The Monopolization of Monopoly
Charles Darrow

by Shaniece A Watts

In 1933 Charles Darrow was an unemployed ne'er-do-well living off the earnings of his wife, a weaver, in Germantown, Pa., a district of Philadelphia. And he saw in Monopoly a chance to get rich by claiming it as his own invention.

I had better interrupt the story right here to give an advance response to those ever-vigilant researchers and scholars who will trundle off to the public library to check my statement and write to me: "Say, I read Time magazine of Feb. 3, 1936 [substitute the name and date of scores of other magazines that have published articles on the subject] and it says Darrow was a lecturer for a coal company." Unquestionably you will read that. You will also read that Darrow was a "prosperous engineer" (also in Time, Feb. 1, 1937), "a plumber" (New Yorker, Sept. 9, 1972), "an unemployed heating engineer" (Saturday Review, Dec. 9, 1972), "a heating equipment salesman" (Sports Illustrated, Dec. 2, 1963)... and the more you keep reading, the more confused you will get on the subject of just what Charles Darrow did or did not do for a living.

On one point, however, you researchers and scholars will find unanimous agreement with the publicity departments of Parker Brothers and General Mills Fun Group: "Charles Darrow was the inventor of Monopoly." You will find variations of that statement in Fortune, Time, Life, The New Yorker, The Saturday Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Business Week, Coronet (when it was under Esquire management), The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated and any other magazine you pick up as a reference cited in The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. And you will find it in one of those definitive New York Times obituaries ("Charles B. Darrow Dies at 78: Inventor of Game of Monopoly," New York Times, Nov. 29, 1967).

You will also find Darrow as the inventor of Monopoly in The Monopoly Book by Maxine Brady (wife of Hugh Hefner's biographer and chess champion Frank Brady), published by the David McKay Co. in 1974 and generally regarded as the definitive work on the subject. And of course you will find Darrow as the inventor on the famous plaque at Boardwalk and Park Place in Atlantic City that is enshrined with a likeness of his pudgy, smiling face. But you won't find Darrow as the inventor in sworn depositions, from the real inventors and developers of Monopoly, taken as pretrial discovery proceedings in the lawsuit of Anti-Monopoly, Inc. (Ralph Anspach's company) v. General Mills Fun Group. Instead you will find sarcastic remarks about Darrow from the people who developed Monopoly into the game that Darrow copied and sold to Parker Brothers as his own. Daniel W. Layman, Jr., for example.