MACOMB (AP) – The property-collecting board game Monopoly is a staple in many American homes today. However, the concept for the game was actually derived from the board game The Landlord’s Game, created by Macomb native Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly.
Elizabeth Magie was born in Macomb on May 9, 1866, to James K. Magie and Mary Jane Ritchie. Her 783-square-foot childhood home and barn, now private property, are still standing in the northeast part of Macomb.
Elizabeth’s father, James Magie, was a proprietor of the Macomb Journal Newspaper and an abolitionist who accompanied Abraham Lincoln in the late 1850s during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It was at James Magie’s urging that Lincoln had his picture taken in Macomb. Magie served in the Civil War for three years and went on to be appointed as the U.S. Postmaster in Macomb in 1865.
After her father handed her a copy of the book “Progress & Poverty” that was written by the economist Henry George in 1879, Elizabeth Magie became a supporter of what at the time was called a single-tax system (Georgism). George believed that while people should own all of anything they make or create, nature – including land – belonged to everyone.
In the early 1880s, Elizabeth Magie worked as a stenographer. A multi-talented woman, she was also a writer, comedian and actress. She received a patent for an invention that made it easier for paper to slide through typewriters. In the early 1900s, she would work a brief stint as a news reporter.
Influenced by George, Elizabeth Magie went on to create the board game The Landlord’s Game and filed a legal claim for it in 1903. The game was designed to demonstrate to players the negative effects of land monopolies and land value taxes.
In 1932, the second edition of the game was published and came with two different rule sets: an anti-monopolist set and a pro-monopolist set. The anti-monopolist rules, or what Elizabeth Magie would call the Prosperity Game, rewarded all players for wealth creation; in contrast, the monopolist rules had the goal of forming monopolies and bankrupting players. The latter rule set would inspire the board game Monopoly.
While many board games of the time followed a linear path, this game had players going around the board’s square-shaped path. There were 44 spaces, such as Jail, Poor House and Gee Whiz Railroad.
According to Allen Nemec, past president of the McDonough County Genealogical Society, there are coincidental similarities between the layout of the game board and Macomb’s Downtown Square.
“The ironic thing is that the Macomb Square is much like a Monopoly board. The jail was located on the corner with the ‘go to jail’ square. And our original jail was on the corner of our square,” said Nemec. “So the actual Macomb City Hall and jail is where (El Jarochito) is on the corner now.”
Charles Darrow, who would later become the first millionaire game designer in history, would go on to play a version of The Landlord’s Game and create his own version of the game called Monopoly. He eventually sold this game to Parker Brothers in 1935. The game was made easier to understand and property names were changed to Atlantic City street names. After making a deal with Darrow, Parker Brothers bought Elizabeth Magie’s patent for The Landlord’s Game for a mere $500 – small change in comparison to the royalties that Darrow would receive from Monopoly.
Elizabeth Magie died in Staunton, Virginia, in 1948 at the age of 82. She is buried with her husband, Albert Wallace Phillips, in Arlington, Virginia.
In recognition of Elizabeth Magie, her portrait is being added to a large painted mural that celebrates Macomb’s history on the north side wall of The Old Dairy. In addition, Nemec said the city would potentially be interested in placing a historical placard on the property of Elizabeth Magie’s childhood home.
Source: The (Galesburg) Register-Mail, https://bit.ly/2xUYqqr
Information from: The Register-Mail, http://www.register-mail.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Galesburg) Register-Mail.