N 43° 08.251 W 089° 26.375
from Local Treasures
Before Monopoly™ there was The Landlord’s Game, invented by a Quaker woman in 1904. Moving markers around a rectangular board composed of spaces with names like “Easy Street” and “Lord Blueblood’s Estate,” players learned about the power of landlords and the struggles of tenants. Lizzie Magie created the game to promote Philadelphian Henry George’s idea that having a single federal tax, one based on land ownership, would be both fairer and economically sounder than having a few landlords with a lot of land and many tenants with none. By the time Charles Darrow took his version of the game to Parker Brothers, the premise had been inverted: then, as now, players tried to buy properties, fill them with dwellings, and collect money from fellow players. Whoever has the most money when the game ends wins.
In Dane County, Wisconsin, one doesn’t need dice and a thimble or top hat to get from Kentucky Avenue to Mediterranean Avenue to North Carolina Avenue. A parking permit for Governor Nelson Park in Madison will get you close to all of them. They are part of a grand suite, twenty-two caches all named after Monopoly locations, that “WISearchers” created to share some of their favorite places. For these particular caches, the WISearchers worked with a ranger to select nice areas of the park that people seldom visit. My sister Gina and I found all three one afternoon in June. Wandering around the park, we didn’t encounter any greedy landlords—though we did have to fight off mosquitoes which seemed to think anyone in their space was ripe for bloodsucking. Nor did we win or lose all we had: instead, we made pretty egalitarian trades, leaving a Euro coin and a carabiner, taking a packet of mosquito repellant and some bubbles.
Such anti-capitalist emendations to the old game may leave Charles Darrow reeling in his grave—but I’d bet my next roll of the dice that Ms. Lizzie Magie is whirling with glee.