Charles B. Darrow, an unemployed salesman and inventor living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania struggling to support his family in the years following the great stock market crash of 1929, is credited with inventing Monopoly as we know it. Darrow remembered his summers spent in Atlantic City, New Jersey and spent his spare time drawing the streets of Atlantic City on his kitchen tablecloth, with found pieces of material, paints, and wood contributed by local merchants. A game was already forming in his mind as he built little hotels, houses and other tokens to go along with his painted streets.
Soon friends and family gathered nightly to sit round the kitchen table to buy, rent and sell real estate, all part of a game involving spending vast sums of play money. It quickly became a favorite activity among those with little real cash of their own. The friends soon wanted copies of the game to play at home (especially the winners.) The accommodating inventor began selling copies of his board game for four dollars each. He then made up a few sets and offered them to department stores in Philadelphia.
|Photograph of Monopoly Board ca. 1935. (H009.Monopoly002; ACFPL Heston Collection)|
Orders for the game increased to the point where Darrow decided to try to sell the game to a game manufacturer rather than going into full-scale manufacturing. He wrote to Parker Brothers to see if the company would be interested in producing and marketing the game on a national basis. The company turned down Darrow’s offer, explaining that his game contained "fifty-two fundamental errors", including that the game took too long to play, the rules were too complicated and there was no clear goal for the winner.
Darrow continued to manufacture the game; he hired a friend in the printing business to produce five thousand copies. He filled orders from department stores including F. A. O. Schwarz. One of his customers was a friend of Sally Barton, the wife of Parker Brothers' president, George Parker. The friend told Mrs. Barton about how much fun Monopoly was, and the friend also suggested that Mrs. Barton tell her husband. Mr. Barton listened to his wife and bought a copy of the game. He arranged to discuss business with Darrow in Parker Brothers' New York office and offered to buy the game and give Charles Darrow royalties on all sets sold. Darrow accepted in 1935 and permitted Parker Brothers to develop a shorter variation on the game, included as an option to the rules.
The royalties from Monopoly made Charles Darrow a millionaire, the first game inventor to make that much money. In 1970, a few years after Darrow's death, Atlantic City erected a commemorative plaque in his honor. It stands on the Boardwalk, near the corner of Park Place.
|Charles B. Darrow Boardwalk plaque at Boardwalk and Park Place. (Undated, H009.Monopoly001; ACFPL Heston Collection)|
Maxine Brady. The Monopoly Book: strategy and tactics of the world’s most popular game. New York: D. McKay Co., 1974.
Rod Kennedy, Jr. and Jim Waltzer. Monopoly, the story behind the world’s best-selling game. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2004.
Philip Orbanes. The Monopoly Companion. Boston, Mass.: Bob Adams, Inc., 1988.
Noel Gunther and Richard Hutton. Beyond Boardwalk and Park Place: the unauthorized guide to making Monopoly fun again. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.
ACFPL Game Collection
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs – Uncataloged Photographs by subject