The Monopolization of Monopoly
The $10,000 Buyout

by Burton H. Wolfe
©1976 The San Francisco Bay Guardian

After buying up Lizzie Magie's patent for $500 and no royalties, Parker Brothers marketed a few hundred sets of The Landlord's Game and then buried it forever; or so Parker president B. M. Barton hoped. Then he turned to a more dangerous flaw in the plans to rescue the firm with Monopoly: Dan Layman's predecessor Finance.

That cost more money: $10,000. But none of it went to Layman. A victim of the Great Depression, broke and desperate for money, he had sold his interest in Finance to a small games manufacturer, David W. Knapp, for $200. Knapp was the originator of popular 1930s games such as "Krazy-Ikes". Knapp warned Parker Brothers' Barton that he knew the entire history of Finance and Monopoly. So, Barton paid him $10,000 to surrender his rights and keep quiet about the game's origin.

Once Parker Brothers bought out Knapp, Barton had Finance changed to make it appear to be a different game that would be easier to play than Monopoly. Over the years Parker Brothers has succeeded in convincing the games industry and the public that Finance, which is still on the market is a Parker Brothers original, a spinoff from Monopoly, rather than vice versa. Nobody has questioned that version of the story since Dan Layman did early in 1936.

Time magazine, in the Business and Finance section of its Feb. 3, 1936, edition, had published an article called "Monopoly and Politics" about the two board games so titled. Time stated: "Inventor [Charles] Darrow built the first set [of Monopoly] in 1931." Three weeks later Time published an excerpted letter from Layman that explained:

"A game surprisingly similar to Darrow's and known as Monopoly was played on homemade boards in the DKE house at Williams College in 1927 et seq. It developed in Reading, Pa., much earlier than that.

"Almost exactly this same game as played at Williams was put on the market in Indianapolis early in 1932 through L. S. Ayres & Co. The name was changed to Finance for trademark reasons...

"I wrote the entire rulebook for the game of Finance in 1931 (copyrighted 1932) and simplified the old game of Monopoly for manufacturing purposes..."

That was the last occasion on which any periodical in the Henry Luce Time-Life empire published so much as a hint of the truth about Monopoly and Finance.

Once Finance was wrapped up, Parker Brothers president Barton turned to another Monopoly-like game called "Inflation," manufactured by a Texan named Rudy Copeland. Early in 1936 Parker Brothers sued Copeland for patent infringement. Copeland countersued, charging that Darrow's and therefore Parker Brothers' patent on Monopoly was invalid. If the details forming the basis for that charge had become public knowledge, Parker Brothers might never have gone to reap a fortune from Monopoly. But Parker settled the lawsuit immediately by paying Copeland $10,000 to surrender his rights and keep his mouth shut.