The Monopolization of Monopoly
Cover Story

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

While Barton was busily buying up original game boards, Monopoly as manufactured by Parker Brothers had become the pastime rage of America, and Charles Darrow was written up in newspapers and magazines as the poverty-stricken genius who invented it. "Another Germantown First; Monoply Invented Here," read the front-page headline of the Germantown Bulletin of Feb. 13, 1936. The story beneath it explained how Darrow got the idea for Monopoly by reading a book about a boy in a commercial school where students "were given scrip and allowed to purchase stock with this make-believe money. A lttle bit of that book stuck in his mind. The more he thought about it, the more ideas he got, until finally, in his spare time (which was all the time), he went to work down in his cellar and began to work out the game which was soon to be Monopoly."

Darrow told the reporter who wrote this story how to win a Monopoly game fast: "Be a hard-hearted landlord. Demand immediate cash payment of rents and assessments."

It's rather amazing to go through magazines and newspapers and find out how many of them repeated this story, apparently based on an interview with the hometown boy made good, in the Germantown Bulletin - it appeared before that in the December 1935 issue of the king of all business magazines, Fortune, under the simple headline "Monopoly." Then you realize the story was a production of Parker Brothers. See how it reads in Fortune:

"The fastest-selling non-card game in the US, according to Parker Brothers, who make more games than anyone else in the country, is one called Monopoly. It is a game that caters to the most grindingly acquisitive instincts of every businessman and its popularity may be due to the general interest in the workings of business.

"...its inventor, Charles B. Darrow, of Philadelphia... says the game is typical of American business as he knew it when he was employed by an anthracite company to lecture to coal dealers on new coal uses. In 1931 he decided to invent a game to lighten the cheerless evenings at home. Years before, he had read a book about a boy who, having failed at Latin, went to commercial school where the teacher put him on the path to his future success by giving students scrip money to invest. Mr. Darrow started off with a scrip-money idea and it turned into Monopoly. The first homemade game amused neighbors so much that they ordered sets which Mr. Darrow made up by hand for $4...