Cover image for The monopolists : obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world's favorite board game
Title:
The monopolists : obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world's favorite board game
Author:
Pilon, Mary, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2015.
Physical Description:
313 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
"With its origins rooted in one of the Wall Street Journal's most emailed stories, The Monopolists is the inside story of how the game of Monopoly came into existence, the heavy embellishment of its provenance by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins. Most Americans who play Monopoly think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvania man who sold his game to Parker Brothers in 1935 and lived happily ever after on royalties. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, an economist and refugee of Hitler's Danzig, unearthed the real story and it traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and to a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie. The Monopolists is in part Anspach's David-versus-Goliath tale of his 1970s battle against Parker Brothers, one of the most beloved companies of all time. Anspach was a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game, which hailed those who busted up trusts and monopolies instead of those who took control of all the properties. While he and his lawyers researched previous Parker Brothers lawsuits, he accidentally discovered the true history of the game, which began with Magie's Landlord's Game. That game was invented more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly and she waged her own war with Parker Brothers to be credited as the real originator of the game. More than just a book about board games, The Monopolists illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century--a social history of American corporate greed that reads like the best detective fiction, told through the real-life winners and losers in the Monopoly wars"--
Language:
English
Contents:
The professor and the trust-busing game -- A woman invents -- A utopia called Arden -- George Parker and the cardboard empire -- New life for the landlord's game -- Frat boys and Quakers change the game -- Charles Darrow's secret -- Parker Brothers, from Depression to boom -- Conflict, intrigue, revenge -- The case for anti-monopoly -- Anspach connects the dots -- Barton under oath -- A matter of principle -- The burial -- Redemption -- What became of them
ISBN:
9781608199631
Format :
Book

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Central Library GV1469.M65 P55 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library GV1469.M65 P55 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins.
Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily--and richly--ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord's Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game--underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today--was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt's famed Brain Trust.

A fascinating social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly's real-life winners and losers.


Author Notes

Mary Pilon is an award-winning journalist who writes primarily about sports and business, including as a staff reporter at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal . In 2011, she was named one of Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 for media. Her work has appeared in Gawker , USA Today , Fast Company , the New Yorker , and New York magazine and she is an honors graduate of New York University. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website at marypilon.com and follow her on Twitter at @marypilon.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the 1970s, an economics professor went to court against Parker Brothers, arguing that the company had monopolized Monopoly. Ralph Anspach had designed an anti-Monopoly board game but received a threatening letter from Parker Brothers claiming the name infringed on their trademark and asking him to stop using it do not pass Go, do not collect $200. It kicked off a years-long, David-versus-Goliath court battle that led Anspach to discover the strange and complicated origins of one of America's favorite games. As New York Times reporter Pilon details in this surprising account, the game dates back to the early twentieth century, when single-tax evangelist Lizzie Magie designed an educational game called the Landlord's Game. But her contribution became largely lost to history, and an out-of-work salesman passed it off as his invention during the Great Depression. The book abounds with interesting tidbits for board-game buffs but treats its subject seriously. After reading The Monopolists part parable on the perils facing inventors, part legal odyssey, and part detective story you'll never look at spry Mr. Monopoly in the same way again.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

With more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery, reporter Pilon reveals the tumultuous history of Monopoly, the iconic board game first created by Elizabeth Magie to draw attention to the economic theories of Henry George (a 19th-century politician and economist who advocated that land was not meant to be seized and couldn't be owned). Pilon chronicles the game's evolution through pop culture, including its crucial adoption by Quakers in Atlantic City, and the fervent players who modified the game to include local landmarks such as Ventnor Avenue and Boardwalk. The product then fell into the hands of an unemployed Charles Darrow, who patented it; Parker Brothers propagated his rags-to-riches story as though he were the originator of the game. To add to the drama, Pilon also relates the story of Ralph Anspach's Anti-Monopoly, a game designed to present a different point of view, which Parker Brothers went out of its way to squash (including a very public burial of 40,000 copies of Anspach's version). Dry concepts such as brand identity and copyright are deftly woven to create a compelling and seamless story that many readers will find more entertaining than the game itself. Agent: Deborah Schneider, The Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Board games connote innocent entertainment, but journalist Pilon's social history of Monopoly reveals a less-benign chronicle of power, deception, and avarice, and a tale of small vs. mighty, in which the righteous do not always prevail. Separated by 70 years, its two protagonists each invented a game as a vehicle to broadcast economic beliefs, and both found themselves at odds with the powerful game company Parker Brothers. Monopoly's invention was long ascribed to one Charles Darrow, but its direct antecedent was the brainchild of feisty activist, feminist, inventor, and poet Lizzie Magie, an adherent of antimonopolist economist Henry George. In the early 1900s, Magie created The Landlord's Game as an instructive political statement and an amusement. In the 1970s, economics professor and activist Ralph Anspach developed his own didactic board game called Anti-Monopoly. Targeted by Parker Brothers, Anspach fought back, unearthing the hidden past here rounded out by Pilon. Readers may want a scorecard to manage the large cast of players, particularly during the journey of the early game from Lizzie Magie to Charles Darrow via utopians in Delaware, fraternity brothers at Williams College, and Quakers in Atlantic City. VERDICT Thoroughly researched and deftly paced, this fascinating narrative is at once legal thriller, folk history, underdog story, and expose of corporate greed, and deserves a wide readership among fans of Monopoly, critics of monopoly, and all who enjoy a good story well told.-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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