Women’s History Month: Elizabeth Magie, Monopoly

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Magie (1866-1948) was an American game designer, inventing The Landlord’s Game.  The game taught the player the progressive era economist teachings of Henry George.  Her father, James, was a newspaper publisher who followed Abraham Lincoln throughout Illinois in the 1850s as Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas.  It was James who introduced Lizzie to the books written by Henry George and which led Lizzie to be a huge supporter of the single tax system.

She created The Landlord’s Game in Maryland and her friends loved to play the board game.  She applied to patent the rights in 1903.  In her paperwork she described the basis of the game as one that demonstrated the ill effects of land monopolism and the use of land value tax as a remedy.  She was granted US Patent 748,626 in 1904.  In 1924, she applied and was granted another patent (Patent 1,509,312).  The original patent had expired and the new patent had a number of revisions.  In between those two patents, Parker Brothers published her card game called Mock Trial in 1910.  The Landlord’s Game was so popular in some colleges, the students began making their own copies.  The second patent in 1924 was her way of asserting her control over the creative liberties being taken with the game.  In 1932 she attempted to self publish the game.  In 1936 she was interviewed for a newspaper article in which she was critical of Parker Brothers.  Later, they would agree to publish two of her games.  One of those games was The Landlord’s Game (the third version) in 1939.

Is her name and the name of her game still unfamiliar to you?  Well, that is because her role as the board game Monopoly’s inventor was not uncovered during her lifetime.  An economics professor, Ralph Anspach took up a case against Parker Brothers over his Anti-Monopoly game.  While researching the case, he uncovered her patents.  His research became part of the court record.

Lizzie died in Staunton Virginia in 1948.  She was buried at her husband’s side in Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Lizzie Magie Landlord's Game Photo

If you would like to learn more about Elizabeth Magie, here are a few links:

https://www.biography.com/news/monopoly-history-lizzie-magie

https://www.learning-history.com/lizzie-magie-inventor-monopoly/

If you would like to view the original patent, click HERE.

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