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Elizabeth Magie
Lizzie Magie - My Betrothed, and Other Poems.jpg
Born
Elizabeth J. Magie

May 9, 1866
Died March 2, 1948 (aged 81)
Nationality American
Occupation Game Designer
Spouse(s) Albert Phillips
Parent(s) James Magie

Elizabeth J. Phillips (née Magie; May 9, 1866 – March 2, 1948) was an American game designer, writer, feminist, and Georgist. She invented The Landlord's Game, the precursor to Monopoly, to illustrate teachings of the progressive era economist Henry George.

Life and Occupations

Elizabeth J. Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois, in 1866 to James K. Magie, a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who accompanied Abraham Lincoln as he traveled around Illinois in the late 1850s debating politics with Stephen Douglas. After moving to the D.C. and Maryland area in the early 1880s, she worked as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter Office. She was also a short story and poetry writer, comedian, stage actress, feminist, and engineer. At the age of 26, Magie received a patent for her invention that made the typewriting process easier by allowing paper to go through the rollers more easily. At the time, women were credited with less than one percent of all patents. She also worked as a news reporter for a brief time in the early 1900s. In 1910, at age 44, she married Albert Wallace Phillips.

Political Activism

Elizabeth Magie was an outspoken activist for the feminist movement, and Georgism, which reflected her father's political beliefs when she was young. Georgism refers to the economic perspective that instead of taxing income or other sources, the government should create a universal land tax based on the usefulness, size, and location of the land. Then, after funding the government, the left over money would be distributed to the people. Many progressive political leaders at the time supported this economic perspective as it motivated people to cultivate land, redistributed wealth to people of low socioeconomic standing, eradicated the idea that landowners or landlords held the power and monetary value of the land that citizens used, and let people own all of the value and benefits of their creations. This belief became the basis for her game known as The Landlord's Game.

Furthermore, she believed that women were as capable as men in inventing, business, and other professional areas. In the 1800s, this belief was considered both novel and radical. When she worked as a stenographer, she was making around $10 which was not enough to support herself without the help of a husband. In order to bring the struggles of women in the United States to the public's attention, she bought an advertisement and tried to auction herself off as a "young woman American slave" looking for a husband to own her. This advertisement was meant to show the position of women and Black people in the country, emphasizing the fact that the only people that were truly free were white men. The ad Magie published became the talk of the town. It spread rapidly through the news and gossip columns around the country. Magie made a name for herself as an out-spoken and proud feminist.

The Landlord's Game

Magie first made her game, known as The Landlord's Game, popular among friends while living in Brentwood, Maryland. In 1903, Magie applied to the US Patent Office for a patent on her board game. She was granted U.S. Patent 748,626 on January 5, 1904.

Landlords Game 1906 image courtesy of T Forsyth owner of the registered trademark 20151119
The Landlord's Game board, created in 1906.

The Landlord's Game was designed to demonstrate the economic ill effects of land monopolism and the use of land value tax as a remedy for it. Originally, the goal of the game was to simply obtain wealth. In the following patents, the game developed to eventually have two different settings: one being the monopolist set up (known as Monopoly) where the goal was to own industries, create monopolies, and win by forcing others out of their industries and the other being the anti-monopolist setup (known as Prosperity) where the goal was to create products and interact with opponents. The game would later go on to become Monopoly (board game).

In 1906, she moved to Chicago. That year, she and fellow Georgists formed the Economic Game Co. to self-publish her original edition of The Landlord's Game. In 1910, the Parker Brothers published her humorous card game Mock Trial. Then, the Newbie Game Co. in Scotland patented The Landlord's Game as "Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit;" however, there was no proof that the game was actually protected by the British patent.

She and her husband moved back to the east coast of the U.S. and patented a revised version of the game in 1924. As her original patent had expired in 1921, this is seen as her attempt to reassert control over her game, which was now being played at some colleges where students made their own copies. In 1932, her second edition of The Landlord's Game was published by the Adgame Company of Washington, D.C. This version included both Monopoly and Prosperity.

Magie also developed other games including Bargain Day and King's Men in 1937 and a third version of The Landlord's Game in 1939. In Bargain Day, shoppers compete with each other in a department store; King's Men is an abstract strategy game.

Death

Magie died at the age of 81 in 1948. She was buried with her husband Albert Wallace, who had died in 1937, in Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. At her death, she was not credited for the impact that she had on the board game community and American culture.

Monopoly, the Game


Magie's game was becoming increasingly popular around the Northeastern United States. College students attending Harvard, Columbia, and University of Pennsylvania, left-leaning middle class families, and Quakers were all playing her board game. Three decades after The Landlord's Game was invented in 1904, Parker Brothers published a modified version, known as Monopoly. Charles Darrow claimed the idea as his own, stating that he invented the game in his basement. Magie spoke out against them and reported that she had made a mere $500 from her invention and received none of the credit for Monopoly.

In January 1936, an interview with Magie appeared in a Washington, D.C. newspaper, in which she was critical of Parker Brothers. Magie spoke to reporters about the similarities between Monopoly and The Landlord's Game. The article published spoke to the fact that Magie spent more money making her game than she received in earnings, especially with the lack of credit she received after Monopoly was created. After the interviews, Parker Brothers agreed to publish two more of her games but continued to give Darrow the credit for inventing the game itself.

Darrow was known as the inventor of Monopoly until Ralph Anspach discovered Magie's patents and her relation to the Monopoly game while fighting a legal battle with the Parker Brothers because of his Anti-Monopoly game. Subsequently, her invention of The Landlord's Game has been given more attention and research. Despite the fact that Darrow and the Parker Brothers capitalized on and were credited with her idea, she posthumously received credit for one of the most popular board games.

Legacy

It was only after her death that the impact Magie had had on many aspects of American culture and life began to be appreciated. First and foremost, she helped to popularize the circular board game. Most board games at the time were linear; a circular board game that concentrated on interacting both socially and competitively with the opponents was a novel idea. Her board game not only laid the foundation and inspiration for Monopoly, the most famous board game in the United States, but also provided entertainment that taught about Georgist principles, the value in spreading wealth, and the harmfulness of monopolies (this aspect of her game was absent from the Darrow version of Monopoly).

She also contributed to pressure for women's and Black people's rights, through educating others about these concepts, inventing board games at a time when women held less than one percent of US patents, and publishing political material in newspapers to speak out against the oppression of women and Black communities in the United States.

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