Author(s): Pilon Mary
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. Ironically, the Landlord's Game, like Anti-Monopoly, was underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today. It isn't surprising that Magie's game 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. 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.
Mary Pilon is an award-winning staff reporter at The New York Times where she currently covers sports. She previously worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she wrote about various aspects of economics and the financial crisis. She has worked at Gawker, USA Today, and New York Magazine and is an honors graduate of New York University. Her work has garnered awards from the Freedom Forum, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and she was part of the Journal's team that won Gerald Loeb and New York Press Club Awards in 2011 for covering the Flash Crash of 2010. She made the Forbes magazine's first-ever 30 Under 30 list for media. A native Oregonian, she currently lives in New York City. Visit her web site at marypilon.com and find her on Twitter @marypilon.