Magie worked as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter Office in Washington, D.C., a repository for the nation’s lost mail. But she also appeared in plays, and wrote poetry and short stories. In 1893, she patented a gadget that fed different-sized papers through a typewriter and allowed more type on a single page. And in 1904, Magie received a patent for an invention she called the Landlord’s Game, a square board with nine rectangular spaces on each side, set between corners labeled “Go to Jail” and “Public Park.” Players circled the board buying up railroads, collecting money and paying rent. She made up two sets of rules, “monopolist” and “anti-monopolist,” but her stated goal was to demonstrate the evils of accruing vast sums of wealth at the expense of others. A firebrand against the railroad, steel and oil monopolists of her time, she told a reporter in 1906, “In a short time, I hope a very short time, men and women will discover that they are poor because Carnegie and Rockefeller, maybe, have more than they know what to do with.” 

The Landlord’s Game was sold for a while by a New York-based publisher, but it spread freely in passed-along homemade versions: among intellectuals along the Eastern Seaboard, fraternity brothers at Williams College, Quakers living in Atlantic City, writers and radicals like Upton Sinclair.

It was a Quaker iteration that Darrow copied and sold to Parker Brothers in 1935, along with his tall tale of inspired creation, a new design by his friend F.O. Alexander, a political cartoonist, and what is surely one of U.S. history’s most-repeated spelling errors: “Marvin Gardens,” which a friend of Darrow’s had mistranscribed from “Marven Gardens,” a neighborhood in Atlantic City. 

Monopoly Was Designed to Teach the 99% About Income Inequality | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian.