The history of the board game Monopoly
can be traced back to the early 20th century. The earliest known design was by an American, Elizabeth Magie
, patented in 1904 but existing as early as 1902. Magie's original intent was to publish a board game to illustrate an economic principle, namely the Georgist concept of a single land value tax. A series of board games
were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. By 1934, a board game had been created much like the version of Monopoly
sold by Parker Brothers
and its related companies through the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Several people, mostly in the Midwestern United States
and near the East Coast
, contributed to the game's design and evolution.
By the 1970s, the idea that the game had been created solely by Charles Darrow had become popular folklore; it was printed in the game's instructions for many years, in a 1974 book devoted to Monopoly, and was cited in a general book about toys even as recently as 2007. Even a guide to family games published for Reader's Digest in 2003 only gave credit to Darrow and Elizabeth Magie, erroneously stating that Magie's original game was created in the 1800s, and not acknowledging any of the game's development between Magie's creation of the game, and the eventual publication by Parker Brothers.
In the 1970s, Professor Ralph Anspach, who had himself published a board game intended to illustrate the principles of both monopolies and trust busting, fought Parker Brothers and its then parent company, General Mills, over the copyright and trademarks of the Monopoly board game. Through the research of Anspach and others, much of the early history of the game was "rediscovered" and entered into official United States court records. The game's name remains a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, as do its specific design elements.