Lizzie Magie

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Elizabeth Magie
Lizzie Magie - My Betrothed, and Other Poems.jpg
Elizabeth J. Magie

May 9, 1866
DiedMarch 2, 1948 (aged 81)
OccupationGame Designer
Spouse(s)Albert Phillips
Parent(s)James Magie

Elizabeth J. Phillips (née Magie; May 9, 1866[1] – March 2, 1948[2]) was an American game designer, writer and Georgist. She invented The Landlord's Game, the precursor to Monopoly, to illustrate teachings of the progressive era economist Henry George.[3]

Life and works[edit]

Elizabeth J. Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois, in 1866 to James K. 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. In the late 1800s, Magie received a patent for her invention that made the typewriting process easier by allowing paper to go through more easily. When her invention came about, the numbers of women with patents was less than one percent. The fact that she was only 26 years old, gave her even more credit amongst her peers. She also worked as a news reporter for a brief time in the early 1900s. One of Magie's most memorable escapades was when she tried to auction herself off as a "young woman American slave" in order to make extra money. The ad Magie published became the talk of the town. It spread rapidly through the news and gossip columns around the country. Magie made a name for herself as a sexual, out-spoken, feminist. [4][citation needed] In 1910, at age 44, she married Albert Phillips.[3]

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,[5] 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. Magie spoke to reporters about the similarities between Monopoly, and her own Landlord's Game. The article published spoke to the fact that Magie probably spent more money making her game, than she received in earnings, especially with the lack of credit she received after Monopoly was created. Another article was published that quoted Magie to say "there is nothing new under the sun". This was in reference to her own game and Monopoly. After all the drama with the articles and interviews, Parker Brothers agreed to publish two more of her games. [4]

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.[3]


Although Magie’s legacy may be centered on creating board games, she should also be remembered for creating easier and more effective ways of communicating important economic ideas. The Landlords Game was not simply about collecting property and attempting to become the largest real estate holder on the board but, it was about learning how to operate and be successful in real estate. Magie explained in her own words that her game was “a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences”(ATI). Another important aspect of Magie’s life was her ability to find ways to fight back against widely held ideals in a time when women were treated as lesser to men. Magie grew up in a household of abolitionists which engrained in her the need to fight for what she believed in. This can be seen in the Landlord’s Game as she was able to communicate her views on large industrialists like John D. Rockfeller and Andrew Carnegie. While it may have been nearly impossible to fight these incredibly wealthy men openly, Magie’s the Landlord’s Game created a platform into which her ideals could be shared without having to worry about being attacked by industrialists. Magie’s board game allowed her the ability to illustrate her perspective on the current system of idle landlords and show how the monopoly system was failing average Americans. Magie should be remembered for being a progressive feminist in a time in which it was incredibly difficult for women to gain equality. Instead of protesting and following other forms of change, Magie innovated and found new lanes into which she could effect change. This highlights just how innovative Magie truly was and how her lack of memorization should change and she should be viewed in the highest regard, not just with female innovators but innovators as a whole. Additionally, Magie's legacy has started to grow more for her underrated participation in the invention of the game Monopoly. The roots of the monopoly game lie in the details of Magie's Landlord's Game. Three decades after Landlord's Game was invented (in 1904), Parker Brothers published a modified version, known as Monopoly. Magie's ideas had already been very well established. There are some key aspects of Magie's intention of her work that got lost in translation. Originally, the game was made to protest against monopolists, not to praise them. When Monopoly came about, Parker Brothers and a man named Charles Darrow, told their version that he had invented the game in his basement. Magie spoke out against them and reported that she had made a mere $500 from her invention and received none of the credit for Monopoly, which was undeniably similar to her Landlord's game. What Magie wished Monopoly had taught people about was the single tax theory. The reason behind her games was to help educate people too. She said if players had known what they were learning about, her work would "not have been in vain". [4]


  1. ^ "Elizabeth Magie – Inventor of Monopoly" Retrieved September 10, 2019
  2. ^ "Lizzie Magie 1866-1948" Retrieved September 10, 2019
  3. ^ a b c 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 ...
  4. ^ a b c Pilon, Mary. "6 Facts About Lizzie Magie: Monopoly's Lost Female Inventor". Biography. Archived from the original on 2015-02-19.
  5. ^ Orbanes, Philip E. (2006). Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game and How it Got That Way. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-306-81489-1.

Further reading[edit]