Monopoly began its life in 1904 as The Landlord’s Game, created and patented by Elizabeth Magie. The Landlord’s Game, designed to highlight social pitfalls of unequal wealth, circulated informally and by word-of-mouth. As people copied their own versions of Magie’s game, it morphed into what we now recognize as Monopoly. Charles Darrow of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, produced a commercial version of Monopoly, selling it in department stores in 1934. Parker Brothers soon purchased the rights to Darrow’s game, and it became the best-selling board game of all time. However, several handmade versions of Monopoly pre-date Darrow’s game; the most notable, which came to light in 1975, is the Heap Folk Art Monopoly game.
In 1974, economics professor Ralph Anspach published a game called “Anti-Monopoly.” The game found a niche, and Anspach eventually sold more than one million copies worldwide. Along the way, the manufacturers of Monopoly brought a lawsuit against Anspach, claiming that Darrow had invented and registered the name “Monopoly,” preventing Anspach from using the word. Among the evidence presented by Anspach were several folk art versions of Monopoly. During the trial, Roy W. Heap provided photographs of his father’s game, created between 1910 and 1917, and gave a deposition that he’d played Monopoly while in his teens. The street names in the Heap Folk Art Monopoly game board represent places in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where Heap grew up, with many other details of the board and the playing pieces directly related to the game Monopoly as we know it today. Anspach eventually won the ten-year-long lawsuit in the Supreme Court, and the Heap Folk Art Monopoly game was declared the “second oldest known version of the world’s most popular board game.”