and how it spread - without leaving a trace of the woman who came up with the idea and the board. There is so much fascinating stuff in the book, including about how a Anti-Monopoly game was invented and that led to the eventual unraveling of the myth Monopoly's sellers had built. Cannot recommend it enough!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mahlon

    While the true story of Monopoly's origins, and the way in which some of the early players helped the games popularity spread was fascinating, The disjointed nonlinear nature of Pilon's narrative really made this book hard to get into. The fact that the narrator sounded like a cross between Droopy Dog and Mr. Mackey from South Park didn't help. While the true story of Monopoly's origins, and the way in which some of the early players helped the games popularity spread was fascinating, The disjointed nonlinear nature of Pilon's narrative really made this book hard to get into. The fact that the narrator sounded like a cross between Droopy Dog and Mr. Mackey from South Park didn't help.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    This is it in a nutshell: "The Monopolists" was as much fun to read as the game is to play. Although politics and the law frequently play into the story, Mary Pilon did an exceptional job of keeping my attention and interest high - my mind did not wander, I did not get bored - even once. The language remains "in English" and the focus is on the people, their thoughts, feelings, ideas, lives. The story involves Elizabeth Magie Phillips, the woman who invented "The Landlord's Game;" the various co This is it in a nutshell: "The Monopolists" was as much fun to read as the game is to play. Although politics and the law frequently play into the story, Mary Pilon did an exceptional job of keeping my attention and interest high - my mind did not wander, I did not get bored - even once. The language remains "in English" and the focus is on the people, their thoughts, feelings, ideas, lives. The story involves Elizabeth Magie Phillips, the woman who invented "The Landlord's Game;" the various college students, Quakers from Atlantic City and their friends who played monopoly (before Parker Brothers bought it) and contributed to its art and evolution; Charles Darrow - a somewhat sympathetic thief who steals the monopoly game idea from a friend when he is unemployed during the Depression; leaders (and their children) at Parker Brothers and what tragedies and successes they experienced; a few different competitors who invented their own versions of Monopoly and were firmly and immediately squashed by Parker Brothers; and Ralph Anspach (and his family), a professor and creator of Anti-Monopoly, who refuses to be bullied by Parker Brothers and seeking justice, enters into a decade-long legal battle with the toy company giant. The story moves along at a brisk pace - I enjoyed the sketches and pictures of different board games (and different people) and found it easy to get immersed in the story. The biggest reason for this, I believe, is the personality the author brings to the characters: Lizzie's political views are explored, but also her personality - her jobs, her boldness, perseverance and creativity, her other games and another intriguing invention were discussed, as well as her feelings and reactions to being duped by Parker Brothers, all of which added up to a pretty good picture of who Lizzie was. The author takes all the people involved in this story about the Monopoly war. how it was fought and won and the great costs to both sides, and makes them all personable - easy to relate to or feel compassion for (even the "villains" - care is given to present both sides of the story) - and interesting, too. I loved the ending, too - finding out "where they are now," what happened to each player in the Monopoly game war.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karen Germain

    I love board games nearly as much as I love stories, so when I saw Mary Pilon's book on the sordid origins of Monopoly, I immediately wanted in on the scandal. Thank you to Bloomsbury USA for an advanced copy of The Monopolists in exchange for an honest review. PLOT - In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon investigates the origins of arguably, America's most popular board game. For years, game manufacturer, Parker Brothers, has perpetuated the myth that Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow as a diversi I love board games nearly as much as I love stories, so when I saw Mary Pilon's book on the sordid origins of Monopoly, I immediately wanted in on the scandal. Thank you to Bloomsbury USA for an advanced copy of The Monopolists in exchange for an honest review. PLOT - In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon investigates the origins of arguably, America's most popular board game. For years, game manufacturer, Parker Brothers, has perpetuated the myth that Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow as a diversion for his children when their family was poor during the depression. Darrow sold the game and the fantasy to Parker Brothers and for years this story was printed on all Monopoly boxes. During the 1970's, Ralph Ansbach invented a game called Anti-Monopoly and was sued by Parker Brothers for copyright infringement. It was a David and Goliath battle and Ansbach never backed down, eventually winning the case on an appeal. During the trial, it came out that Darrow was not the original creator of Monopoly. Pilon's book explores the origins of the game, the cover-up by Parker Brothers and Ansbach's court battle. LIKE - The best part of the book was learning about the origins of Monopoly. Pilon is a deft writer and this book is well researched, but really the material is so interesting that it would seem it could practically write itself. The phrase, "You just can't make this stuff up" comes to mind. The origins of Monopoly are just crazy, especially when the story focuses on the Ansbach lawsuit and the Parker Brothers reaction. I enjoyed learning about Atlantic City and how it relates to the spaces on the Monopoly board. Also interesting, were the notes by the champion players on winning strategies. As mentioned in the book, most people ( myself included), play by their own set of rules. I was surprised to learn that if played by the rules, the game usually lasts 90 minutes. I've never had a game last less than half a night! I need to try playing by the rules next time. It was fascinating to learn that the origins of the game are against monopolies and that it was devised as a economics teaching tool. I left having gained a solid History lesson and a new appreciation for Monopoly. DISLIKE - Overall, I enjoyed The Monopolists, however there were times when it was a bit of a dry read. This was especially true during the Ansbach trial, where I caught myself skimming, rather than engrossed in the text. RECOMMEND - I'd recommend this for board game fans and History buffs. If you read The Monopolists, I guarantee that you'll never look at a Monopoly board the same way again. Like my review? Check out my blog!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erin Cataldi

    I had no idea behind the origins, evolution, and scandal of this beloved game. It was fascinating to learn more about such a pop culture item. Who doesn't have at least one edition of this board game in their house. I thought the book could have been shortened because the legal aspects towards the end really dragged on - but other than that I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at such an "ordinary" item. When the game was first created at the turn of the twentieth century - the crea I had no idea behind the origins, evolution, and scandal of this beloved game. It was fascinating to learn more about such a pop culture item. Who doesn't have at least one edition of this board game in their house. I thought the book could have been shortened because the legal aspects towards the end really dragged on - but other than that I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at such an "ordinary" item. When the game was first created at the turn of the twentieth century - the creator called it the landlords game and it came with two sets of rules. On one set of rules the goal was to spread the wealth because only when everyone has the same opportunities does someone wine. The other set of rules was the monopoly version that we all know and loved. The goal was to make people see how bad monopolies are - winning because one person has accumulated all the wealth shows how vile monopolies are... right? Wrong. The "bad" set of rules became an underground sensation. People were making their own canvas boards and adding their own distinctive names and rules. The set we know and love got all the place names from Atlantic City where is took off. Decades passed and a man named Darrow claimed it was his own and sold it to Parker Brothers where it became an international sensation. Only it clearly wasn't his - having been played in pockets all over the country for three decades. The Monopolists gives the inside scoop on all these incidents and ends with the fight over the Anti-Monopoly game - an attempt to go back to the creator's anti-monopolist roots. Fascinating - but a bit long at parts.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sean O

    This book is the story of Monopoly, and it divides into two sections: The hidden history of the creation of Monopoly: This part of the book is fascinating and is filled with interesting early 20th-century characters. The writer does a great job documenting the history of the game and describing how it got to become the board game everyone knows. The trademark/patent battle between Parker Brothers and the creator of "Anti-Monopoly." This story is interesting, but far less so, because it shapes up t This book is the story of Monopoly, and it divides into two sections: The hidden history of the creation of Monopoly: This part of the book is fascinating and is filled with interesting early 20th-century characters. The writer does a great job documenting the history of the game and describing how it got to become the board game everyone knows. The trademark/patent battle between Parker Brothers and the creator of "Anti-Monopoly." This story is interesting, but far less so, because it shapes up to be a classic "70s Berkeley professor squares off against General Mills lawyers" bore-fest. I would have given an extra star for 30% more origin story and 50% less lawsuit.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A surprisingly disappointing book that doesn't really get cooking until about halfway in, when the lawsuits start flying. The saga of Ralph Anspach, the SoCal professor who serves, along with the late Lizzie Magie, as the book's protagonist, is the most compelling part, and it probably could have been better served as a long magazine feature (which it sort of was). A surprisingly disappointing book that doesn't really get cooking until about halfway in, when the lawsuits start flying. The saga of Ralph Anspach, the SoCal professor who serves, along with the late Lizzie Magie, as the book's protagonist, is the most compelling part, and it probably could have been better served as a long magazine feature (which it sort of was).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sype Corbon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is an ok book, not especially riveting, but the whole book in a sentence: Basically, a lot of different people each made games similar to monopoly at around the same period of time, each with their own flair or "special-ness" but in the end, Parker Brothers either bought out or out-sold everyone else, and Monopoly is now sold/owned by them, though the story they include in the box about the "inventor" of monopoly is pretty much fiction. It is an ok book, not especially riveting, but the whole book in a sentence: Basically, a lot of different people each made games similar to monopoly at around the same period of time, each with their own flair or "special-ness" but in the end, Parker Brothers either bought out or out-sold everyone else, and Monopoly is now sold/owned by them, though the story they include in the box about the "inventor" of monopoly is pretty much fiction.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Cole

    Interesting story of how Monopoly was really created. Part economics lesson, part history lesson, and part legal thriller. Took awhile for me to get into it, but once I did I was glad I stuck with it!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Let's say you want to hear a true history full of intrigue and deception as well told as any spy novel, but where the stakes are mere ideas. That you'd never want to read through tomes of patent law, but you don't mind a bit of legalese on occasion. Let's say that well-written and engaging histories are your thing. Read this book. As with all true stories there's a bit of fuzziness around the edges of every fact. Eye witnesses remembering incompletely, one side determined to obscure the facts, a Let's say you want to hear a true history full of intrigue and deception as well told as any spy novel, but where the stakes are mere ideas. That you'd never want to read through tomes of patent law, but you don't mind a bit of legalese on occasion. Let's say that well-written and engaging histories are your thing. Read this book. As with all true stories there's a bit of fuzziness around the edges of every fact. Eye witnesses remembering incompletely, one side determined to obscure the facts, a life-long crusader destroying his life, his family, his career over a cardboard game with fake money and cheap plastic pieces. Is there a monopoly on Monopoly?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting history of the game. A bit confusing since there are so many who changed the game, claimed it, and marketed it. The original and most important creator, Ms. Magie, was a Georgist. She believed in the single tax system -- that one should only be taxed on the land one "owned". She created the Landlord Game, patented it, and was completely ripped off over the next sixty years. Interesting history of the game. A bit confusing since there are so many who changed the game, claimed it, and marketed it. The original and most important creator, Ms. Magie, was a Georgist. She believed in the single tax system -- that one should only be taxed on the land one "owned". She created the Landlord Game, patented it, and was completely ripped off over the next sixty years.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda Munro

    I would never have read this book if it wasn't for a reading contest, but I enjoyed this one! Monopoly is one of the few games it seems that everyone I know has played. During my youth, I heard all types of stories about Monopoly, but as I said they were stories. Monopoly has a checkered past at best, a long, involved checkered past. It didn't start out being based on Atlantic City. It actually started out much differently. The basis was anti-Capitalism, which means it would have been burned these I would never have read this book if it wasn't for a reading contest, but I enjoyed this one! Monopoly is one of the few games it seems that everyone I know has played. During my youth, I heard all types of stories about Monopoly, but as I said they were stories. Monopoly has a checkered past at best, a long, involved checkered past. It didn't start out being based on Atlantic City. It actually started out much differently. The basis was anti-Capitalism, which means it would have been burned these days. Though many people had a hand in what we now refer to as Monopoly, lawsuits galore kept Parker Brothers in court for years over their most popular game. A game with a history of Corporate Greed, with real life winner's and losers; almost better than fiction!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Fascinating and compellingly written account of the history of the game, which begins with Georgist and Single Taxer Lizzie Magie's The Landlord's Game. Board game inventor, patent holder, and a true independent spirit, everyone should know about Magie's life and how Ralph Anspach's Anti-Monopoly lawsuit that leads us to the true history of the game. Fascinating and compellingly written account of the history of the game, which begins with Georgist and Single Taxer Lizzie Magie's The Landlord's Game. Board game inventor, patent holder, and a true independent spirit, everyone should know about Magie's life and how Ralph Anspach's Anti-Monopoly lawsuit that leads us to the true history of the game.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Crisp, informative, and fascinating, Mary Pilon explores the roots of America's most popular board game, and how it morphed over time from a socialist teaching tool to one of pop culture's most ardent champions of capitalism. Loses a little steam in the middle, but the story itself is interesting enough to overlook it. Crisp, informative, and fascinating, Mary Pilon explores the roots of America's most popular board game, and how it morphed over time from a socialist teaching tool to one of pop culture's most ardent champions of capitalism. Loses a little steam in the middle, but the story itself is interesting enough to overlook it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Not only is this an excellent history of the game (and it's many similar board game rivals and precursors), but it is also a gripping legal drama detailing Parker Brothers over-aggressive trademark defense of Monopoly and the tenacious (or obsessive) resistance of Anti-Monopoly creator. Truely, it's a David vs Goliath tale, and one I found highly enjoyable. Not only is this an excellent history of the game (and it's many similar board game rivals and precursors), but it is also a gripping legal drama detailing Parker Brothers over-aggressive trademark defense of Monopoly and the tenacious (or obsessive) resistance of Anti-Monopoly creator. Truely, it's a David vs Goliath tale, and one I found highly enjoyable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim Loter

    I find the game of Monopoly excruciatingly dull, but the real story of its origin, and of how the story was uncovered largely because of a lawsuit filed by Parker Brothers themselves, is fascinating. The supreme irony is that the game was originally invented to teach the evils of monopolies and capitalism yet ended up as the focus of a battle that epitomizes exactly those evils.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fab

    This was a fun book to read, it’s the real story of who invented the board game Monopoly. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t actually an unemployed guy from the depression called Charles Darrow but a woman from the early 1900s who was almost written out of history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is the bumpy and quirky history of the popular game Monopoly. I found most of it very interesting, with many colorful characters. It only bogs down, during the long, court proceedings, in the last third. 3.5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Renay

    Fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. Women invented everything you loved.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Taylor P

    It may perhaps be difficult to imagine yourself reading a history of a board game and deeming it riveting, but once you find yourself among these pages, it's awfully hard to stop turning them. Even though the true story of Monopoly's creation has apparently been circulating in the media since the '70s, I had never heard a peep of these ill-gotten gains and was completely drawn in by Pilon's description of them. The game's conceptual journey is truly fascinating to follow, though the legal battle It may perhaps be difficult to imagine yourself reading a history of a board game and deeming it riveting, but once you find yourself among these pages, it's awfully hard to stop turning them. Even though the true story of Monopoly's creation has apparently been circulating in the media since the '70s, I had never heard a peep of these ill-gotten gains and was completely drawn in by Pilon's description of them. The game's conceptual journey is truly fascinating to follow, though the legal battles of later decades slow down the book's previously rip-roaring pace. I'm sure this one is more appealing to me, as someone who grew up loving Monopoly to the point of collecting multiple editions, than it would be to the average reader, but there are intriguing ideas for everyone regarding the nature of trademarks, the attribution of inventions, and the ways we play and share games. I'm glad to have spent time in this strange and satisfying history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Supriyo Chaudhuri

    This is a beautifully written story of the game of Monopoly. Who knew a popular board game had so much behind it? Besides, I could have never linked it to anything idealistic if I did not read this book. The book revolves around the case of a more recent idealistic game - Anti-monopoly - which I would now be buying and playing - and traces the origin story of Monopoly to the followers of Henry George and the utopian communities of Arden and Quakers of the Atlantic City. And, appropriately, it po This is a beautifully written story of the game of Monopoly. Who knew a popular board game had so much behind it? Besides, I could have never linked it to anything idealistic if I did not read this book. The book revolves around the case of a more recent idealistic game - Anti-monopoly - which I would now be buying and playing - and traces the origin story of Monopoly to the followers of Henry George and the utopian communities of Arden and Quakers of the Atlantic City. And, appropriately, it portrays the dark underbelly of American capitalism, where sharp 'entrepreneurs' thrive on stealing from the commons and maintaining fraudulent patents by the power of lawyers. The irony that all of this was played out in the case of a game which was meant to oppose the cut-throat moneymaking tendencies of capitalism is not to be missed - this is what makes the story so remarkable!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Annika

    Like most people who show an interest in this book, I grew up on this board game. My mother taught me to play, complete with house rules, and the game took hours and usually we'd get bored of it and just fold. Every now and then the game would get broke out, over the years, and we'd play a few more times. I never thought it was a horrible game and I never. ever. ever. ever. took financial advice from a Parker Brother's board game from the 1930s. It was educational, all those years, in that I lea Like most people who show an interest in this book, I grew up on this board game. My mother taught me to play, complete with house rules, and the game took hours and usually we'd get bored of it and just fold. Every now and then the game would get broke out, over the years, and we'd play a few more times. I never thought it was a horrible game and I never. ever. ever. ever. took financial advice from a Parker Brother's board game from the 1930s. It was educational, all those years, in that I learned to keep Boardwalk and Park Place separate (unless I am owning both of them) and to build houses and hotels as quickly as possible. I am not a real estate mogul and I am not the President of the United States and I am not the city's fifth most important financial planner, so it's not like I took those lessons to heart. But I like the game. This book allows a darker side of Monopoly. Evidently, the legend of it being invented in the 30s by a poor, well-meaning man who wanted a board game to remind his family of better times they had vacationing in Atlantic City is mostly farce, and this book shows the hidden origins of the game. It's an interesting book, but it doesn't tell the story in a linear fashion. And it's a book that seems slanted towards hating the game, that is based on capitalism, even though it began as anti-capitalism. It's horrible irony for the "true inventors" and yet, Parker Brothers is still laughing all the way to the bank, 80 years later. Oh. We bought a new Monopoly board about a month ago because my kids were getting interested in it and "Monopoly Jr" and "Monopoly Oklahoma State Cowboy edition" weren't cutting it. I was sad to see some of the tokens from my childhood are gone and have been replaced by such as a rubber duck (a nod to Arthur Weasley, of course) and a penguin (fine) but really, how many kids recognized an iron anymore? The book does offer neat trivia about Monopoly, such as playing by the REAL rules will keep the game at about 90 minutes. That means no money for Free Parking and no "house rules." It's an interesting read for board game enthusiasts, or for anyone on a tear against Monopoly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    When I started reading The Monopolists, I hadn't read the cover blurb in a while, so I was confused when we started with Ralph's story and then suddenly the next chapter was talking about Lizzie Magie's invention of The Landlord Game (the first precursor to Monopoly). While this was partly my fault for forgetting the blurb, ideally the text should offer enough explanation to stand on its own. Aside from this rough beginning though, the story was fantastic. I loved learning about all the people i When I started reading The Monopolists, I hadn't read the cover blurb in a while, so I was confused when we started with Ralph's story and then suddenly the next chapter was talking about Lizzie Magie's invention of The Landlord Game (the first precursor to Monopoly). While this was partly my fault for forgetting the blurb, ideally the text should offer enough explanation to stand on its own. Aside from this rough beginning though, the story was fantastic. I loved learning about all the people involved in the creation of Monopoly as we know it. The pictures of the board as it evolved were one of my favorite parts of the book (clearly legible even in ebook format). I also enjoyed a small digression to talk about people who played Monopoly competitively. I only played Monopoly when I was little, so learning about the amount of strategizing that can go into the game was eye-opening. Ralph's David-and-Goliath battle against Parker Brothers added some much needed drama to a story that sometimes started to seem like a genealogy as so-and-so taught so-and-so to play the game who taught someone else, etc. I think had the history of Monopoly been interwoven with Ralph's investigation of the games history, instead of being told in its entirety first, this could have been a five star read for me. I find that narrative nonfiction that is structured around the author or someone else's investigation can add immediacy to an otherwise sometimes dry history. Even so, most of the story kept me fascinated and I truly enjoyed learning the history of this well-known game. I'd recommend the book to fans of narrative nonfiction and, of course, to any fans of the game.  This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Although it's popular throughout the world, Monopoly really does seem like a very American game. Each player tries to amass as much property as possible and bankrupt his opponents until only one player with any money at all remains. So it's a bit surprising that the origin of the game had more to do with demonstrating the drawbacks of monopolies. The Monopolists is about the people who invented and developed Monopoly and Monopoly-type games in the first decades of the twentieth century and about Although it's popular throughout the world, Monopoly really does seem like a very American game. Each player tries to amass as much property as possible and bankrupt his opponents until only one player with any money at all remains. So it's a bit surprising that the origin of the game had more to do with demonstrating the drawbacks of monopolies. The Monopolists is about the people who invented and developed Monopoly and Monopoly-type games in the first decades of the twentieth century and about the fight over who owned the rights to the game after that. Parker Brothers patented the game in the 1930s although they hadn't invented it. They bought the rights from Charles Darrow, a man who also had not invented the game. The legal ins and outs of trademark and patent law are complicated and journalist Mary Pilon leads us through the tangle. Parker Brothers had also tried to trademark the names Ping Pong and Tiddly Winks, games which were widely played well before Parker Brothers came along. Courts slapped Parker Brothers down on those two games, ruling that the games were clearly in the public domain. Parker Brothers had better luck with Monopoly though, until they sued an economics professor who had developed a game called Anti-Monopoly. It took a decade of legal battles before the case was finally ended. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Monopolists focuses on the people rather than the game, so don't expect much in the way of board game strategy or facts about international or special editions of Monopoly or about Monopoly tournaments. This is a book about a large company trying to profit from other people's work and further, to prevent other people from profiting similarly. A surprising history of the familiar board game.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    The history of Monopoly is anything but boring. It's a David vs. Goliath tale of board game inventors that have to fight corporations for their right to innovate. It began with a woman inventor in the early 1900's who created a board game to illustrate the Single Tax principles of the great economist and reformer Henry George. Then the game took on a life of its own and was played by hundreds or thousands in various forms until Parker Bros. bought it in the 1930's. This is a winding tale that Pi The history of Monopoly is anything but boring. It's a David vs. Goliath tale of board game inventors that have to fight corporations for their right to innovate. It began with a woman inventor in the early 1900's who created a board game to illustrate the Single Tax principles of the great economist and reformer Henry George. Then the game took on a life of its own and was played by hundreds or thousands in various forms until Parker Bros. bought it in the 1930's. This is a winding tale that Pilon weaves masterfully along with the main story of an econ professor's fight in the 1970's to publish a board game centered on competitive markets instead of monopolistic ones. He, of course, gets sued by Parker Bros. for copyright/trademark/patent infringement and fights in the courts for years. "The Monopolists" is very relevant. The TPP, if passed, will extend intellectual property even more, forcing the general public to pay for what would have been in the public domain, to the benefit of Disney and other large intellectual property holders. Monopoly and Mickey Mouse may seem trivial, but it's billions of dollars, and this book shows the stifling of innovation that such monopolies cause. Oh, it also gives strategies for winning Monopoly.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Micahb

    Wow, what a fascinating look into the game Monopoly, the truth behind its origins, and the attempt to maintain a monopoly over the game itself. As I listened, I could not help but think about what else I would call this book. I think the first part may be more appropriately titled, "Single Tax Crackpots and Why Their Ideas Are Not Widely Known". The second part may be called "1001 one things you never knew you did not really want to know about Monopoly" The third: "Why fighting a lawsuit against Wow, what a fascinating look into the game Monopoly, the truth behind its origins, and the attempt to maintain a monopoly over the game itself. As I listened, I could not help but think about what else I would call this book. I think the first part may be more appropriately titled, "Single Tax Crackpots and Why Their Ideas Are Not Widely Known". The second part may be called "1001 one things you never knew you did not really want to know about Monopoly" The third: "Why fighting a lawsuit against a giant company may be the worst idea every" and the end's title I won't give as it would contain spoilers. Ms. Pilon does a great job at winding through the true history of the iconic game Monopoly (I won't say beloved as I'm not sure that term would apply universally) through a lawsuit to which not many likely paid much attention. It was a great read and a cautionary tale about the power of big business, the need to record your ideas in such a way that they can be traced back to you (if you ever want any credit and/or to make money from them), and that highlights the toll a lawsuit can take on family, personal life, and finances. Many thanks to Suzanne for the recommendation

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sacramento Public Library

    Oh the irony of the history of Monopoly. Did you know that it originally started out as an anti-capitalist game intended to teach players single tax theory? Did you know the origin story that was put out by Parker Brothers was a complete and total fabrication? And did you know that the game was the source of a lengthy trademark lawsuit that demonstrated the worst aspects of corporate monopolies? You would know all of these things if you read this book! It starts off a bit slow with some rather o Oh the irony of the history of Monopoly. Did you know that it originally started out as an anti-capitalist game intended to teach players single tax theory? Did you know the origin story that was put out by Parker Brothers was a complete and total fabrication? And did you know that the game was the source of a lengthy trademark lawsuit that demonstrated the worst aspects of corporate monopolies? You would know all of these things if you read this book! It starts off a bit slow with some rather obscure history, but before long it becomes absolutely fascinating, intertwining personal stories with the history of board games and their place in people’s lives. I spent a great deal of time remembering many a family monopoly game as a child and all of our adapted rules as I read. Then I swiftly became appalled as I read of the behavior of Parker Brothers to protect their product. Compelling and entertaining, this book will please non-fiction readers and anyone interested in social history or board games. --BW

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This was a solid four-star book until it devolved in a confusing law study in the final third to quarter of the book. With only three credits of legal studies to my name, I didn’t find the back-and-forth lawyering very compelling. The story of the game’s creation and evolution was much more interesting, as well as some of the shenanigans played by multiple parties as the game was presented to and taken over by Parker Brothers. The narrative is not chronological—the author begins in the 1970s and This was a solid four-star book until it devolved in a confusing law study in the final third to quarter of the book. With only three credits of legal studies to my name, I didn’t find the back-and-forth lawyering very compelling. The story of the game’s creation and evolution was much more interesting, as well as some of the shenanigans played by multiple parties as the game was presented to and taken over by Parker Brothers. The narrative is not chronological—the author begins in the 1970s and skips around the turn of the 20th century throughout. The approach works when you consider this book not as the history of Monopoly, but the chronicling of how the history of Monopoly came to be; that is, how those in the 1970s investigated and deduced the game’s rightful history and separated it from its marketing myth. To me, there’s some disillusionment to learn the truth behind Monopoly. The rags-to-riches, Horatio Alger story of its invention is a complete lie. Perhaps only on a game board can the “Little Guy” move out of Baltic and settle on Park Avenue.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather Stevens

    Really interesting history of one of my favorite games. Some of the history I already knew, but there were some new facts that intrigued me. The book was also very easy to read and the style was light and almost story-like. That made me want to keep reading the book, and I did not want it to be done.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    It takes a village to make a great game... I really love seeing the evolution of the boardgame Monopoly as it traveled the country, adopting local flavors and changing its core message as it was adapted over the years. It's infuriating that the only people to make money off of this game had no hand in its creation on any level (or permission to use the work of others). It takes a village to make a great game... I really love seeing the evolution of the boardgame Monopoly as it traveled the country, adopting local flavors and changing its core message as it was adapted over the years. It's infuriating that the only people to make money off of this game had no hand in its creation on any level (or permission to use the work of others).

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