Monopoly: From the Landlord’s game to the Great Depression to the Modern Age

Imagine the year is 1935, and your father has come home with something odd he found at the store. It’s a board game you’ve never seen before, something new from a company called Parker Brothers called Monopoly. The game is interesting, albeit a bit complicated, but you and your family find it fun and it

gives you a little relief from the hardships of life during this period. This is the kind of situation my Great Uncle Bill could’ve found himself in while he lived during the Great Depression. Bill was still young when the Great Depression happened, and although he went on to fight for the United States in World War Two, I wonder what his life could have been like during the Great Depression? His life could not have been easy, especially since his parents had multiple children. The world likely would’ve felt like it was falling apart to him, but what if there was a way to alleviate that? Monopoly is a game that gives people a way to escape from the hardships of everyday life. But how did it all begin?

The Landlord’s Game, the board game that inspired Monopoly

The history of Monopoly doesn’t start with the creation of the game itself by Charles Darrow. Instead, it goes back to 1904 and a woman by the name of Elizabeth Magie who made a game called The Landlord’s Game. As she stated, her goal was to detail the dangers of amassing a great deal of wealth at the cost of others (Pilton). Her game was meant to be educational and to show the dangers of Capitalism, which is rather ironic given that it was the inspiration for Monopoly.  If you review the board, you will see some obvious connections between Monopoly and The Landlord’s Game with buying, renting, and taxes; although many of the spaces are different than the game we know (Info). In 1935 Charles Darrow found The Landlord’s Game and ripped it off to make Monopoly, giving the creator $500 for the patent. Parker Brothers almost missed the boat on Monopoly; rejecting it because they decided it was too complicated. Darrow went on to make and sell it himself, which lead to excellent sales that made them change their minds and buy the rights to the game. The rest, as is often said, is history and Monopoly became one of the most successful board games in history, which continues to this day. These days Hasbro is the primary manufacturer and distributor of Monopoly, while Late for the Sky makes more specialty games.

Monopoly as seen today

So, in what kind of world was Monopoly created? As previously indicated, it was released in 1935, which was still very much at the height of the Great Depression. One almost has to wonder exactly why a game so rooted in capitalism and land ownership appealed to people during this time period. Maybe it was something as simple as people wanted to play a game and have fun? What else would my Great Uncle Bill do but play a game like Monopoly? The game brings people together and gives them a chance to have fun, but more than that, it represents a fantasy for this time period. You can own property you’d never have otherwise, and in a world where people are lucky to have a home or even food and gives them a chance to see something of a life they wouldn’t have otherwise (Pilton). Growing up in the Great Depression there is nothing worse than having nothing, and I’d like to think my Great Uncle Bill and other members of my family would find that interesting and even exciting. Perhaps he would find this appealing and something that could bring the family together and dream of a better life. After all, when you have almost nothing, this can easily appeal to you.

Perhaps part of the appeal even goes back to The Landlord’s Game and the idea of criticizing capitalism. This was a time when people would’ve been angry at the banks and other socio-cultural factors that would make a game like Monopoly much more appealing to them. Players get to own property, make decisions and are able to make money based on rent instead of landlords or banks. Players get to play the role of those who, basically, ruined their lives, even if it is only a game. My Great Uncle Bill would be in this position because they were trapped in a world they could not control as much as anyone else might have been.  It is easy to imagine watching them play the game for the first time and exploring the new world of finances, land ownership, and opulence. The challenge would be to ensure you could move past the fantasy world and return to your real life. Monopoly wasn’t quite the escape like video games or movies are today, but the appeal of the game may be too much for some to bear at times. I would like to think the game would appeal to people because of what we’ve already discussed. More than that, though, I believe a game like Monopoly is something that could bring families together. They have a chance to bond over this complicated, yet simple game of property buying and selling.

Monopoly is one of those games that has been around for a long time; much longer, in fact, than any of us reading this have been. There is much we have to understand about the time period in which it was created as well as the history of the game itself. From an old game called The Landlord’s Game to the creation of Charles Darrow, to the modern version of the game, Monopoly has been around for a long time. Because it began during the Great Depression, the board game likely appealed to those who were living in this time period because of everything we know about their struggles. I’d like to believe the game would be something that would appeal to Bill given that it provides, not only a feeling of escape from the world but also serves as a sort of criticism of the things that caused their struggles to begin with. Maybe, though, Monopoly is really just a game that allows people simply to get together and have fun. Either way, Monopoly is a game that has been with us for many years and maintains its popularity for many reasons.  

Works Cited

Pilon, Mary. “Monopoly Was Designed to Teach the 99% About Income Inequality.”, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Jan. 2015,

“Monopoly (Game).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Mar. 2019,