Monopoly: An American Icon Opens at the National Museum of Play
December 7, 2011
For Immediate Release
Monopoly: An American Icon Opens December 9
at the National Museum of Play
Features Display of Oldest-Known Monopoly Sets
ROCHESTER, New York—Rare and historic versions of Monopoly—never before gathered together in one public space—tell the surprising story of one of America’s favorite games in a new permanent display, Monopoly: An American Icon opening at the National Museum of Play at The Strong® on December 9, 2011.
On view are significant landmark games including The Landlord’s Game (1904), a precursor to today’s Monopoly sets; a 1913 John Heap Monopoly set, which was a key piece of evidence in a Monopoly copyright dispute; and two hand-made Monopoly sets by Charles Darrow (1933), who is credited with marketing and popularizing the game we have come to know and love.
“Never before have all of these historic sets and artifacts been brought together in one place in such a way as to illustrate the history of the game,” says curator Nicolas Ricketts. “Monopoly has remained popular throughout the decades,” he adds “because it allows people to dream what it would be like to be rich; an appealing thought, especially during the Great Depression when the game first became immensely popular.”
Among the rare sets spotlighted in the Monopoly display:
The Landlord’s Game, 1904: The story of monopoly begins in 1904 when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie, who hoped to publicize the social pitfalls of unequal wealth among people, patented The Landlord’s Game. Her aim was to show the evils of private ownership of land; but the game took a radical twist when players greedily collected huge piles of money and property, delighting in opponents’ financial troubles. College students soon began playing the game with very different rules—so the richest player won and everyone else lost. Guests can view a reproduction of the 1904 Landlord’s Game patent papers along with the original game itself, on loan from Thomas E. Forsyth.
John Heap Folk Art Monopoly set, 1913: Enter John Heap, a civil engineer working for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona. Heap made a Monopoly game around 1913. Museum guests can see that Heap’s board reflects his careful design and skills as an engineer and it represents his home town of Altoona, with still-existing streets marked in pen, and postcards showing local landmarks. The Heap game was an important piece of evidence in a Monopoly trademark dispute that began in 1974 and spanned a decade. This original John Heap folk art set is part of The Strong’s permanent collections.
Charles Darrow Hand-Made, Round Monopoly Set, 1933: Charles Darrow, an unemployed plumber in search of income, was the first marketer of Monopoly. Members of a Philadelphia Quaker game group taught Darrow the game. He instantly loved it and constructed his own board and set. According to legend, the round board was created to fit his dining room table. Darrow drew and painted the oilcloth board and produced the paper property cards. The family added their own favorite charms or figures to use as tokens. This is the earliest Darrow handmade Monopoly and it remained in his family until 1992. The game is part of The Strong’s permanent collections.
Charles Darrow Hand-Colored “Tie-Box” Monopoly Set, 1933: Charles Darrow produced 5,000 copies of Monopoly at his own expense and sold them through a Philadelphia department store. A friend printed the lines on the board; Darrow and his family hand-colored them and typed the cards. Wood molding was used to make the houses; the board rolled around a dowel. Adding a printed label to boxes used for selling neckties, he peddled the games at Philadelphia’s Wanamaker’s department store, Gimbels, and FAO Schwarz. After Parker Brothers noted the buzz and picked up the game, sales skyrocketed. By 1936 the company could barely meet demand. (It’s interesting to note that Parker Brothers at first rejected the game as “too complicated, too technical (and it) took too long to play.”). This original Darrow set is part of The Strong’s permanent collections.
Over the years, game developers reworked Monopoly settings for 81 countries and 27 languages. They adapted the game to fit Albuquerque, Buffalo, Cleveland, Dubai, Glasgow, Hong Kong, and hundreds of other places. Monopoly spawned variations and spin-offs that celebrate game shows and films, cartoon characters, sports, heroes, and superheroes. The museum display contains samples of a variety of modern games and spinoffs as well as an Anti-Monopoly game that set off a furor of legal patent battles. According to Hasbro (which acquired Parker Brothers in 1991), more than six billion little green houses and 2.25 billion red hotels have been “constructed” since 1935.
The permanent Monopoly display is included with general museum admission fees.
The National Museum of Play is the only collections-based museum devoted solely to the study of play. The museum’s include hundreds of thousands of historical objects related to play, including the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of dolls, toys, and games.
Museum Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Admission Fees: General Admission (does not include admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden®): Adults $13, Seniors $12, Children (2–15) $11, Children younger than two free, Museum members free.
Admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden: General Admission fee plus $2 for members, $4 for nonmembers; children under 2 free. Entry is by timed ticket only.