Elizabeth J. Magie, a Quaker from Virginia created, at the end of the 19th century, "The Landlord's Game", Monopoly's precursor. The author saw this game as a way of teaching the complexity of the monopoly of the land and propriety. A stauch follower of economist Henry George, who strongly believed, in the mid-nineteenth century, that the distribution of wealth through the buying and renting of land benefited some to the detriment of others, Elizabeth J. Magie built the game to illustrate Henry George's abstract problem and to explain the impact of a single tax on the land.
On January of 1904, Elizabeth Magie was granted the US patent for her "The Landlord's Game". Although her game might be, in parts, similar to Monopoly, there are some differences. For instance, Magie's game has painted rent blocks with names like the 'Poor House', the 'Easy Street' and the 'Lord Blueblood's Estate (no trespassing, go to jail). In this game you can not only buy a property but also rent it and it also includes infra-structures such as a house for the poor, banks, rail roads and prisons.
When it comes to its concept, this game is extremely similar to Monopoly, whose creation is credited to Charles Darrow. Nevertheless Elizabeth Magie's goal for this game was not to merely entertain its players, but also to ilustrate how the the traditional renting of land and real estate produced an increase in land values, profiting a few individuals (landlords) rather than the majority of the people (tenants) and how a single federal tax would help discourage speculation and encourage equal opportunity.
On the other hand, Monopoly presents us with a completely different idea: the aim of this game is to buy, rent or sell in order to obtain as much profit as one can, allowing the player to build an extensive monopoly. Enough said!... With a few conceptual afinities to the original idea by Elizabeth Magie, Charles Darrow twisted the idea of a fair distribution of wealth and turned it into a capitalist game where the goal is to get rich without looking at the means necessary to get there. It's enough to make us think about how differently men and women view the world.
By the way, there's an online voting going on to include a few cities in the Monopoly board. Don't forget to vote for Lisbon, here!