|Charles B. Darrow|
August 10, 1889|
|Died||August 29, 1967
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Darrow was a domestic heater salesman from Germantown, a neighborhood in Philadelphia (the part of Germantown he lived in is now called Mount Airy) during the Great Depression. The house he lived in still stands at 40 Westview Street. While Darrow eventually sold his version of Monopoly to Parker Brothers, claiming it to be his own invention, modern historians credit Darrow as just one of the game's final developers.
After losing his job at a sales company following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Darrow worked at various odd jobs. Seeing his neighbors and acquaintances play a home-made board game in which the object was to buy and sell property, he decided to publish his own version of the game, with the help of his first son, William, and his wife Ester. Darrow marketed his version of the game under the name Monopoly.
In truth, Darrow was just one of many people in the American Midwest and East Coast who had been playing a game of buying and trading property. The game's direct ancestor was The Landlord's Game, created by Elizabeth Magie. The game was used by college professors and their students, and another variant, called The Fascinating Game of Finance, was published in the Midwest in the late 1920s and early 1930s. From there the game traveled back east, where it had remained popular in Pennsylvania, and became popular with a group of Quakers in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Darrow was taught to play the game by Charles Todd, who had played it in Atlantic City, where it had been customized with that city's street and property names. Darrow's version of the game, as published, was virtually identical to the version he learned from Todd.
In 2004 the PBS program History Detectives investigated a game board owned by Ron Jarrell of Arden, Delaware, which had elements of both The Landlord's Game and Monopoly. The investigators concluded that this game board "[had] key elements in it that link the Landlord’s Game and the Monopoly Game together".
The Darrow family initially made their game sets on flexible, round pieces of oilcloth instead of rigid, square carton. Charles drew the designs of the properties with drafting pens, and his son and wife filled in the spaces with colors and made the title deed cards and Chance and Community Chest cards. On these first round boards, Darrow included some of the icons (actually designed for him by a hired graphic artist) that the later Monopoly made famous, such as the large red arrow for "Go", the black locomotives on the railroad spaces, the faucet on "Water Works" and light bulb on "Electric Company" and the question marks on the "Chance" spaces. Darrow then secured a copyright for the game in 1933. The next known versions he produced had printed 'boards' on oilcloth squares with hand colored details.
By 1934, Darrow started having the game printed on cardboard, and sold copies in long white boxes to Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. Later that year, Darrow showed his game first to Milton Bradley and later to Parker Brothers. The latter company , which included the game's length and complexity.
Darrow reinvested money from the sales into smaller sets, sold in black cardboard boxes, with boards sold separately from the sets. After Darrow started to take orders from other Philadelphia department stores, Parker Brothers reconsidered.
Parker Brothers negotiated the rights from Darrow to produce the game in large scale. Darrow sought and received U.S. Patent 2,026,082 on the game in 1935, which Parker Brothers acquired. Within a year, 20,000 sets of the game were being produced every week. Monopoly ended up being the best-selling board game in America that year, and it made Darrow the first millionaire game designer in history.
Darrow was later promoted as the sole inventor of the game, though later research has shown that Magie, Jesse Raiford, Ruth Hoskins, Louis and Ferdinand Thun, and Daniel Layman, among others, were collectively responsible for virtually all of game's significant elements. Despite this, current owners Hasbro list only Charles Darrow by name on their official website.
In 1957, Darrow appeared as a mystery challenger on the TV panel show To Tell the Truth; he died a decade later—19 days after his 78th birthday. In 1970, three years after Darrow's death, Atlantic City placed a commemorative plaque in his honor on The Boardwalk, near the corner of Park Place. In 1973 Ralph Anspach, an economics professor at San Francisco State University, produced Anti-Monopoly, a game similar to Monopoly, and for this was sued by Parker Brothers. During the ten year suit, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Darrow had copied down the rules directly (even the misspelling of Marven Gardens as "Marvin Gardens") from the game produced by Charles Todd.
- Charles B. Darrow Dies at 78; Inventor of Game of Monopoly. New York Times. Accessed from August 17, 2012.
- Walsh, Tim (2004). The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys. Keys Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 0-9646973-4-3.
- Axelrod, Alan (2002). Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly. Running Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7624-1327-1.
- Anspach, Ralph (1998). Monopolygate. Xlibris. pp. 122–136. ISBN 978-0-7388-3139-8.
- "EPISODE 2 2004 - BOARD GAMES, ARDEN, DELAWARE". PBS. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Strong National Museum of Play: permanent collection.
- Anspach, Ralph (1998). Monopolygate. Xlibris. ISBN 978-0-7388-3139-8.
- Article covering court battle over Monopoly via Internet Archive
- Early history of Monopoly via Internet Archive
- "From Berks to Boardwalk" – A look at the influence that residents of Berks County, Pennsylvania had on the early development of the game that became Monopoly.