The time-honored table game Monopoly has an eye for Atlantic City real estate.
These are the toughest of possible words
“Go to Jail, Go directly to Jail”
Testing your heart and your will and your nerve
“Go to Jail, Go directly to Jail”
Though you may dream of the Boardwalk and bedding
A revenue stream from the Short Line or Reading
It’s the fateful command that you’re constantly dreading
“Go to Jail, Go directly to Jail.”
In actual practice, the game of Monopoly is not quite so grim, though as a reflection of the real-world economy, it may punish or reward risk-takers. While it trades on canny investment and carnivorous capitalism, its momentum springs from the element of chance — the two, red Chance question marks claiming spots on the playing board speak eloquently for that underlying reality. Monopoly came of age during the Depression, when gamers could be excused for craving a roll of the dice.
Its format and appeal — if not its Atlantic City profile — had been established well before opportunistic Charles Darrow convinced New England game-maker Parker Brothers to mass-produce Monopoly in 1935. Quaker-bred Elizabeth J. Magie designed its clearest ancestor, a board game she dubbed “The Landlord’s Game” and for which she secured a patent in 1904. The square Landlord board counted four railroads, water and electric utilities, and a luxury tax among its 40 spaces. The ominous directive “Go to Jail” sat at one of the four corners.
Magie, who hailed from Canton, Ill., and lived in the Washington D.C. area around the time of her invention, was a proponent of the socioeconomic philosophy of Philadelphian Henry George, whose bestselling Progress and Poverty (published a quarter-century earlier) sought to eradicate poverty through a strategy that featured a “single tax” on land to the exclusion of all other taxes.
Lizzie intended Landlord to be an embodiment of Georgist doctrine, and some of its most enthusiastic practitioners were residents of Arden, Del., a freshly minted experimental community that espoused single-tax theory. One of the Ardenites, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor Scott Nearing, was simpatico with the board game, which soon spread to other college campuses.
Lizzie, who prized the message more than the money, did not enforce her patent. As Landlord migrated to towns and neighborhoods, players not only changed property names to fit their locales, but modified rules and adopted a perspective the polar opposite of the creator’s. Rather than a life lesson, the prospect of driving a competitor out of business had become a thrill all its own. Two decades after her original, the now married Elizabeth Magie Phillips meant to set the record straight by obtaining a second patent for a retooled “Landlord” that reflected Chicago locations (she had lived in the Windy City in the interim) and explicitly charged players with the goal of redistributing the wealth rather than bankrupting opponents. This time, she sought the marketing muscle of Parker Brothers, but the Salem, Mass., company turned her down.
Meanwhile, the care and feeding of earlier versions persisted, as one Daniel Layman formalized rules for a game linked to his hometown of Indianapolis and brought it to market as “Finance.” One of his devotees, a Quaker woman named Ruth Hoskins, moved to Atlantic City in 1929 and gave her homemade game board a seashore listing, pegging the street names to the homes of her fellow players.
Charles E. Todd, a vacationing Philly hotelier, was drawn into the game and brought it back to Germantown, where heating salesman Charles Brace Darrow — whose wife was a longtime friend of Todd’s — also resided. Soon, the Todds and the Darrows were dueling each other in this so-called “monopoly” game, building houses and hotels on the likes of Baltic and Oriental and Indiana and Park Place, reaching greedily for the Community Chest, flinching when they had to Go to Jail.
By this time the Depression had taken hold and Darrow was unemployed. The game would be his salvation. He sensed its commercial potential and convoluted provenance, and copyrighted the Atlantic City version that had drifted into his hands. He spruced up the board, erroneously reproduced Marven (a combination of Margate and Ventnor) Gardens as Marvin Gardens, and took his MONOPOLY to king game-maker Parker Brothers, who rejected the concept once again.
Undaunted, Darrow borrowed money to produce a limited number of copies, which he promptly sold in Philadelphia and New York, catching the eye of Manhattan toy retailer FAO Schwarz. Titans conferred, and Parker Brothers changed its tune, inking Darrow to a lucrative deal and patenting MONOPOLY in 1935. Sales skyrocketed.
To clear the decks, Parker Brothers bought Lizzie’s two patents (for the proverbial song) and the rights to Layman’s Finance. Forever after, the game would be all about gaining wealth by trampling the competition (albeit with a smile). Today, with its merchandising, contemporary spinoffs, and international tournaments, Monopoly is a cottage industry.
Darrow eventually got a plaque on the Boardwalk.
And nobody went to Jail.
Jim Waltzer wrote the text for Rod Kennedy’s MONOPOLY: The story behind the world’s best-selling game.
For the 1972 film 'The King of Marvin Gardens', screenwriter Jacob Brackman reached back to his childhood memories of living in Atlantic City between 1948 and 1953.
For more about DrewToonz, visit drewtoonzart.com....
‘Monopoly’ on Canvas Held in tandem with the milestone dates of two entities that have done much to positively influence Atlantic City — the 75th anniversary of the world’s most famous board game, Monopoly, and the 36th anniversary of Atlantic City Weekly — several pieces of artwork were on display at Atlantic City Weekly’s Then & Now party last Friday night, Nov. 12, at The Disco at Trump Marina. Noted board-game artists Jim and Kathleen Keifer recreated oil-on-canvas Monopoly game pieces on...
When it comes to Atlantic City, there’s no shortage of iconic images. From the Monopoly Board to salt water taffy to rolling chairs on the Boardwalk, A.C.’s mark is indelible.
Not since St. Christopher was kicked out of the communion of saints and Pluto was busted to dwarf planet did a decision seem so senseless, wrong-headed and just no fun. Last spring, Hasbro Inc. anno...
Located about two miles south of Atlantic City, the small development of Marven Gardens is known throughout the world thanks to the original Monopoly game and a movie starring Jack Nicholson, Bruce D...