The “Landlord’s Game” versus “Monopoly

The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game

I published this article in 2015 here:

https://auntyuta.com/2015/06/30/this-was-published-in-harpers-magazine-in-october-2012-about-the-landlords-game-versus-monopoly/

By Christopher Ketcham

The players at Table 25 fought first over the choice of pawns. Doug Herold, a forty-four-year-old real estate appraiser, settled on the car. The player across from him, a shark-eyed IT recruiter named Billy, opted for the ship and took a pull from a can of Coors. The shoe was taken by a goateed toxic-tort litigator named Eric, who periodically distracted himself from the game on a BlackBerry so that he “could get billable hours out of this.” The dog was taken by a doughy computer technician named Trevis, who had driven from Canton, Ohio, as a “good deed” to help the National Kidney Foundation, sponsor of the 25th Annual Corporate Monopoly Tournament, which is held each year in the lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. On hand for the event, which had attracted 112 players, divided into twenty-eight tables of four, were the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mascot, Steely McBeam, who hopped around the lobby grunting and huzzahing with a giant foam I beam under his arm; three referees dressed in stripes, with whistles around their necks; and a sleepy-looking man, attired in a long judges’ robe and carrying a two-foot-long oaken gavel, who was in fact a civil-court judge for Allegheny County donating his time “to make sure these people follow the rules.”

I had spoken the night before with Doug, who won the previous year’s tournament, about his strategy for victory. “Well, last year I managed to get Boardwalk and Park Place, and then everybody landed on them,” he explained, chalking his success up to dumb luck. “What you have to do,” he said, “is get a monopoly, any monopoly, as quickly as you can.” I asked him if he knew the secret history of the game. He confessed that he did not.

The official history of Monopoly, as told by Hasbro, which owns the brand, states that the board game was invented in 1933 by an unemployed steam-radiator repairman and part-time dog walker from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow. Darrow had dreamed up what he described as a real estate trading game whose property names were taken from Atlantic City, the resort town where he’d summered as a child. Patented in 1935 by Darrow and the corporate game maker Parker Brothers, Monopoly sold just over 2 million copies in its first two years of production, making Darrow a rich man and likely saving Parker Brothers from bankruptcy. It would go on to become the world’s best-selling proprietary board game. At least 1 billion people in 111 countries speaking forty-three languages have played it, with an estimated 6 billion little green houses manufactured to date. Monopoly boards have been created using the streets of almost every major American city; they’ve been branded around financiers (Berkshire Hathaway Monopoly), sports teams (Chicago Bears Monopoly), television shows (The Simpsons Monopoly), automobiles (Corvette Monopoly), and farm equipment (John Deere Monopoly).

The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”

The Landlord's Game, 1906

Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities—the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley—and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”

For close to thirty years after Magie fashioned her first board on an old piece of pressed wood, The Landlord’s Game was played in various forms and under different names—“Monopoly,” “Finance,” “Auction.” It was especially popular among Quaker communities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, as well as among economics professors and university students who’d taken an interest in socialism. Shared freely as an invention in the public domain, as much a part of the cultural commons as chess or checkers, The Landlord’s Game was, in effect, the property of anyone who learned how to play it.

Thousands of Monopoly tournaments are held in the United States each year: county tournaments, school tournaments, church tournaments, corporate tournaments, tournaments in basements, in boardrooms, in lunchrooms, in public libraries, and online. Every four or five years there are the big officiated tournaments—the U.S. Championship and the World Championship—sponsored by Hasbro, which hands out $20,580 pots to the winners of each. I missed the big tournaments—both were last held in 2009—and instead ended up in the lobby of U.S. Steel. I thought the venue fitting, as the corporation was the brainchild of supermonopolists Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan, the latter being the inspiration for Monopoly’s top-hatted, monocled, tails-wearing mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags.

The emcee called the lobby to order, shouting into his microphone, “You have ninety minutes. Let’s play Monopoly!” Immediately, the men at Table 25 began rolling dice and frantically buying property as they rounded the board. Doug snagged Pacific Avenue (an expensive investment at $300), two yellow parcels, and several slummier properties. Trevis’s portfolio included two railroads and Marvin Gardens, the most expensive property in the yellow group. Billy held the ultrachic Boardwalk ($400). Eric got Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place ($180 each). These last are among the properties most coveted by competitors, because they are relatively cheap and frequently landed on, along with the other properties that sit directly downboard of the jail, where odds are the players will spend a lot of time.

Sixteen minutes into the game Doug offered Billy a trade. (“The propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” writes Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.”) Land was already growing scarce, and as land becomes scarce in Monopoly—as in the real world—its market value rises, often beyond its nominal value. “This,” said Doug, holding up one of his yellow deeds, “for that,” pointing at one of Billy’s slum deeds, “plus three hundred bucks.”

Billy was unimpressed. “No, you give me three hundred bucks.”

“Give you three hundred bucks?”

“Cash is king!”

This in turn inspired Trevis and Eric to start haggling, with Billy and Doug interjecting to gum up the talks when their own interests were threatened. The table got loud. The parties offered, counteroffered, rejected all offers, sweetened the original offers, rejected the sweetened deals with greater aplomb. Doug heaved a great sigh. “We’re just gonna go around the board and around the board,” he said, “and collect our little money.”

“It’s gotta make sense for me,” said Trevis.

“This guy wants my left testicle,” Doug replied.

In what amounted to open conspiracy, Billy then told Eric that if they made a trade and each received a monopoly as a result, they’d share a “free ride”—no rent would be charged—when they landed on one another’s monopolies: a corrupt duopoly, in effect, targeting Doug and Trevis.

Doug shrugged as Eric pondered the deal, but Trevis was aghast. “You can’t do that—it’s against the rules.”

“Rules!” said Billy. “I’m gonna set my price.”

“Bullshit!”

“Ref!”

A referee, whistle around his neck, hurried over—the judge with the gavel had disappeared—to decide on the matter as the players barked at each other. “You can’t do that,” he said finally.

A few weeks before the tournament, I’d had a conversation with Richard Marinaccio, the 2009 U.S. national Monopoly champion. “Monopoly players around the kitchen table”—which is to say, most people—“think the game is all about accumulation,” he said. “You know, making a lot of money. But the real object is to bankrupt your opponents as quickly as possible. To have just enough so that everybody else has nothing.” In this view, Monopoly is not about unleashing creativity and innovation among many competing parties, nor is it about opening markets and expanding trade or creating wealth through hard work and enlightened self-interest, the virtues Adam Smith thought of as the invisible hands that would produce a dynamic and prosperous society. It’s about shutting down the marketplace. All the players have to do is sit on their land and wait for the suckers to roll the dice.

Smith described such monopolist rent-seekers, who in his day were typified by the landed gentry of England, as the great parasites in the capitalist order. They avoided productive labor, innovated nothing, created nothing—the land was already there—and made a great deal of money while bleeding those who had to pay rent. The initial phase of competition in Monopoly, the free-trade phase that happens to be the most exciting part of the game to watch, is really about ending free trade and nixing competition in order to replace it with rent-seeking.

Henry George was not formally trained in economics. At age sixteen, he shipped out of his native Philadelphia as a mast boy on the freighter Hindoo,bound for Australia and India, where he watched the crew threaten mutiny over their miserable working conditions. By the age of twenty, transplanted to California, he was working as a printer’s apprentice, a rice weigher, and a tramp farmworker. George was soon married and broke, caught up in a wave of unemployment on the West Coast, and by the winter of 1865 his pregnant wife was starving. “Don’t stop to wash the child,” the doctor told George upon the birth of a son that January. “Feed him.” Poverty turned his mind to economics, to the question of why poverty proliferated in a land of plentiful resources. Economics turned him to newspapers, where he imagined he might get paid for his ideas. Eventually, journalism brought him to live in New York City.

What puzzled George was that wherever he saw advanced means of production arise in the United States—wherever industry was built up and capital accumulated—more poor people could be found, and in more desperate conditions. It was for him a stunning paradox. “It is the riddle which the Sphinx of Fate puts to our civilization, and which not to answer is to be destroyed,” wrote George. “So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes . . . progress is not real and cannot be permanent.” In 1879, he published the book that made him famous, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth—The Remedy, which provided a sweeping answer to the riddle: land monopoly was the reason progress brought greater poverty. As American civilization advanced, as populations grew and aggregated in and around cities, land became scarce, prices soared, and the majority who had to live and work on the land paid those prices to the minority who owned it. For the laboring classes, rent slavery was the result. “To see human beings in the most abject, the most helpless and hopeless condition,” George wrote, “you must go, not to the unfenced prairies and the log cabins of new clearings in the backwoods, where man singlehanded is commencing the struggle with nature, and land is yet worth nothing, but to the great cities where the ownership of a little patch of ground is a fortune.”

From those little patches, primarily in New York City, had arisen the dynasties of the American nouveau riche: the Astors, the Beekmans, the Phippses, the Stuyvesants, the Roosevelts, and, later, the Tishmans, the Rudins, the Roses, the Minskoffs, the Dursts, and the Fisher and Tisch brothers. According to George, the sequestering of valuable land assets in private hands was itself the product of a system of property “as artificial and as baseless as the divine right of kings.” “Historically, as ethically,” he wrote, “private property in land is robbery. . . . It has everywhere had its birth in war and conquest.” This was, in fact, the original sin of Western civilization:

In California our land titles go back to the Supreme Government of Mexico, who took from the Spanish King, who took from the Pope, when he by a stroke of the pen divided lands yet to be discovered between the Spanish or Portuguese—or if you please they rest upon conquest. In the eastern states they go back to treaties with Indians and grants from English kings; in Louisiana to the government of France; in Florida to the government of Spain; while in England they go back to the Norman conquerors. Everywhere, not to a right which obliges, but to a force which compels.

George noted that many premodern tribes recognized no right of land ownership; the tribesman’s property was the bow and arrow he built with his hands, not the land he hunted on. Nor was such a right recognized under the laws of the Old Testament, in which land was “treated as the gift of the Creator to his common creatures.” Moses had, after all, instituted the jubilee, under which land was redistributed every fifty years, and the debts incurred against land were canceled—a tradition ended by Roman rule. Everywhere George reviewed the annals of the precapitalist world, he saw the “struggle between this idea of equal rights to the soil and the tendency to monopolize it in individual possession.”

By the nineteenth century, however, the “superstition” of “absolute individual property in land,” represented by the complex array of state-sanctioned deeds and titles, had become fundamental to the American legal system. It could not be crushed—nor should it be, said George. Land seizure and nationalization, he believed, would lead to tyranny. “Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land.” George would not revoke the right to buy and sell property or to will land to one’s descendants. Instead he argued that society might leave landowners “the shell” of their holdings if it could “take the kernel.” As George wrote, “It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent. . . . In this way the State may become the universal landlord without calling herself so.”

Rent was the key. In line with classical economics from the time of Adam Smith, George defined rent as the unearned income owners derived from the rising value of land, meaning it was distinct from the labor that went into property in the form of improvements, the construction of homes and offices and factories, and the cultivation of fields. A community’s productivity was the invisible hand that caused land values to increase. The cabin in the woods became a prize when a mine opened up across the field, a road linked the cabin to the mine, a country store opened to supply the miners, more homes were built, a railroad came in, a town was born. The land under the cabin derived its worth from what society built around it. Its increase in value therefore belonged to society, and George said this value was to be assessed and taxed at market rates. This “single tax” on land and natural resources offered a reform of capitalism—whose self-destruction George believed it was his task to prevent—that “open[ed] the way to a realization of the noble dreams of socialism.” [1]

Georgism, as it came to be known, was denounced by wealthy landowners as the most radically lunatic notion of its time, and the single tax as more insidious than all the writings of Karl Marx put together. The Catholic Church ruled George’s thought “worthy of condemnation.” Yet within five years of the publication of Progress and Poverty, hundreds of thousands of Americans would come to believe in the gospel of the single tax. In New York City, the populist priest Father Edward McGlynn referred to George simply as “this prophet . . . this messenger from God.” Mark Twain proselytized as a Georgist, as did the philosopher John Dewey. “It would require less than the fingers of the two hands,” wrote Dewey, “to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers.”

Leo Tolstoy proclaimed that George would “usher in an epoch.” “The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to such a degree of perfection that, under the existing State organization and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any other better, more just, practical, and peaceful solution,” wrote Tolstoy. “The only thing that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the system of Henry George.”

In 1886, the United Labor Party, fresh from the battles and boycotts of the first May Day, nominated George as its candidate for mayor of New York. His campaign offered a radical vision for the time: wherever railroads, telegraphs, telephones, and gas, water, electric, and heating utilities could be operated more efficiently at scale, as “natural monopolies,” the public would own them; transit in New York would be made free for all; city government would be responsible for social services; he would end child labor and mandate an eight-hour workday. The land-value tax would pay for his programs.

Though not a single major newspaper endorsed him, clubs were founded in George’s name in twenty-four districts across the city. Members financed his campaign, each contributing twenty-five cents, and George, in between sixteen-hour days of speeches and rallies, sat at headquarters rolling coins for distribution to his workers. The coalition he built with the ULP was big-tent, crossing lines of class, ethnicity, and religion that had long divided New York. Three days before the election, his supporters—merchants, lawyers, doctors, tailors, plumbers, cigar makers, brassworkers, Germans, Irish, Russians, Poles, Italians, Jews—gathered by the tens of thousands in lower Manhattan. They carried banners reading HONEST LABOR AGAINST THIEVING LANDLORDS, and at Tompkins Square, in driving rain, they chanted, “Hi! Ho! The leeches must go!” But George was defeated, amid allegations that Tammany Hall had engineered massive voter fraud to ensure his loss.

George returned to journalism, went on the lecture circuit, wrote five more books, and dedicated himself to spreading the word of the single tax. He has been credited with inspiring a generation of progressive reformers. William Jennings Bryan said thatProgress and Poverty “ought to be read by every thinking man and woman.” Samuel Gompers, Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, and Ida Tarbell read him and sang his praises. But George showed little interest in reform beyond the single tax. A believer to the end in Adam Smith, he denounced the socialists and labor organizers who were his strongest supporters, and, as one critic wrote, came to lead single-tax supporters “of intolerably dogmatic and doctrinaire spirit.” He refused to accept that unearned income might be gleaned from investments other than land, and thus he was accused of failing to confront the rising power of finance capitalism, which made money off of the socially created value behind stocks and bonds. By the time of his death in 1897, when 100,000 New Yorkers lined up to view his body in state, George’s “great idea” was already, as Tolstoy would lament in 1908, on the long road to being forgotten.

About a month before the Pittsburgh tournament, an amateur Monopoly historian and game collector named Richard Biddle invited me to the village of Arden, Delaware, to have a look at the first Landlord’s Game ever fashioned. Arden had been founded as a Georgist experiment in 1900, four years after a failed attempt to implement the single-tax system across the state. It was envisioned as a self-sufficient utopia on 160 acres of woodland, and it soon attracted artists, poets, actors, anarchists, and freethinkers. Upton Sinclair had a cottage there, dubbed the Jungalow. Ardenites were barred from “owning” their plots, instead purchasing ninety-nine-year leases on cooperatively held land. It didn’t matter whether the residents built mansions or shacks: they were taxed only on the underlying value of the land, often at very high rates. This revenue paid for roads, parks, a commons, playgrounds, and utilities.

Lizzie Magie visited the village not long after its founding, and brought with her an oilcloth mock-up of her Landlord’s Game, which soon became a pastime among residents. While at Arden, she built a board for the game with the help of a resident carpenter. Biddle spoke solemnly of this alpha board; he estimated that it could be worth a million dollars.

We met at the village green and walked a few blocks, where we found the owner of the board, an eighty-year-old retired autoworker named Ronald Jarrell, standing outside his cottage looking nervous. Apprised of our visit, Jarrell had earlier in the day gone to his safe-deposit box at the local bank to retrieve the board. We entered his living room, where, amid a collection of antique china, jade statues, and old dolls, he laid out the prized artifact on his coffee table. Jarrell’s three yapping poodles made it difficult to talk.

“It was the summer of 1903,” he said. “A woman was down visiting here—”

“Lizzie Magie,” said Biddle.

“I don’t remember the name,” said Jarrell, “but she had an idea for a game.” He told us his stepgrandfather, a Georgist carpenter named Robert Woolery, had grown tired of playing checkers at the general store and needed new entertainment. Woolery looked over the plans drawn up by Magie on the oilcloth and immediately set about making the board.

Arden Board, 1904

Biddle held it up and nodded his head approvingly. It was hand-painted and hand-carved out of the backside of a reclaimed pressed-wood crokinole board, and it smelled like an old shoe.

I had earlier looked up Magie’s 1904 rule set, which she produced several months before she and Woolery completed the original board. Oddly, it contained no rule about forming monopolies out of the property groups, nor did it mention charging players higher fees after they’d built houses or hotels (constructions that also didn’t exist in Magie’s original rules). Nor was there anything about Henry George, land-value taxation, or the evil of rent. If the game was designed to teach Georgism, it seemed Magie hadn’t quite thought out the lesson. Two years later, when the game was officially published,the rules had evolved: the business principle of monopoly was fully established, as was the Georgist alternative of cooperation. Theories abound as to how the changes arose; one holds that someone in Arden had pushed The Landlord’s Game in the direction of Henry George, and also in the direction of the Monopoly we know today.

I asked Biddle about the discrepancy. “Ask the Monopoly monopolist,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“Patrice McFarland. The Monopoly monopolist. She’d have all the answers because she is now the possessor of Lizzie Magie’s diaries. And a lot of other key stuff. But she isn’t talking.”

McFarland, I later learned, was a former exhibit specialist at the New York State Museum who in 1992 had received $25,000 from a Georgist organization, the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, to produce a biography of Magie. In the ensuing years, Biddle said, she had acquired, along with Magie’s diaries, a trove of early Landlord’s Game prototypes handcrafted by players in Arden and elsewhere. But she had never produced her book, nor, according to Biddle, had she been willing to share the information or documents she’d amassed. “She’s a tough player,” he said. “I once bid against her on eBay for my 1939 Landlord’s Game. Bid almost $10,000.” (I called and emailed McFarland several times to ask about her alleged Monopoly monopolism, but she never responded.)

With us in Jarrell’s cottage was Mike Curtis, an Ardenite who twenty years earlier had played a round of Magie’s original 1906 Landlord’s Game (one of his opponents, as it happened, was Patrice McFarland). The Georgist rules by which Curtis had played were known as the Single Tax set, and they went beyond having players simply pay rent into Magie’s “Public Treasury.” They also aimed to teach the shared ownership of public goods. Under Single Tax rules, when the amount in the treasury reached fifty dollars, the player who owned the lighting utility was forced to sell it, and thereafter the utility cost no money to land on, as it was now publicly owned. This process repeated itself with the Slambang Trolley, then with the railroads, then with the Go to Jail space, which became a public college that, instead of sending players to jail, provided extra wages at the end of the game. After that, each fifty-dollar deposit in the treasury raised players’ wages by ten dollars. A “win” in Single Tax, which Magie later dubbed Prosperity Game, occurred when the player with the least amount of money had doubled his original capital. “The Landlord’s Game,” said Magie, “shows why our national housekeeping has gone wrong and Prosperity Game shows how to start it right and keep it going right.” Curtis admitted that he didn’t think much of the game, pronouncing it “kind of boring after a while.” [2]

In the summer of 1971, Ralph Anspach, a game inventor and retired economics professor who lives in San Francisco, emerged from a crushing Monopoly defeat in his living room—his eight-year-old son had bankrupted him—and found himself considering the salability of a board game that was explicitly antimonopolistic. “My game would have to start,” he wrote in a self-published memoir, The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle, “where Monopoly ends, when the board is full of monopolies.” The goal of play would be to break them up, with monopolists fighting off trustbusters. The game Anspach created, Anti-Monopoly, sold 200,000 copies in 1973, its first year of production, and was on pace to top 1 million sales by Christmas of 1974. Parker Brothers, at that time a subsidiary of General Mills, was not pleased. The company threatened to sue Anspach for trademark infringement. Instead, he preemptively sued Parker Brothers—“a sort of buckshot maneuver,” his lawyer called it—on the theory that he could show the company’s Monopoly trademark was invalid.

One of Anspach’s first discoveries as he built his case was the existence of The Landlord’s Game. But he could not explain how Magie’s invention, with its promotion of socialized land and shared wealth, had been transformed into the proprietary commodity that made billions of dollars for Parker Brothers. The key to the mystery, he learned, was a radical socialist professor of economics named Scott Nearing, who taught at the Wharton School of Finance from 1906 to 1915. Anspach spoke to Nearing in 1974, when Nearing was ninety-one years old. The professor said he had learned to play the game around 1910, while living in Arden, then taught it to his students at Wharton in order that they might learn, in his words, “the antisocial nature of monopoly,” and in particular “the wickedness of land monopoly.” The students apparently taught it to their friends. It was around this time that the game became known as “monopoly”—denoted in lowercase, like checkers, chess, or dominoes. The game spread widely over the next several years, to the hometowns of Nearing’s students and to other universities. It would slowly lose its antimonopolistic message, however, as players came to the conclusion that Magie’s vision of Georgist redistribution was not nearly as entertaining as ruining one another.

By 1913, monopoly had made its way to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and four years later it arrived in Philadelphia. The economist Rexford Tugwell, a future member of FDR’s “kitchen cabinet,” remembered having played it in 1915. By the 1920s, camp counselors in the Poconos were playing it, as were students at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Harvard, Haverford, Princeton, and Swarthmore. During the early stages of the Depression, the game reached Indianapolis, where a Quaker schoolteacher-in-training named Ruth Hoskins played it. Hoskins soon traveled to Atlantic City and taught the game to two fellow Quakers, Jesse and Eugene Raiford.

The brothers were so taken with the game that they worked to improve it. Along with other members of the Quaker community, they changed the pawns to household objects: tie clips, hairpins, keys, thimbles. They changed the names and property values to reflect those of Atlantic City. Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues, slums in the Raifords’ hometown, became slums on the board; Boardwalk and Park Place, the carrefour of chic, became the most expensive deeds to purchase. The rules related by Ruth Hoskins stipulated that properties were to be auctioned when players landed on them; Jesse Raiford instead set the prices on the board. (This change later made the game marketable to children, who had difficulty understanding how auctions worked.)

The Raifords taught the game to a friend of theirs, Charles Todd, who taught it to its putative inventor, Charles Darrow. Sometime in 1932, Darrow copied the layout of the board, the rules of play, the property names, the deed values, and the Chance cards, and made his own version of the game. His only innovation seems to have been to claim the mantle of sole inventor. He would soon be assumed into the pantheon of American heroes of commerce.

The irony was not lost on Anspach. Before being monopolized by a single person working in tandem with a corporation, Monopoly had in fact been “invented” by many people—not just Magie and the Raifords but also the unknown player who gave the game its moniker and the unsung Ardenite who had perhaps aided Magie in advancing its rules. The game that today stresses the ruthlessness of the individual and defines victory as the impoverishment of others was the product of communal labor.

None of the information Anspach uncovered helped his case when it went to trial in 1976. The widows of Eugene and Jesse Raiford testified, as did seven other witnesses who claimed to have played monopoly as many as twenty years before Darrow marketed his game. Anspach even put Robert Barton, the former president of Parker Brothers, on the stand. Barton, who was pivotal in helping Darrow secure a patent for his “invention,” admitted under oath that he was fully aware of the game’s history and that he knew Darrow had not in fact invented it. The judge was unmoved. He dismissed Anspach’s complaint, ordering all unsold copies of Anti-Monopoly to be “deliver[ed] up for destruction.” Seven thousand of the games were bulldozed into a garbage dump in rural Minnesota, where officials from Parker Brothers oversaw the interment. [3]

After forty minutes of play, the game at Table 25 had stalled—or, depending on your view, was going along just fine, because no one had a monopoly and no one could raise rents. So Billy paid rent to Eric, who paid about the same rent to Doug, who paid to Billy, who paid to Trevis, who paid to Eric, who made a bad roll and briefly went to jail. Then Doug Herold landed on his third lucrative green property, allowing him to form a monopoly. He had enough cash on hand to build several houses, and one after another the players fell afoul of his outrageous rent hikes. Billy and Trevis handed over several properties in lieu of cash, giving Doug three monopolies. “You see,” he said, turning to me, “I don’t have to deal with these knuckleheads anymore.” There was no further need for trading, no need for the dynamism of the marketplace. He had done the work, built the houses, invested in the properties. Now he did no work, took no risks, made no investments. And yet wealth moved inexorably in his direction. When after ninety minutes time was called, Doug oversaw five monopolies and a wad of $10,293 in cash, more than half the money in the Monopoly bank. He was declared not only the victor at Table 25, but the all-around winner of the U.S. Steel tournament for the second year in a row.

I’d invited Richard Biddle to the tournament, and as Doug had started his run Biddle wandered off to watch the other tables. Every so often I could see him peering over the shoulders of the players, a pinched look on his face. He did not like what had become of Lizzie Magie’s invention. “My brother taught me how to play Monopoly when I was five,” he had told me. “It was pivotal in helping me understand the importance of lying, cheating, and stealing.” I’d asked him to bring along his reproduction of The Landlord’s Game, which he carried in a backpack. Earlier in the evening he had gingerly taken it out to share with whomever he could waylay. “This is the real Monopoly,” Biddle would tell the players, before attempting a sort of CliffsNotes explanation of what Lizzie Magie had in mind. The players nodded politely, their smiles freezing into nervous masks. “That’s very nice, thank you so much,” they said, and then they walked away.


[1] University of Missouri–Kansas City economics professor Michael Hudson has noted that property tax today functions in exactly the opposite fashion from George’s proposed single tax. The Federal Reserve Board is responsible for assessing the total market value of real estate in the United States, Hudson says, yet it routinely produces “nonsensical undervaluations of land.” In fact, the FRB mostly ignores land itself; instead, it considers buildings and capital improvements as the chief markers of value, basing its calculations on the historical cost of original construction and the replacement cost of structures. Land value is an afterthought. The amateur in the real estate marketplace need not read Henry George to know this flies in the face of common sense, the mantra being “location, location, location,” not “replacement cost, replacement cost, replacement cost.” Hudson has conducted some of the few authoritative analyses of the FRB’s sleight of hand, the tax losses that result, and how it benefits the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors, which together have lobbied the FRB to maintain its approach.   [2] Curtis also didn’t think much of Arden’s Georgist experiment, saying it had degenerated into something of a failure. The leaseholders, he told me, had learned to game the system by electing land assessors who based their assessments on the town’s budget needs rather than the land’s real market value, and so they avoided paying taxes at appropriate rates. “To be frank,” he said, “the people in Arden today don’t give a damn about Henry George.”   [3] Anspach twice appealed the decision, and in 1982 a California appellate court ruled in his favor, concluding that Parker Brothers had in fact committed fraud in the Darrow patent, and was thus under threat of losing its trademark. General Mills Fun Group appealed to the Supreme Court in 1982, backed by amicus briefs from nearly every major American industry group, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Trademark Association, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Committee on Trademarks of the Bar of the City of New York. The Court declined to hear the appeal. Anspach was nearly bankrupted, his house thrice mortgaged, his game business on the edge of ruin, his distributors unwilling to work with him because of a ten-year legal cloud. He was free, however, to continue selling Anti-Monopoly. In the past four years, he has sold 454,000 copies in European markets. Domestic sales, he says, have been comparatively small because Hasbro has used “its monopoly power to monopolize the Monopoly market” in the United States.

One thought on “This was published in HARPERS Magazine in October 2012 about the “Landlord’s Game” versus “Monopoly”:

stuartbramhallEdit

I loved playing Monopoly as a child. And the article is right. Learning to play monopoly educated me at an early age to the evils of monopoly capitalism.

With Love from Gaby, Dave, Bonnie & Clyde

This is a copy of what I published July 12, 2014. I did try to reblog it but this time this did not work. This is why I copied the whole lot. It does bring back memories!

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Gaby came down with poliomyelitis on her fourth birthday. That was in 1961. When she was 32, in 1989, she left institutional care and moved into her own home in Merrylands West, a Western suburb of Sydney. David (Dave) became her full time carer. But as a quadriplegic with breathing difficulties who needed to sleep in an iron lung, she needed several people to come in on a daily basis to look after her diverse needs.

Anyhow, Gaby was happy to leave the home for disabled people and move into her own home. 40 year old David did for nearly twenty years a marvellous job in doing whatever he could for Gaby. But in the end his health deteriorated more and more. It became impossible for him to the the things for Gaby he would normally have to do as her carer. It was a rather sad situation. Gaby knew that David needed help but she did not know how to provide this for him.

Gaby and David both loved animals. Soon after moving in Gaby acquired a companion dog provided by the people who train dogs for blind people. Dave liked that dog too. They called her Bonnie. A cat named Clyde became Bonnie’s companion. Gaby just adored her animals. They were like her children. She always saw to it that they had everything they needed.

Gaby with Bonnie
Gaby with Bonnie

Gaby with Clyde
Gaby with Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde in front of the gas heater
Bonnie and Clyde in front of the gas heater

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Bonnie is being spoiled!
Bonnie is being spoiled!

I happen to have still a Christmas card from Gaby and Dave with a calendar for 1998 in it. The card came with a book: A Tolstoy biography by A.N. Wilson, first published in Great Britain in 1988. This is a great reference book and a great read. Gaby chose this book for me as a Christmas gift. She did choose very well. She always took great care to choose gifts for all the family for birthdays and for Christmas. Of course her funds were limited. So she always looked for bargains. Quite often her choices were astoundingly good.

This is the outside of the card.
This is the outside of the Christmas card.

And this is the inside of it.
And this is the inside of it.

Gaby moved her electric chair with her chin, she used her mouth stick for phone and computer.
Gaby moved her electric chair with her chin, she used her mouth stick for phone and computer.

Here she looks like having grown up a bit more.
Here she looks like having grown up a bit more.

Here she is in her bedroom getting ready for the day.
Here she is in her bedroom getting ready for the day.

After Gaby lost Clyde, she did get a new kitten.
After Gaby lost Clyde, she did get a new kitten.

Blackie, the kitten, grew into this.
Blackie, the kitten, grew into this.

Gaby is having fun seeing Father Christmas.
Gaby is having fun seeing Father Christmas.

Sadly Gaby lost Bonnie. She was lucky that after some time she was given a replacement dog which she called ‘Honey’.  Honey was quite skinny at first but soon filled out a bit.

Gaby can celebrate Christmas 2003 with companion dog Honey.
Gaby can celebrate Christmas 2003 with companion dog Honey.

Steinmeier speaks on 75th anniversary of the end of WWII

https://www.dw.com/en/steinmeier-speaks-on-75th-anniversary-of-the-end-of-wwii/av-53371061

In a speech commemorating the end of World War Two in Europe, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that young people must carry the war’s lessons forward. “In 1945 we were liberated. Today we must liberate ourselves from a new kind of nationalism.”

https://www.dw.com/en/remembering-the-events-that-led-up-to-the-end-of-wwii/av-53368272

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-marks-75th-anniversary-of-end-of-world-war-two/av-53373906

 

The Queen delivers VE Day message amid muted celebrations

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-09/queen-elizabeth-ve-day-75-anniversary-address-coronavirus/12231244

Queen Elizabeth has led tributes to veterans of World War Two recalling the “never give up, never despair” message of Victory in Europe Day 75 years ago, as coronavirus dampened VE Day commemorations.

In a rare televised address that brought together the themes of wartime and the coronavirus, the 94-year-old monarch said those who had served during the conflict with Nazi Germany would admire how their descendants were coping with the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

“When I look at our country today and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride, that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire,” she said.

On a day that should have been filled with parades and street parties, the national commemorations to herald the day when Allied forces accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender were scaled back after social gatherings were curbed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But flags and banners still fluttered across Britain, and people stuck at home due to the lockdown enjoyed a day of special television and radio programs.

Britain paid tribute to the war generation with flypasts, a two-minute silence, and the broadcast of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech to mark the anniversary of victory in Europe.

In a short ceremony that had been kept secret to avert the possibility of any crowds gathering, Prince Charles wearing a kilt laid a wreath at the war memorial outside his family’s Balmoral estate in Scotland.

A family huddle around a laptop watching the Queen
A family in Keele, England, watches the Queen’s address online.(Reuters: Carl Recine)

Households across Britain evoked the spirit of the 1940s, some dressing in period costume and hosting tea parties despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Boris Johnson thanks veterans for freedom

Prime Minister Boris Johnson invoked the “heroism of countless ordinary people” in his tribute to the millions of Britons who fought and lived through the war.

“Today we must celebrate their achievement, and we remember their sacrifice,” Mr Johnson said in a national address.

“We offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.”

A woman drinks a glass of champagne with Union Jack flags in the background
Actress Joan Collins celebrated VE Day in style on her London balcony.(Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

‘We’ll meet again’

There were commemorations too across the water in France, where President Emmanuel Macron held the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 

My Thoughts on WW1 as well as WW2 and our ‘War Cabinet’ to fight the Coronavirus

First of all I want to reprint the following:

“Labor’s treasury spokesman, Jim Chalmers, looked to the postwar experience to argue for a new post-crisis social contract, focused on employment.

“When Curtin established the Department of Post War Reconstruction it was almost Christmas in 1942, and when Chifley was made minister by the start of 1943, most of Europe was still occupied by the Nazis and Japanese bombs were still falling on northern Australia.

“Those two Labor leaders knew that if Australia was to prosper after the war it needed to rewrite the social contract during the war, and to be meaningful, full employment needed to be at the core of it.”

The economist Mariana Mazucatto argues the crisis is an opportunity to work out how to do capitalism differently.

“This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets that deliver sustainable and inclusive growth,” she said, in arguments that have been backed by the Pope.”

The above is an extract of this article by Lenore Taylor:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/04/australia-can-be-a-better-fairer-place-after-the-coronavirus-if-were-willing-to-fight-for-it

Yesterday I did publish this extract here:

https://auntyuta.com/2020/04/04/australia-after-the-coronavirus-and-environmental-sustainability/

Now, why I do come back to it, is the following:

I am not an expert, but I do have some general knowledge about the two World Wars and their aftermaths, and I am aware that our Australian Government right now is willing to work with the Opposition to work out what is the best way to fight the Coronavirus. So, this is a bit like a ‘War Cabinet’, right?

My thoughts on this is, why can they not right now work on the important subject of the Environmental Sustainability that needs to be considered after this Coronavirus nightmare?

Do any of you out there have some ideas how this could be achieved?

Can we ask our government for instance to establish a ‘Department of Post War Reconstruction’?

Please, think about this that I am sure you know from the History Books:

“Those two Labor leaders knew that if Australia was to prosper after the war it needed to rewrite the social contract during the war, and to be meaningful, full employment needed to be at the core of it.”

The End of November 2019

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Caroline and Matthew moved last weekend from a studio apartment to a two bedroom apartment next door. The removalist guys had to take everything down 30+ stairs and carry everything up next door some 53 stairs!
This is quite a lot of steps to carry every thing down and then up all these  stairs!

The rooster in the above picture remarkably made it to the balcony at the new place! Again, they do not have anything above where they live, so it is like a penthouse apartment!

IMG_8681

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401697/?ref_=nm_knf_i4

Hungerwinter – Überleben nach dem Krieg

Survivors’ testimonies, archive footage and re-enacted scenes are combined to describe the effects of one of the coldest and hardest winters in German history, only shortly after the end of WWII.

Director:

Gordian Maugg

Writers:

Alexander Häusser (screenplay), Gordian Maugg (screenplay)

 

MY INTENTION: Must see the above documentary! I, Uta, and Peter as well, we can remember all too well this harsh winter!

Now to the downloading of more pictures. I was at a loss this morning to find my picture folder. As always, Peter had to come to the rescue again. So we sorted it out now.

I think I’ll insert some of the pictures into another post!

MS St. Louis GERMAN OCEAN LINER

https://www.britannica.com/topic/MS-St-Louis-German-shipArticle History

Revised: Nov 09, 2018
By: Amy Tikkanen
MS St. Louisin full Motorschiff St. Louis, also called SS St. LouisGerman ocean liner that gained international attention in May–June 1939 when Cuba, the United States, and Canada denied entry to its more than 900 Jewish passengers, most of whom had fled Nazi Germany. Ultimately, several European countries took the refugees, though some 250 passengers were255 of the passengers arebelieved to have later died in the Holocaust.The St. Louis was a transatlantic luxury liner owned by the Hamburg-American Line. On May 13, 1939, it departed from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba, a popular stopover for refugees seeking to emigrateimmigrateto the United States. On board were 937 passengers and 231 crew members; the captain was Gustav Schröder. Most of the travelers were Jews leaving Germany amid growing concerns over safety; some six months earlier Nazis had attacked Jewish persons and property in an event known as Kristallnacht. The passengers had obtained landing certificates to enter Cuba, where most would then wait for their U.S. visas to be approved.

However, before the ship departed, there were indications that the passengers would not be welcomed. In early May Cuban Pres. Federico Laredo Brú signed a decree that invalidated the passengers’ landing certificates. His decision was supported by many Cubans who feared that the immigrants would compete for jobs as the country continued to struggle through the Great Depression. Further inflaming public opinion were rumours—which some believe were spread by Nazi agents on the island—that the Jewish passengers were communists and criminals. On May 8 a large anti-Semitic rally was held in Havana.

Against this backdrop the St. Louis arrived on May 27, 1939. The Cuban government admitted 28 passengers who had the necessary paperwork but refused to let the 908 other travelers disembark; one of the elderly passengers had died during the voyage and was buried at sea. For the next several days the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) attempted to negotiate with Cuban authorities. During this time, morale among the passengers waned, and one man attempted suicide by slashing his wrists and jumping overboard; he was taken to a hospital and allowed to remain in Cuba. As the talks dragged on—with money reportedly being at issue—Laredo Brú ordered the St. Louis to leave Cuban waters on June 2.

After waiting off the coast of Cuba for several days, Schröder sailed for Florida. However, the U.S. government also refused to admit the refugees, citing the country’s yearly immigration quota. The U.S. State Department told the refugees that they must “await their turns on the waiting list”—which was several years long. The U.S. Coast Guard shadowed the vessel, though the USCG later claimed its “units were dispatched out of concern for those on board” and not to keep the ship from docking. The Canadian government also refused to admit the refugees. As the saga continued, the Nazi regime used it as propaganda to support its anti-Jewish policies.

On June 6, 1939, Laredo Brú ended the negotiations. With supplies dwindling, the St. Louis began the voyage back to Europe later that day, and it reached Antwerp on June 17. Through talks spearheaded by the JDC, England, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium agreed to take the refugees, and by June 20 all the passengers had disembarked the St. Louis. In September World War II officially started. It was later determined that of the 907 passengers who hadreturned to Europe, 255 were killed during the war;,the vast majority of them dieddyingin concentration camps.

The incident was notably chronicled in the book Voyage of the Damned (1974) by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts. It was later adapted (1976) into a film. In 2017 the ill-fated voyage received new attention through a Twitter account that listed the passengers who haddied during the war. The account was created the day before U.S. Pres. Donald Trump signed an executive order that suspended immigration from certain Muslim countries. The following year Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for his country’s failure to grant asylum to the Jews on board theSt. Louis.

 

A Cemetery in Leipzig

https://auntyuta.com/2012/11/23/a-cemetery-in-leipzig/

This is a copy of my post from 23rd November 2012:

We had come by train from Berlin arriving at the Main Station in Leipzig (Hauptbahnhof)[/caption] A tram took us to the Southern Cemetery (Südfriedhof). When we got of the tram we could see the Völkerschlachtdenkmal.Crossing the road, we found ourselves right at what looked to us like the main entrance to the cemetery. There was a friendly lady in the building next to the entrance. She had the particulars of the graves at hand which were still under the care of the cemetery. People usually pay a fee which covers five years of care. If for any reason a renewal fee isn’t paid anymore, the grave site becomes a new plot for a new grave. My grandfather’s grave dated from February 1947. I knew that some of my cousins had continued to pay for the care of it. We even knew that the grave should be in section XXIV. I asked the lady could she please look up whether the grave-site still existed. The lady said, indeed, this particular grave was still under their care. It had been paid for till the year 2017. She showed us on the map where section XXIV was. This was it. We didn’t get any information about the position of the grave. We thought with the help of the grave’s number we should be able to find it anyway. Each grave under care had a particular number. We had the number of our grave. However to see the number you had to remove a stick from the soil. Then you could see the number underneath the stick. The problem was the numbers were not arranged in a consecutive order. We found the section all right. The grave-site number? This was another matter. We saw a young working woman who saw to the surrounding garden areas. She tried to help us find what we were looking for. She couldn’t work it out either where this particular site was. A gravestone with my grandfather’s name on it? Forget it. We covered the whole section, right left and center. We found nothing. In the end I felt rather tired and had a rest on a wooden bench while Peter kept on searching. Nothing! We hadn’t packed any food. Somehow we assumed we would be able to buy some food somewhere. But then except for flower-shops there had been nothing near the entrance. The toilet near the entrance was under repair. In the middle section of this huge cemetery there were toilet facilities which had been indicated at the entrance. Eventually we were heading for this middle section which turned out to be very beautiful: There were lovely well kept garden sections and stunning buildings with comforts, plenty of water and even a prayer room. Eating something, well, this had to wait. There was an office. Peter made inquiries. In this office every particular about every grave from way back was filed away. The lady from this office was able to give us a print-out with the exact position of the grave. Immediately we were full of hope again and we headed all the way back to section XXIV. We searched, and searched, and searched. We knew we were in the right area. Still no grave. We just could not see it! What was wrong? We didn’t know. I took another rest on that bench where I had been sitting before. Peter roamed about close by. The rest of the story is in the following pictures to be seen. Me, taking a rest We definitely had entered the right section. Peter contemplated in front of this more recent gravestone that here was a person who’s name ended in “….mann”. But where was “Spickermann?” Peter picked up the stick at the end of this grave site that said it was still under care. He turned over the stick, looked at the bottom of it. This was it. He shouted over to me: Darling, Darling, I found something! Look, look, look at the name! Wow, I had been sitting close to Grandfather’s burial ground all along! This is how this 65 year old gravestone has been supported for I don’t know how long. Walking through this cemetery with its tall trees was actually quite uplifting and relaxing. Lots of autumn leaves on the ground already. View to the middle section of this huge cemetery where the Crematorium is. I might publish about this a bit more some other time. An excellent cup of coffee was on offer in one of the flower shops close to the cemetery. We were told they didn’t sell any food yet. With the coffee we did get a very tiny biscuit. After coffee we had the energy to walk a bit closer to this impressive memorial. The tram took us to the city center of Leipzig where we indulged in a beautiful meal in the old council building’s restaurant. . This is where we had a lovely cooked meal.

“A Ukulele Opera…” by Joe Carli

 

 

A Ukulele Opera…Act #3.

Image result for Two lovers embracing.

 

Enrico and Rosaline.

Joe, the narrator tells of Enrico’s story..:

“You see, he had only just landed at Outer Harbour in the year of 1939 when he was immediately informed that being an “enemy alien”, of Italian extraction he would be interned…but the company he gained work with as a stone-mason/bricklayer gave him a choice..; He could be interned with the rest of the Italians in the Riverland, or he could go to Darwin to do work that the company had contracts for there on the hospital and the wharfs…He chose the latter…but then when he was working there, Darwin got bombed by the Japanese and he had to make his way back down the centre to here with us other Italians.. as fate would have it…

“Guiseppi!…how would your luck be” Enrico exclaimed to me when he got here, “ I leave Italy to get away from Mussolini, and then I come here to get bombed out by Tojo!….where does one go for a bit of peace in this world?”

Anyway…here he was and here he would stay….at least for the duration…and ..like the rest of us, he wasn’t very happy with the option.”

Joe, the narrator continues..He reads from a sheet of paper….

“Now at last I am free!

Off through the scrub I run

Where sheep tracks only are seen

Nothing but bush and sun

Till all of a sudden I come

Out where an axe swings free.

Cutting, for love and money

The axe bites deep in a tree…”

“A passing moment does not a lifetime make, but a moment’s passion can be a lifetime’s mistake….or..good fortune.  A life brought into being by the strangest union in the most unusual chances and circumstances one could imagine. He from the north of Italy, in the Dolomites, she from the ‘heartbreak country’ of the Murray Mallee in Australia..

They met on the banks of the Murray River, Enrico and Rosaline. He there to collect a truck-load of water for the camp, she on an evening ambulation from Portee Station where she worked as a servant girl.

He being able to speak barely a word of English, she not being able to understand a single word of Italian..But they met and exchanged pleasantries as only such ethnically diverse  strangers could.”

He asked (in Italian) if they ate well at the big house…;

“Mangiano bene nella grande casa?”

She replied ( in English)..:

“ The evening light falling on the river spreads a certain calm over the waters…don’t you think?”

He was a stone-mason by trade.

She desired to be a poet.

They got on well, and in the intervening months, while Enrico’s English improved immensely, so did their congenial meetings..by now a regular, mutually agreeable thing. As the Spring weather became more and more pleasant and the days longer, Enrico would linger at his duties of pumping water into the tanker longer than was allocated by his roster and he was questioned by Joe on his arrival back at the camp..

“What do you get up to there by the riverside to be away for so long?” Joe asked.

“ I listen to the birds sing and observe the calming light on the waters”..Enrico answered.

“And this singing birdy you listen to..what is her name?” Joe cynically responded..

“Rosaline.” Enrico smiled.

Indeed, They did eventually wed..the youthful composer of the above doggerel ; Rosaline Thomas and the refugee Italian ; Enrico Corradini (whom she would call; “Ricky”). And as she describes her running through the scrub to meet with her lover, I can now ask, knowing the ending of her story ; Was she running to embrace life, or running from a desolate lifestyle?..And Enrico, the refugee , HE we know was running from hunger and war, but did he realise then as he surely did later, what and where was he running to?”

Enrico arrived at the Charcoal camp a week after Artini’s attemped escape and drowning in the Murray River. So the whole camp was in the doldrums over that affair. There was little appetite for getting to know any new arrivals at the moment..the whole camp ran on “automatic pilot” and Enrico was given the easy job of just going to the river twice a week to get a tanker full of water. It was on one of these trips that he met Rosaline.

The “unofficial” story surrounding their meeting and courtship is recorded in the family circle..It seems the erstwhile Enrico was out trapping rabbits one day and he got lost..only to stumble onto the dusty bush camp where, coincidently, the young Rosaline was in attendance to her mother ; Grace Thomas, who was expecting her fifth child. Rosaline’s father, having difficulty understanding the gesticulating “eyetalian”, instructed Rose to show him the track leading to the presumed wood-cutters camp from whence he came.

In truth, the information on the whereabouts of that family’s camp-site away in the bush from another charcoal-burning camp a couple of kilometres from Fox’s camp, and the fact that Rosaline would be at that camp-site on such a time of the month was passed to Enrico on one of their “accidental meetings” at the river’s edge..the trapping of rabbits was Enrico’s own innovation.

A week or so later, Enrico turned up again, rabbit traps in hand and lost again..the same procedure as last time was followed and that was that, until again..another week later Enrico shows up again, lost while trapping rabbits…this time, as Rosaline is leading the gentleman away, Richard Thomas scratched the back of his head in thought…he turned to his wife..:

“You know..that eyetie must be the worst trapper in the world…he’s never got one single bunny!”

Joe continues…;

“The camp that Rosaline’s parents were at was a couple of kilometres from our camp and it was run by a Slavic man named Jack…It was a rough camp of desperates and opportunists, with many accidents at the charcoal pit heads..for if those burns were not attended to or done right, they could suddenly explode into a shower of flame and sparks and set the whole camp aflame…Here, I will let Rosaline explain it from this poem she wrote of everyday life there..

“Also down in the camp,

The man are up and about,

Somebody waves a flagon,’

And another raises a shout!

Then a glass of wine is downed,

To help one through the day . . .”

So you can see, there was not much disciplined routine over in that camp and that is why Richard Thomas moved his family away into the scrub and pitched tent away from the men, as Mrs. Thomas and the young girls were the only women and children in the camp…So when Rosaline told Enrico she was going to stay with her mother because of the mother’s pregnancy, that developed into the occurrence of her mother having a miscarriage and Rosaline had to stay longer to both help with her mother’s recuperation and the schooling of the younger ones..so Enrico got to know Rosa and her family quite well over that time, with the family sometimes coming to play cards at the Italian camp..and then when Rosaline went back to work at Portee station, he resumed his job of going to the river to get water..and there he continued his courtship of Rosaline.”

Joe continues..:

“Now, the war is coming to an end..it won’t be long before the camp will be broken up and all these men will be able to go back to their dreams…but I wonder if those dreams will now become something different?….”

One afternoon, on the banks of the Murray River, Enrico and Rosaline sit talking of the future…The war is near an end and the Camp is due to be broken up…The Italians will be able to go back to their former plans and dreams…Enrico says to Rosaline:

“Rosa..what are we to do?…I will soon be sent back to the city..what will you do?”

Rosaline sat quietly looking over the river waters…then she spoke..not exactly TO Enrico, but to the quiet atmosphere around them both..:

“There’s an old German hand there at Portee who, whenever he has to cross the river on the punt to go to work on the other side, would pick up a small stone, a pebble, carry it across and place it on the other side….I once asked him why he did it….he was at first reluctant to tell me..but I persisted…

“Well, girlie”…( that’s what they all call young women out here)….”it is my own little thing…I think of the small stone as my soul,…you see, I cannot swim..and so I take the stone, carry it, and if or when I reach safely the solid ground on the other side, I leave it dzair….when I come back, I do the same”

“What happens if the punt starts to sink?” I asked.

“Dzen I will try to throw it with all my might, to the other side….and I think if it reaches there , then  I feel I too will reach there…”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Dzen, I think I vill be lost in the waters of the river…” Rosaline stopped abruptly and looked to Enrico with a sadness in her eyes..“Will I too be lost in the waters of the river, Enrico?” she asked. “Will my life’s hope be as desperate as that little pebble..nothing but a hope of something better?”

Enrico took her hands and looked deep into her eyes…he then asked the question he had been wanting to ask for a long time….

“Will you come to the city to be with me, Rosa?…Come to the city and we can soon be married…if you will have me.”

“O’, Ricky..how can we marry?…you see where my family lives..how my family lives…in a bag tent in the Mallee..I have nothing, you have little as you have said yourself..How can we start a life together?”

Enrico clasps her hands tight..

“But, my love..soon I will be back in the city..I have a job promised to me by Joe..he is a builder there..I will make my money..if you can find work there, we can both start a new life together..”

Rosaline brightens up at the new prospect, this new hope…

“Dr. Hackendorf and his wife are good friends of the owners of Portee Station and the Doctor has said many times that I could work and board with them if I ever decide to come to the city to live…I’ll see if that offer still stands”…

Enrico moves to kneel in front of the sitting Rosaline takes hold of her hands and sings this song to her..:

“El canto della sposa”..:

“The house of my darling,

Is all made of bags,

But for me who wishes to go there ,

It is a palace of silk..”  (etc.see : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-KqXtc0CFo )

Afterwards, they both go back to the camp, where they find the men there in an uproar at the news that Gemano’s fiancé has survived the war and has written a letter to Gemano…He rushes toward Enrico when he sees he and Rosaline arrive back from the river in the water truck…The opening music of Verdi’s “Requiem Dies Irae “  strikes up in the background ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79tAD1UZ7m0

Gemano is waving a letter and crying out to the sky..

“She lives!!…she lives!!…my love is alive!…ahh, ha ha! ..she lives..” he drops to his knees and sobs.. “We have won, Enrico..we have both beaten death…for now…my love lives..she lives”

And he holds the letter up to Enrico who takes it gently and reads it..:

“Oh Gemano…truly you are fortunate…yes…she lives..” Enrico pauses, his brow furrows as he reads on..” She says here she now has a child…born during the war…”

“Yes, yes..I saw that..and she says she will only come to me if I accept the child as well.. what say you, Enrico…what do you think..”

“Do you still love her, Gemano?”

“Truly…more than I could say…so much more than I could say..”

“Then you must accept them both, Gemano…for they are both needing you as well..and who can say what has happened to those we left behind in that war…both you and I remember the last great war…so much killing of the young and old and raping of the women…the armies went up and down those valleys taking and using everything in their path so that none were spared..or none would survive..”…and he hands the letter back to Gemano…who takes it tenderly, folds it away into the envelope and places it into a top pocket…he then stands and takes out the old photograph he has of her..the stage darkens with a spotlight only on Gemano…he sings his song to the tune once again of ; “O’ mio babbino caro”…(I would also like to hear the soft strains of the ukulele mixed in tune with the symphonic music) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f59v8r1CBIo&list=PLabSmKXr9e_dZYdM61YNlQ40pRjjBPjYR&index=2&t=0s

“Now I will see my Sophia, (he holds her picture in front)

I still hold her picture so dear..

We will kiss at the station once more,

And I’ll put a white rose in her hair.

Just like this one I see here, (touches photo)

Now she is back I will kiss her,

Now she is back I shan’t miss her,

Once I see my Sophia,

I can’t believe she will be here,

I so want her to call my name,

Now I will see my Sophia,

Now I will hold my Fidanza,

We will kiss once more at the station,

I will put a rose in her hair, (Gemano strokes the picture lovingly)

I can hardly believe she will be here,

I so want her near me,

I will soon see my Sophia,

My love, My darling, my dear.”

I will soon see my Sophia,

My love, my darling, my dear.”

The music continues as the light slowly dims on Gemano, standing with his head bowed …

Joe the Narrator takes up the story…

“Ah…Gemano and Sophia…they did get married…by proxy..he here, she there in the old country and they finally joined together later when the ship brought her and her child to a new life here in Australia…and they had more children.

The camp was broken up not long after, and the men went back to their trades and work in the city and elsewhere…and look (Joe points to a heap of sacks left in a jumble at the back of the stage set ) there..in amongst the left over rubbish and sacks on their old life here..(He bends to pick up Gemano’s ukulele..it is battered and damaged and a couple of strings are broken) and see here..Gemano’s ukulele…what brought so much song and joy to so many nights in the camp..left to decay away with their memories…(he tosses it onto the heap of sacks) ..oh well..perhaps best it be so…so many dark days to walk away from…best it be so…”

Joe walks briskly off stage, whistling as he does so to the background music of “O’ mio babbino caro”…..

 

 

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5 thoughts on “A Ukulele Opera…Act #3.”

  1. Thanks for this link, Joe:

    I like this music very much. And my intention is now to study all three parts of your Ukelele Opera. Some of it I read already and it makes me want to read and understand more! And there seem to be lots of refernces to great music . . . .

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    1. Hello, Uta….it was late last night when I saw your comment..now I have time to answer better…Yes, the music is the thing..I wanted to orignally join in with someone who could read and write music to do a real opera rather than a “reading opera”…but coming from the trades, I had no reliable contacts to work with…so I had to borrow music and songs where I could and re-write words for them…But the story of those people is the thing, as it happened to some of my relatives in that very camp I write about..indeed, some of the “players” in the opera are my rlatives…It is a tale that had to be put down for posterity…good or bad, it had to be put on paper…Thanks for yours and Peter’s support, Uta..it is much appreciated

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  2. Thank you so much for this answer, Joe. Yes, I thought that the story is based on some of your relatives experiences. My impression is, that Australia does produce a great number of very talented people in the arts. Joe, that you put your story not just on paper but also on the internet, may inspire some people to use it in a creative way as for instance in a ‘real’ opera! You did well, to try to put this story down for posterity. 🙂

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  3. That generation were tenacious buggers…but I suppose coming from a great depression and two WWars, they had been through so much that a little more was not going to break them all…The ‘Gemano” in the story lamenting for his fiance back in Italy was a true event…where he came tto Aust’ with my father to get established but with the war, he didn’t hear anything of her for the duration..he didn’t know if she was alive or dead..so you can imagine the relief at the news…ah…I wonder if this new generation coming on has the “dig in and hold ground” tenacity of those of the past…I think there are going to be a lot of very lonely people around in the years to come…

The Whitlam Government

https://theaimn.com/the-anglo-american-ambush-of-the-whitlam-government-11-11-1975/

Prophetically, in a sense, Whitlam placed an epigraph to his record of The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975 (1985). It reads as follows:

“And one has to reflect that there is nothing more difficult to handle nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to conduct than to make oneself the leader in introducing a new order of things. For the man who introduces it has for enemies all those who do well out of the old order and has lukewarm supporters in all those who will do well out of the new order.

The lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not put their trust in changes if they do not see them in actual practice. Thus it arises that whenever those who are enemies have the opportunity to go on the attack they do so forcefully and the others put up a lukewarm defence, so putting themselves and their cause at risk at the same time” (from Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince, at Chapter Six).

But such was the wisdom of the hindsight.