Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Landlord Game

Us000748626001Here's a light post for our nation's birthday.  Happy fourth of July!

Every once in a while we in Tuscaloosa play games, like name that professor's school.  Pretty amusing stuff.  It just so happens, though, that I was talking with some friends recently about the board game Monopoly and the lessons it teaches.  That led me to wonder about its history and--lo and behold, it's based on a an early twentieth century game, "The Landlord's Game," patented by a young Quaker, Lizzie Magie, in 1904 to teach the principles of Henry George.  So the game that now teaches the principles of capitalism had its origins in early twentieth century socialism (or what I think we'd now call socialism).  Wow.  We absolutely must talk about this at propertyprof at some point.

Thanks to my absolutely awesome colleague Alan Durham (author of Patent Law Essentials), who writes on exceedingly interesting and complex topics like the copyright aspects of randomness and authorship and other stuff, too, we have two pages of images (at right and below) from the 1904 patent.

Here's a link to the rules of the game, which come from the 1904 patent.  The game really sounds a lot like monopoly--with some quaint early twentieth century phrases.  Try these out:

Absolute necessities: These spaces, which are preferably blue, indicate absolute necessities -- each as bread, coal, shelter, and clothing -- and when a player stops upon any of these he must pay five dollars into the "Public treasury." (This represents indirect taxation.)
   No trespassing: Spaces marked "No trespassing" represent property held out of use, and when a player stops on one of these spaces he must go to jail and remain there until be throws a double or until he pays into the "Public treasury" a fine of fifty dollars. When he comes cut, he must count from the space immediately in front of the jail.
   Railroad: "R. R." represents transportation, and when a player stops upon one of these spaces he mast pay five dollars to the "R.R." If a player throws a double, he "Gets a pass" and has the privilege of jumping once from one railroad to another, provided he would in his ordinary moving pass a "R. R." If he stops upon it, however, he must pay five dollars.
Us000748626002    Luxuries: These spaces, preferably purple, represent the luxuries of life, and if a player stops on a "Luxury" he pays fifty dollars to the "Public treasury," receiving in return a luxury ticket, which counts him sixty dollars at the end of the game. The player may purchase the luxury or not, as he chooses or can afford; bit if he does not purchase it he loses his move.
   Franchises: These spaces, preferably yellow, indicate light franchise and water franchise and are public necessities. The first player who stops upon one of these franchises puts his charter upon it, and all though the game he has the privilege of taxing all the other players five dollars whenever they chance to stop upon it.  It cost him nothing and counts him nothing at the and of the game.
   Public park: A player may stop is the "Public park" without paying anything.
   Legacy: if a player stops on the Legacy," he gets one hundred dollars cash and a legacy-ticket.
   Mother Earth: Each time a player goes around the board he is supposed to have performed so much labor upon Mother Earth, for which after passing the beginning-point he receives his wages, one hundred dollars, and is checked upon the tally-sheet as having been around once.
   Poorhouse: If at any time a player has no money with which to meet expenses and has no property upon which he can borrow, he must go to the poorhouse and remain there until he makes such throws as will enable him to finish the round.
   Rent: When a player stops upon a lot owned by any of the players, he must pay the rent to the owner. If he stops upon one of his own lots, of course he pays nothing. If two players stop upon the same lot, the second must pay to the first one-half of the rent, (in case of an odd number giving to the first the benefit of the fraction.) If a third player's throw brings him on the same lot, he cannot occupy it, but must remain upon the space next to it, counting his throw one less. In case of lot 1 the player gets the whole rent.
   Borrowing: A player may borrow from the “Bank" in amounts of one hundred dollars, and for every one hundred dollars borrowed the " Bank" takes a mortgage on one or more of the borrower's lots, the total value of which must be at least ten dollars more than is borrowed. For every one hundred dollars borrowed from the "Bank" a bank mortgage is placed upon the property on which the loan is made, and the player puts his note in the "Bank," paying upon each note five dollars (interest) every time he receives his wages. One player may borrow from another, giving a mortgage on any property he may own and making the best bargain he can as to interest, terms of payments &c. The player loaning the money places his individual, mortgage on the top of the borrower's deed to show that he has a mortgage on that property, Should a loan be repaid before passing the beginning-point, the borrower saves the interest.

Now, perhaps Alberto Lopez, Kali Murray, and I need to include a copy of the board and the rules in Integrating Spaces, as a quaint reward to students for buying the book....  Or maybe we at propertyprof need to offer it as an incentive for visiting us....

UPDATE:  Been hearing from readers about this post and I thought you might enjoy a couple of other pieces of this story, including a story from the mid-1970s that a Parker Brothers executive testified in a lawsuit over whether another board game could be sold under the name Anti-Monopoly:

Barton met with Lizzie Magie, he testified, and asked her if she would accept changes in her game. According to Barton's recollection, she replied like this: "No. This is to teach the Henry George theory of single taxation, and I will not have my game changed in any way whatsoever." For John Droeger of San Francisco, the lawyer taking his deposition, Barton explained why in his opinion Lizzie Magie answered that way: "She was a rabid Henry George single tax advocate, a real evangelist; and these people never change."

In addition, here's a detailed chronology of the development of the game and an NPR story from 2002 and a series of pieces on the game.

Alfred Brophy
Comments are held for approval, so they will not appear immediately.

| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Landlord Game:


Post a comment