Landlord Game - Roy Stryker ~1927





Note: Any historical comment is subject to change and update as additional facts are gathered. Your input and insights are always welcome.

I believe this game to be made in 1927. Ongoing research may better define the date of the game and I will post updates here. If anyone has insights to offer please feel free to write me.

Prof. Scott Nearing had learned Landlord from the 1903 Arden Landlord board. Nearing had taught the game to many students while at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Economics. One of Nearings economic students was Rexford Tugwell. Tugwell went on to become a economics professor at Columbia University, N.Y. He brought a version of the game he had learned from Nearing with him to Columbia. One of Tugwell's students, who in 1924, himself began teaching at Columbia's School of Economics, was Roy Stryker. Notes suggest that Roy had learned the game from Tugwell.

Roy Stryker is well known for his contributions in photography. Styker was head of the Farm Security Administration's Historical Section. He hired some of the best photographers in the country to document the impact of the depression and 'Dust Bowl' in rural America. The photographer's works had a tremendous influence on American photography and journalism in the years to follow. A historical profile of Roy Stryker can be found at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg. A personal interview, one in which he discusses his relationship with Tugwell, can be found at the Smithsonian Achives of American Art. Roy and his wife spent a great deal of effort making this beautiful handmade game. Surviving are various planning sketches and notes. The cut out and painted houses are among the most wonderful I have seen. Retained were some elements of the earliest Landlord Games, like Speculation and its Ante, Absolute Necessity. The money tokens are round, same as in Magie's Economic Game Company Landlord's. Too, the traditional diagonal line across the the jail space can be found in the earliest Landlord and monopoly games, and later in Dan Layman's Finance. Overall, the game gives us a great insight into game development during the 1920s.

Until the later 1920s, it is difficult to find a game with the name on the board. While only a few early games have survived to this day, even fewer rule sets have survived. Actually, many were never written down at all, they were verbal. Beyond any oral history, one must look to the few existing rule sets or written notes to determine early game names. This particular game was called Landlord Game, not 'monopoly.' The rules refer to it as 'Landlord' while Stryker's hand written notes refer to it as 'Landlord Game'. Nearing said he always knew the game as Landlords and must have taught it to Tugwell under this name. This is an interesting discovery, as most of the games that left the Wharton School were called 'monopoly'. Also of note, this landlord's game is nearly identical in play and general layout to those games called 'monopoly' of the same 1920's era.

This particular game, with rule set, is important as it helps clarify the use of the unique lettering system - the letters help designate what property groups must be monopolized to build houses (see rules.) Compare this game with that of the Arden game from 1903. Note the capital letter system to designate property groups is identical in both games. The exact letter designations combined with various use of colors use can be found on BOTH landlords and monopoly as far back as 1908. Of course, the unique letter system traces its orgin to the Arden board, a design that Lizzie Magie drew herself. (You will see this in future postings I have planned.)

A letter from Playgames, Inc., of Newark, N.J., dated June 1, 1934, rejects Mr. Stryker's request to produce tokens for the game. He would need to justify an initial run in the thousands. This is a most interesting find in that it shows that the Landlords Game existed in BOTH its Georgist Single Tax and monopolistic forms until the critical timeline year of 1934.

I do suggest is that you read what Albert Veldhuis has put together about this game on his web site, MONOPOLY LEXICON. Just scroll down a bit when you get to the page. A special thanks goes to Phil Orbanes for making the images and much of the background information available to both this site and Albert Veldhuis's. Also, thanks to the the living family of Roy Stryker for their coorperation in gathering historical facts and information.