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Macomb celebrates ties to Monopoly with acquisition of ‘historical artifact’

Rich Egger
Jock Hedblade and Allen Nemec (aka Mr. Monopoly) pose with the 1939 edition of The Landlord's Game.

The inventor of The Landlord’s Game -- the precursor to Monopoly -- was born in Macomb on May 9, 1866. The Macomb Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, aka Unforgettable Forgottonia, marked the anniversary of Lizzie Magie’s birth by unveiling a newly acquired artifact.

Unforgettable Forgottonia Executive Director Jock Hedblade said they bought a 1939 edition of The Landlord’s Game early this year for a bit more than $1,000.

He said he’s been searching for a copy for six years. He called the acquisition a piece of history that Macomb is connected to, which makes it a valuable artifact for the community.

“If we’re going to talk about Lizzie, if we’re going to try to promote her legacy, to have one of these games would be great,” Hedblade said.

Rich Egger
The 1939 edition is displayed outside the Unforgettable Forgottonia offices in Macomb’s Amtrak station.

Hedblade said the game created by Magie has endured like no other game.

“It is still, arguably, more popular than it’s ever been. There is every different version of Monopoly that you can find out there. There’s not a person that you can meet that doesn’t know about the game or hasn’t played that game,” he said.

Hedblade would like to create the world’s largest Monopoly board -- either virtually or physically -- on Macomb’s courthouse square. But he said it’s been a challenge working through the red tape at Hasbro, which owns the rights to the board game.

“The irony is that there’s now a monopoly on Monopoly,” he said, noting that The Landlord’s Game was designed to be a protest against monopolists.

Local genealogist Allen Nemec concurred with that description of the game.

“She invented The Landlord’s Game, the precursor of Monopoly, to illustrate the teachings of a progressive era economist, Henry George,” he said.

Nemec said in addition to being a Georgist, Magie was a game designer, inventor, poet, actress, writer, and outspoken advocate for the feminist movement.

Nemec celebrated Magie’s birthday by portraying the character Rich Uncle Pennybags, aka Mr. Monopoly. Nemec was dressed in a black morning suit, a black top hat, and a red bow tie.

He said Lizzie’s father, James K. Magie, was the Macomb postmaster and owner of The Macomb Journal newspaper in 1866. Nemec said Magie was born in a small home on North College Street in Macomb, though it appears the family moved around quite a bit so she did not grow up in Macomb.

“She has a diary in a private collection that when listing her places she lived, lists Macomb in 1866,” Nemec said.

He said a local newspaper article about Magie in 1906 also reported that she was born in McDonough County.

Lizzie Magie filed a legal claim for The Landlord’s Game in 1903. That was more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly.

Magie died in 1948. She is buried in Arlington, Virginia.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.