The 30s, The Depression, and Darrow

The Story Behind the History-making Game
by Parker Brothers

By 1935, Parker Brothers had been in business for over half a century, helping to earn Salem, Massachusetts, the distinction, "games-making capital of the world." In 1935, however, Parker Brothers was digging itself out of the depths of the Great Depression and the strongest shovel at work was MONOPOLY.

In the previous year, Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, presented a game called MONOPOLY to Parker Brothers executives. The game was turned down unanimously for violating some sacredly held principles. It was too long, its rules too complicated, and it had no clear-cut finish. Darrow proceeded to produce it on his own and with much success. With help from a friend who was a printer, Darrow sold 5,000 sets to Wanamakers of Philadelphia. After getting wind of the Wanamakers' deal, Parker Brothers reconsidered Darrow's offer and an agreement was struck in early 1935. By mid-February, Parker Brothers was producing 20,000 MONOPOLY sets per week!

Despite the initial success, Parker Brothers considered MONOPOLY an adult fad game too complicated for children and destined to just a few short years of life. Therefore, Georger Parker, the company's founder ordered that production of MONOPOLY sets be ceased "against the possibliity of a very early slump." The order, however, was written just prior to the 1936 Christmas buying season. The figures for that season told a different story. From that point on, an upward sales spiral continued. The game with the "complicated" rules has gone on to break some very important rules on its own.

How did success happen so quickly? On the heels of the Great Depression, surely the vicarious thrill of getting rich quick struck a chord in America's weary heart. Yet even in the surging 60s and affluent 70s, indeed, in every decade since the 30s, that same thrill is reborn. MONOPOLY is the quintessential American game.

Mr. Darrow died in 1967, the world's first millionaire game designer.