The Monopolization of Monopoly
Charles Todd

by Burton H. Wolfe
©1976 The San Francisco Bay Guardian

Unless you ever lived in the Atlantic City area or are intimately familiar with it in some way, this probably will be the first time you have ever seen Marven Gardens spelled correctly. It's a well-kept residential section of $50,000 homes, built in the mid-Twenties by the Frank J. Pedrick & Sons company. Since it is located at the edge of Margate City just across Fredericksburg Avenue from Ventnor City, two suburbs of Atlantic City, Pedrick took the first three letters of each name, Mar and Ven, and put them together to make it Marven Gardens.

And that's the way Ruth Hoskins and her friends put it on the original Atlantic City Monopoly board, which was completed late in 1930.

At that time there was a hotel manager in Germantown named Charles E. Todd who was introduced to Monopoly by Ruth Hoskins' friends Eugene and Ruth Raiford. Todd's business was rehabilitating hotels that were in financial trouble or bankrupt. Most of the time he made his headquarters at the Emlen Arms Apartment Hotel, of which he was managing director.

Among his occasional guests at the hotel were Charles Darrow and his wife Esther. Before Esther Jones married Charles Darrow in 1924, she lived in West Grove, Pa. Her next door neighbor was Charles Todd. Sometime in 1931 the two resumed their friendship and would up playing Monopoly together with Eugene and Ruth Raiford and Todd's wife Olive, either in the Emlen Arms or the Raifords' place in Atlantic City or the Darrows' house in Germantown. Forty-five years later Todd testified in a pretrial deposition for the Anti-Monopoly lawsuit:

"The first people we [Todd and his wife] taught it [Monopoly] to [after learning it from the Raifords] was Darrow and his wife Esther ... It was entirely new to them. They had never seen anything like it before and showed a great deal of interest in it."

"Interest" to say the least. It was the Great Depression. Darrow was out of work. Esther was pregnant. Darrow was struggling to find some way out of poverty. As soon as he saw Monopoly, he was shrewd enough to realize this was it. No one should be too hard on him for it. Men in his dire circumstances, frustrated and furious, have done far worse things than steal a game; they have robbed grocery stores and killed clerks in the process, stolen wallets from the blind and knocked down little old ladies in the process of grabbing their purses. Men in Darrow's circumstances are just as much victims as they are exploiters of the American socio-economic structure.

"Darrow asked me if I would write up the rules and regulations," Todd testified, "and I wrote them up and checked with Raiford to see if they were right and gave them to Darrow - he wanted two or three copies of the rules, which I gave him and gave Raiford and kept some myself."