The inside story of the world’s most famous board game—a buried piece of American history with an epic controversy that continues today.
With its origins rooted in one of the Wall Street Journal’s most-emailed stories, The Monopolists is the inside story of how the game of Monopoly came into existence, the heavy embellishment of its provenance by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game’s questionable origins.
Most people who play the game Monopoly think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvania heater salesman in his basement who sold his game to Parker Brothers in 1935 and lived happily ever after on royalties from the sale. That story, however, is not exactly true.
Ralph Anspach, an everyman and refugee of Hitler’s Danzig, unearthed the real story and it traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, to the Quakers of Atlantic City, and to a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie. The Monopolists is in part Anspach’s David versus Goliath tale of his 1970s battle against Parker Brothers, one of the most iconic and beloved companies of all time. Anspach was a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game, which hailed those who busted up trusts and monopolies instead of those who took control of all the properties. While he and his lawyers researched previous Parker Brothers lawsuits, he accidentally discovered the true history of the game, which began with Magie’s Landlord’s Game. That game was invented over 30 years before Parker Brothers sold the Darrow version of Monopoly and she waged her own war with Parker Brothers to be credited as the real originator of the game. Ironically, The Landlord’s Game, like Anti-Monopoly, was underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Magie’s game was widely embraced by a collection of left-wing intellectuals for decades, including members of Franklin Roosevelt’s famed “Kitchen Cabinet.”
More than just a book about board games, The Monopolists illuminates the triumphs and cutthroat nature of American business over the last century—a social history of American corporate greed that reads like the best detective fiction, told through the people who were the real-life winners and losers in the Monopoly’s war.
Claire Nozieres manages the translation rights for The Monopolists
The audio rights are handled by Alice Lutyens.
Translation Rights Sold
A compelling and seamless story that many readers will find more entertaining than the game itself.Publisher's Weekly (starred)
The book abounds with interesting tidbits for boardgame buffs but treats its subject seriously. After reading The Monopolists—part parable on the perils facing inventors, part legal odyssey, and part detective story—you’ll never look at spry Mr. Monopoly in the same way again.Booklist
Thoroughly researched and deftly paced, this fascinating narrative is at once legal thriller, folk history, underdog story, and exposé of corporate greed, and deserves a wide readership among fans of Monopoly, critics of monopoly, and all who enjoy a good story well told.Library Journal
Anyone who has threatened to eviscerate a loved one over their income-tax accounting, should be required to read Mary Pilon’s enthralling new history of the long, pitched battle over the origins of the game, The Monopolists.Slate
Among the many impressive feats that Mary Pilon pulls off in The Monopolists, her fascinating history of one of the most popular and iconic American games, the most remarkable may well be that, unlike Monopoly, her book never lags. The Monopolists is filled with winners, losers and cutthroat competition. It also builds to an intense pitch — while highlighting several fundamental issues of capitalism.
Briskly enlightening…[Pilon] has woven a plush, often humorous tapestry of board-game and social history. Even passages devoted to sick children during the Depression fail to deflate the book’s buoyancy.New York Times
Entertaining and revelatory account of the game’s origins … Her intriguing discoveries carry the reader happily alongErica Wagner,
New Statesman, Full Review