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If you think that the teenage inventor and entrepreneur is a phenomenon unique to our digital age, I give you game enthusiast George Parker in 1883.

The game Monopoly got its start in turn-of-the-century Maryland, it’s set in the streets of Atlantic City, and was first published and sold in Philadelphia. But it was the Parker Brothers of Salem, Mass., who would bring the venerable board game to the masses and transform it into an American icon.

"Parker [Brothers] was started by a 16-year-old named George Parker in Salem, Mass., and his first major success probably was ping pong," said Philip Orbanes, co-founder of Danvers game maker Winning Moves Games and author of "Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game." Orbanes says Parker’s older brothers quickly smelled success in their sibling’s endeavors, and together, they launched a series of hit card games like Flinch, Pit and Rook. After that, Parker Brothers led an explosion of interest in jigsaw puzzles, Orbanes said, followed by a string of hit board games through the 1920’s. Over three successful decades, Parkers Brothers steadily built a fun-and-games empire in Salem.

Then the Great Depression hit. By the time the 1930’s came around the company’s fortune had reversed.

Parker Brothers needed a hit, and they found one in a uniquely American board game with a curious provenance.

"The original gameplay stems from The Landlord’s Game, which was created right after the turn of the 20th century by a rather brilliant woman named Elizabeth Magie Phillips," Orbanes said.

An author, actress, activist and inventor, Phillips created the game to warn against the dangers of consolidated land ownership, and promote the single-tax theory of economist Henry George.

"Her game doesn’t go anywhere because it has an agenda to it, but it finds a home in the economics department of certain radical professors," Orbanes said.

Despite it’s heady concept, it turns out the game was simply fun to play. Students took to it, built their own boards, and developed variations, with names like “Auction,” “Finance” and “Monopoly.” It became popular in small pockets across the country, including among a group of Quakers in Atlantic City, N.J.

"Mutual friends brought that to Charles Darrow who then began to make his own copies," Orbanes said.

An out-of-work heater salesman in Philadelphia, Darrow redesigned the game board into the one we still know today, from the color-banded squares to the railroad icons, the “Go” square to the Electric Company light bulb. He secured a patent, and sold hand-made copies throughout Philadelphia starting in 1934 to immediate success. When word reached Salem, Parker Brothers saw their chance.

"They realized that the consumer was king, and if the consumer was buying this thing, they ought to have it," Orbanes said.

In 1935, Parker Brothers bought Darrow’s patent for Monopoly and released their first edition of the game, with game pieces inspired by Darrow’s niece, a collector of charms for her charm bracelets. But there was still a problem. While Parker Brothers owned the name and the design, the gameplay still belonged to Phillips. So on Nov. 6, 1935, Charles Parker visited her home to make a deal.

"So the deal she made was that they had to reintroduce The Landlord’s Game, and they had to do two other games that she had created, and they had to put her picture on the cover, which was unheard of," Orbanes said.

Sold. Parker Brothers had secured a monopoly on Monopoly. Within a year, they were producing 20,000 copies a week in Salem — and Monopoly was the best selling game in America.

"The entire city of Salem seemed to be mobilized to help Parker Brothers to produce 1.8 million [copies]," Orbanes said. "That’s how big this game became in 1936. It was really the salvation of the company."

It was an economic and employment windfall for Salem in the midst of the Great Depression, which, according to Orbanes, was one of the keys to the game's smash success.

"People did not have money, but they had time on their hands and here comes this game that, for a period of two-three-or-more hours gives you the feeling that you’re rich," he said.

Parker Brothers would follow up on Monopoly with more hits like Clue, Sorry!, and Risk. Today, after a series of mergers and acquisitions, their entire roster of games belong to Hasbro — and the Parker Brothers’ once sprawling complex of buildings and factories in Salem are no more.

"There’s no trace of it, there’s no reminders of it," Orbanes said. "It’s just progress and a sign of the times that the century-long existence of Parker Brothers is but a memory."

But we do still have Monopoly, which belonged to Parker Brothers, when they acquired the patent to its predecessor, The Landlord Game, from Elizabeth Magie Phillips, 80 years ago this week.