Monopoly became popular as cheap entertainment during the Depression of the 1930’s, but it has since come to mean big bucks-at the turn of the millennium it, was the best-selling and most widely played board game in the world.

On August 31, 1935, Charles B. Darrow (U.S.) filed a patent for what was to become the world’s best-selling board game, the origins of Monopoly go back further than that. As early as 1903, political radical Lizzie J. Magie (U.S.) filed a U.S. patent (granted 1904) for an anti-capitalist board game that she called The Landlord’s Game, which featured property squares with rental prices, as well as railways, utilities, and a jail.

The game evolved through various homemade versions (and some published variations) until Darrow popularized the now familiar form of Monopoly, reversing its political stance to make it a pro-capitalist game. Darrow may not have invented Monopoly, but he certainly provided the impetus that would make it a worldwide success.

Monopoly was popular with Darrow’s friends, but when he tried to sell the idea to toy manufacturer Parker Brothers (U.S.) the company rejected it, saying that it had “52 fundamental playing errors,” including the fact that it was too complicated and took too long to play. But Darrow had faith in the idea, and produced 5,000 sets privately, which sold quickly enough for Parker Brothers to think again; it signed a licensing agreement early in 1935, which soon made Darrow a millionaire.

Parker Brothers sent a sample to British games manufacturer John Waddington Ltd, where Norman Watson (England), manager of the playing cards division, reported that he was “enthralled and captivated” by the game. So much so that he persuaded his father, Victor, who was managing director, to make the company’s first transatlantic phone call and secure a licensing deal. The deal signed, Watson Sr. sent his secretary Marjory Philips, to walk around London and choose street names for the British version of the game. From that first variation, Monopoly has since been sold in more than 60 countries in 26 languages, and set in cities including Athens, Madrid, Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo.

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