An interview with Mary Pilon about her new book, The Monopolists, which uncovers the real story about how Monopoly became the game it is today.
Jessica Gross | Longreads | March 2015 | 16 minutes (4,113 words)
Mary Pilon spent several years reporting on finance for the Wall Street Journal, and several more reporting on sports for The New York Times. In her first book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, Pilon debunks the myth—long perpetuated by Parker Brothers—that Monopoly was invented by a man named Charles Darrow during the Great Depression. Really, three decades prior, a woman named Lizzie Magie had created The Landlord’s Game, an obvious ancestor. A surprising twist: Lizzie’s game included a set of rules that was anti-monopoly, in which the object was to spread wealth around. In the 1970s, a professor named Ralph Anspach unknowingly carried Magie’s torch by creating a game called Anti-Monopoly, which rewarded players for trust-busting. It was via a very long lawsuit with Parker Brothers that Anspach unearthed the game’s buried history—and through reporting on a wholly unrelated article that Pilon became aware of it. I spoke with Pilon by phone about this complex, multi-layered story, her reporting and writing process, and the surprising Monopoly tricks she discovered.Continue reading “The Twisted History of Your Favorite Board Game”