Lizzie Magie

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Elizabeth Magie
Lizzie Magie.jpg
Elizabeth J. Magie

Died1948 (aged 82)
OccupationGame Designer
Spouse(s)Albert Phillips
Parent(s)James Magie

Elizabeth J. Phillips (née Magie; 1866–1948) was an American game designer and Georgist. She invented The Landlord's Game, the precursor to Monopoly, to illustrate teachings of the progressive era economist Henry George.[1]

Life and works[edit]

Elizabeth J. Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois, in 1866 to James Magie, a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who accompanied Lincoln as he traveled around Illinois in the late 1850s debating politics with Stephen Douglas. James Magie introduced Lizzie to the economist Henry George's writing, specifically the book Progress and Poverty, after which Magie became a strong supporter of what at that time was called a single-tax system (Georgism). In the early 1880s she worked as a stenographer. She was also a short story and poetry writer, comedian, stage actress, feminist, and engineer.[citation needed] In 1906 she worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1910, at age 44, she married Albert Phillips.[1]

Magie first made the game, known as The Landlord's Game, popular with friends while living in Brentwood, Maryland, and sought her first patent on it while living there. In 1903, Magie applied to the US Patent Office for a patent on her board game,[2] which was designed to demonstrate the economic ill effects of land monopolism and the use of land value tax as a remedy for them. She was granted U.S. Patent 748,626 on January 5, 1904.

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, she married Albert Phillips and Parker Brothers published her humorous card game Mock Trial. In 1912, The Landlord's Game was adapted in Scotland by the Newbie Game Co. as Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit. Although the instructions claimed it was protected by a British patent, there is no evidence this was actually done.

She and her husband moved back to the east coast of the U.S. and patented a revised version of the game in 1924; it received U.S. Patent 1,509,312. 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., probably another self-publishing effort. This version was two games in one, as there were alternate rules for a game called Prosperity.

After a January 1936 interview with Magie appeared in a Washington, D. C. newspaper, in which she was somewhat critical of Parker Brothers, Parker Brothers agreed to publish two more of her games.

They sold her final board game inventions, 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. Few copies of the Parker Brothers version of The Landlord's Game are known to exist, but Bargain Day and King's Men are less rare.


Magie died in Staunton, Virginia in 1948, aged 82. She is buried with her husband, Albert Wallace Phillips, in Columbia Gardens Cemetery, located in Arlington, Virginia.[1]


Magie's role as the board game Monopoly's inventor was not uncovered during her lifetime, but rather during research for a trial initiated by Economics professor Ralph Anspach. In 1973, he began a long legal battle against Parker Brothers over his Anti-Monopoly game. While researching the case, he uncovered Magie's patents. His research became part of the court record.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Pilon, Mary (February 13, 2015). "Monopoly's Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn't Pass 'Go'". New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2015. Elizabeth Magie was born in Macomb, Ill., in 1866 ... Her father, James Magie, was a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who accompanied ...
  2. ^ Orbanes, Philip E. (2006). Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game and How it Got That Way. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-306-81489-1.

Further reading[edit]