Abe Lincoln, Civil War, Gettysburg, Museums, Pop Culture, Presidents, Travel

Statuary Myths and Urban Legends. John Rogers.

Part II

Original publish date:  October 1, 2020

If you are a fan of Victorian decor, or if, like me, you find yourself haunting antique malls and shops, you’re probably familiar with the work of sculptor John Rogers. Commonly known as “Groups” for their routine use of more than one subject per sculpture, Rogers’ work is distinctive for many reasons: historical themes, uncommon accuracy and exquisite detail. Rogers was the first American sculptor to be classified as a “pop artist”, scorned by art critics but beloved by the average American. His themes included literary themes, Civil War soldiers, ordinary citizens, animals, sports and luminaries from the pages of history. For Irvingtonians, his works depicting namesake Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle are particularly prized.

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John Rogers Rip Van Winkle Series.

I have a few in my office and one of my favorite places to eat, the “Back 40 Junction” in Decatur, is decorated with many John Rogers groups throughout their restaurant.
John Rogers was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1829, how can Halloween fans not love him already? His father, an unsuccessful but well-connected Boston merchant, felt that an artist’s life was no better than a vagabond and discouraged his artistic son from pursuing art as a profession. So, Rogers confined his love of drawing, painting and modeling in clay to his spare time. In 1856 Rogers ran away to Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri where he worked as a railroad mechanic. Two years later, he moved to Europe to attain a formal education in sculpting. His first group, in 1859, he titled “The Slave Auction”. It depicts a white auctioneer as he gavels down the sale of a defiant black man, posed arms crossed, with his weeping wife and babies cowering at the side. Rogers, a strong abolitionist, was making a statement against slavery but New York shopkeepers refused to display his work in their windows for fear that the controversial subject matter would drive customers away. So Rogers hired a black salesman to peddle the statue from door-to-door and in a short time, Rogers’ statue, described as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin in plaster” became a best seller.

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Sculptor John Rogers.

That same year, Rogers went to Chicago, where he entered his next statue, titled “The Checker Players” in a charity event, which won a $75.00 prize and attracted much attention. Rogers soon began rapidly producing very popular, relatively inexpensive figurines to satiate the average Gilded Age citizen’s thirst for art. Over the next quarter century, a total of 100,000 copies of nearly 90 different Rogers Groups were sold across the United States and abroad. Unsurprisingly, the next few years were filled with Rogers groups depicting scenes from the Civil War to honor their soldier boys serving far from home. These statues would remain popular with veterans after the war as well.
Gettysburg Longstreet monument sculptor Gary Casteel remarked, “Rogers is very well known as an American sculptor. More for his collection of small group settings rather than large public works. Both are excellent in detail and representation. His collection of CW related plaster cast pieces are quite well know and continually sought after by collectors to this day.” Rogers’ work was innovative, preferring to create his statuary based on every day, ordinary scenes from life. While Rogers’ work rarely made its way into art museums, it did grace the parlors, libraries and offices of Victorian homes around the world. However, there is one work that stands out among the rest, for subject matter, realism, and controversy.

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                                                         Rogers’ Council of War.

“The Council of War”, created in 1868, stands 24 inches tall and, like all of Rogers’ groups, was designed to fit perfectly on a round oak “ball and claw” footed parlor table. It depicts Abraham Lincoln seated in a chair, studying a map held in both hands, as General Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton confer over his shoulders. The June 1872 issue of the “American Historical Record” describes the scene: “The time is supposed to be early in March, 1864, just after Grant was appointed a Lieutenant-General and entrusted by Congress with the largess and discriminatory power as General-in-Chief of all the armies. The occasion was the Council at which the campaign of 1864 was determined upon, which was followed by Grant’s order on the 1st of May for the advance of the great armies of the Republic against the principal forces of the Confederates.”

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Gettysburg Sculptor Gary Casteel.

Both Robert Todd Lincoln and Edwin Stanton proclaimed this version of the President to be the best likeness of the man either had ever seen. Secretary Stanton wrote to the sculptor in May of 1872 stating, “I am highly gratified with the genius and artistic skill you have displayed. I think you were especially fortunate in your execution of the figure of President Lincoln. In form and feature it surpasses any effort to embody the expression of that great man which I have seen. The whole group is very natural and the work, like others from the same hand, well represents interesting incidents of the time.” Although the two surviving subjects received the piece positively, the public allegedly saw it differently: quite literally.
The controversy surrounding the pose arose based upon the positioning of Stanton behind Lincoln. Stanton, is posed polishing his spectacles, held in both hands, directly behind the President’s left ear approximately where Booth’s bullet entered Mr. Lincoln’s head. The pose is thought to have aroused the ire of collectors who believed the awkward positioning somehow stirred memories of the assassination. Hence, John Rogers made three versions of this particular group to appease those sympathies. Although the depictions of Grant and Lincoln remained the same in all three, Stanton’s hands were emptied and placed at his side in the second version and then changed back to polishing his glasses, this time forward of Lincoln’s head, in the third version. Some historians surmise the changes were affected due to the alleged theory of Stanton’s involvement in Lincoln’s murder that were circulating at the time. On the other hand, art historians claim the change was made for purely structural purposes and ease of casting to prevent breakage.
Modern day sculptors like Gary Casteel utilize many of the same methods as Rogers did a century-and-a-half ago, just as Rogers used those techniques he learned about while studying in Europe. Casteel, who like Rogers, also studied sculpture in Europe, says, “Every sculptor has his own way of sculpture production. However, there are probably similarities. I do a lot of detail as he did just simply because it’s my natural style.” The advantage that Gary Casteel has is the internet. Gary has a website and blog (Casteel Sculptures, LLC / Valley Arts Publishing) that walks his “fans” through the process of wood, wire & clay step-by-step. If you have an interest in the process, I highly recommend you subscribe to Gary’s blog. Watching Gary’s scale sculptures of the ornately detailed monuments of Gettysburg might better explain that Rogers’ changes in his Council of War group may not have been all about myth and urban legends after all.
At the height of their popularity, Rogers’ figurines graced the parlors of homes in the United States and around the world. Most sold for $15 apiece (about $450 in 2020 dollars), the figurines were affordable to the middle class. Instead of working in bronze and marble, he sculpted in more affordable plaster, painted the color of putty to hide dust. Rogers was inspired by popular novels, poems and prints as well as the scenes he saw around him. By the 1880s, it seemed that families who did not have a John Rogers Group were not conforming to the times. Even Abraham Lincoln owned a John Rogers Group. My favorite account of a typical Rogers statue encounter comes from the Great American West. Libby Custer mentions in her book “Boots and Saddles” that her husband, General George Armstrong Custer, carried two prized John Rogers groups (“One More Shot” and “Mail Day”, both depicting Civil War soldiers) from post-to-post on the Western frontier including the couples’ final Indian outpost before the “Last Stand.”
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Libby and George Armstrong Custer.

Libby states, “Comparatively modern art was represented by two of the Rogers statuettes that we had carried about with us for years. Transportation for necessary household articles was often so limited it was sometimes a question whether anything that was not absolutely needed for the preservation of life should be taken with us, but our attachment for those little figures and the associations connected with them, made us study out a way always to carry them. At the end of each journey, we unboxed them ourselves, and sifted the sawdust through our fingers carefully, for the figures were invariably dismembered. My husband’s first occupation was to hang the few pictures and mend the statuettes. He glued on the broken portions and moulded (sic) putty in the crevices where the biscuit had crumbled. Sometimes he had to replace a bit that was lost… On one occasion we found the head of the figure entirely severed from the trunk. Nothing daunted, he fell to patching it up again… The distorted throat, made of unwieldy putty, gave the formally erect, soldierly neck a decided appearance of goiter. My laughter discouraged the impromptu artist, who for one moment felt that a “restoration” is not quite equal to the original. He declared that he would put a coat of gray paint overall, so that in a dim corner they might pass for new. I insisted that it should be a very dark corner!”
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Another article, this one from the January 1926 issue of “Antiques” magazine, encapsulates the love-hate relationship for Rogers’ work: “The fact that Rogers groups are fragile has made them rare enough to arouse the interest of collectors, although I doubt that they will ever be widely collected or will ever acquire high values. They are too large to be comfortably collected in quantity. Nevertheless there might be some slight activity in Rogers groups among collectors of American antiques and it is to be hoped that existing examples will be preserved for the sake of what they express of life some forty years since.”
In 1878 Rogers opened a small studio at 13 Oenoke Ridge in New Canaan, Connecticut. By the 1890s, his work had largely fallen out of favor. Poor health forced his retirement in 1893. Rogers died at his New Canaan home on July 26, 1904. His studio was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965. Rogers sculpted what he saw, drawing his inspiration from the everyday beauty observed by his own eye or that created by his mind’s eye while interpreting the literary works he valued most. Although he died in relative obscurity, his works live on as perfect representations of Victorian Era life at the crossroads of the Gilded Age and the Second Industrial Revolution.

Civil War, Gettysburg, Museums, Pop Culture, Travel

Statuary Myths and Urban Legends. Gettysburg.

Part I

Original publish date:  September 24, 2020

I find myself hanging around statues all the time. On Battlefields. In Museums. Visiting cemeteries. My office. I truly love looking at statues & sculptures of every sort, heck, I even find myself admiring the old fonts on those statues and plaques. Not too crazy about the recent trend of “Cairns” (aka rock stacking) sprouting up in creeks and rivers and along trails in parks, but that’s another story. I do love statues and admire the artists that created them.
As many of you know, I spend a lot of time in Gettysburg- 2 to 3 trips a year. Part of the attraction of Gettysburg, to many, are the monuments and statues located on every part of the 6,000 acre park; some 1,300 at last count. As all devotees of the battlefield know, there is a legend that circulates around the eight equestrian statues found on the field. It has become known colloquially as the “hoof code” and until recently, solely by coincidence, it held true.
The tradition stated that the position of the horse hoofs on the statue dictated the fate of it’s rider. All four hoofs down: the rider survived the battle unscathed. One hoof up: the rider was wounded during the battle and survived. Two hoofs up: the rider was killed during the battle. According to the National Park Service, aside from the myths that the Rebels stumbled into the battle of Gettysburg while searching for shoes for footsore soldiers or that Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address on the back of an envelope on the train to Gettysburg, the horse code legend is most enduring.

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It appears that the stories were simply created by those early battlefield guides as a convenient way to get guests to remember the fates of the rider. Although harmless, it nearly drove the park brass crazy trying to explain the fallacy to guests, dignitaries and letter-writers for over a century. One letter found in the NPS archives from October of 1931, written by then superintendent E. B. Davis, addresses the issue bluntly, “The story that the posture of the horse in equestrian statues on this battlefield indicates whether the rider was killed, wounded, or unhurt seems to be one of those myths which grow up around historical places and are almost impossible to destroy. Sculptors whom I have consulted assure me there is no such convention connected with the art. This office does not countenance the story. On the contrary, invariably discourages it. It seems, however, to appeal to some imaginations among both guides and tourists. If you are in position to supply the name of your guide or the number of his cap, I can possibly stop one from further reciting the myth.” So, not only did it drive the NPS crazy, the sculptors weren’t too happy about it either.
z Screenshot (175)The statues on the field represent Union Generals Meade, Reynolds, Hancock, Howard, Slocum, and Sedgwick, and Confederates, Lee, atop the Virginia Memorial, and James Longstreet. According to the NPS, “Meade and Hancock were the first on June 5, 1896. They were followed by Reynolds, July 1, 1899, Slocum, September 19, 1902, Sedgwick, June 19, 1913, and Howard, November 12, 1932. The Virginia Memorial was dedicated on June 8, 1917. Longstreet did not come along until 1998 and by this time the myth was firmly established.”
The Longstreet statue, created by artist Gary Casteel, was dedicated on July 3, 1998. Located in Pitzer Woods on West Confederate Avenue in the Gettysburg National Military Park, Gary’s statue is unique because it rests on the ground, not on a pedestal. “I wanted people to be able to walk right up to it; see it, touch it.” says the sculptor. Gary, whose studio is located near the entrance of the National Cemetery and the iconic landmark Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse in the old “Hall of Presidents” wax museum, is still busy practicing his craft within site of the Hancock monument across the Baltimore Pike.
Sculptor Frank Edwin Elwell’s larger-than-life bronze figure of Hancock astride “a horse” depicts the general extending a reassuring hand toward unseen Union soldiers. The horse “Hancock the Superb” straddles was not his own. On July 3, 1863, Gettysburg saw the greatest artillery barrage in the history of North America warfare. The earth rattling blasts of over 100 Confederate cannons and the thunderous roar of Union guns in reply, spooked Hancock’s horse, and it froze, refusing to move. Hancock dismounted, borrowed the horse of a nearby surgeon, and embarked on his ride, one of the most famous in the history of the Civil War. Hancock, fully exposed to enemy fire, rode up and down the line to bolster the morale of his troops who lay behind the stone wall. When aides begged the General to dismount, his reply was, “There are times when a Corps Commander’s life does not matter.” He was wounded grievously and his equestrian statue reflects that wound with one hoof up.
The placement of Hancock’s statue on East Cemetery Hill required the dismantling of a precarious looking wooden observation tower that stood on the hill from 1878 until 1896. But what about that horse? What was his name? Historians have studied that question for years to no avail. Every Civil War buff knows Lee’s horse at Gettysburg was “Traveller”, Meade’s horse: “Old Baldy”. We even know the name of Meade’s (he had two) and Lee’s back-up horses, “Blackie” & “Gertie” and “Lucy Long” respectively.
Reynolds horse: “Fancy”, his secondary horse was called “Prince”. Sedgwick’s horse was named “Rambler”, his two back-ups; “Cornwall” and “Handsome Joe”. General Henry Slocum’s horse was named “Charlie” and General Longstreet’s horse was “Hero”. BTW, in case you’re wondering, General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s horse was named “Charlemagne” but he did not get it until the autumn of 1863, after Gettysburg. The horse, a small brown Morgan horse with scars and sores from pack-service had been captured from the Confederates. Chamberlain has no monument, equestrian or otherwise, on the field except for that of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top.
z slocum s-l1600But Hancock’s horse at Gettysburg? No one knows. Likewise, General O.O. Howard’s horse remains nameless (he had at least two shot out from under him and himself was wounded twice in battle) but the sternly pious one-armed General’s nickname of “Uh Oh” survives. So named by soldiers because when the General showed up, one way or another, there was gonna be a fight (he was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions at Gettysburg). Look up at his statue the next time you’re walking the field and you’ll see the empty flap of his right arm (shot off at the Battle of Seven Pines a year earlier) pinned neatly to his coat.
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Sculptor Gary Casteel and the author in Casteel’s Gettysburg shop.

Which brings me back to sculptor Gary Casteel. Gary’s statue of General Longstreet is featured on his horse with one foot raised, even though Longstreet was not wounded in that battle. However, he was seriously wounded in the Wilderness battle the following year. The hoof is depicted in an upraised position, making it the perfect place for visitors to place coins, lucky four-leaf clovers and other mementos atop it. Casteel’s equestrian statue, the most recent general officer monument on the field, may settle the “hoof code” urban legend once and for all. Should you ever find yourself in Gettysburg, stop in Gary Casteel’s studio at 789 Baltimore Street and ask him yourself. Asked for comment on the myth, Mr. Casteel answered, “The “code” only works at Gettysburg and over the years it has become “law” thus challenging those who wish to question or break it, like me!” after which he jokingly adds, “It took a Confederate to challenge Yankee rule once again!” Yes, if you find yourself in Gettysburg, a visit to Casteel Sculptures is a must see. Most visitors fail to realize the rare opportunity afforded them with just such a visit. You can walk to battlefield and gaze at statues innumerable, but you can only talk to one sculptor: Gary Casteel.
That brings me to another statuary myth, one that I have been enamored with since I was a small boy. It involves the first American “pop sculptor”, the Civil War, the Abraham Lincoln assassination and George Armstrong Custer. Next week in part II of “Statuary Myths and Urban Legends.”

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Indianapolis, Pop Culture

“Monopoly: the Hoosier Connection. Part II”

Lizzie Magie.

Original publish date:  July 26, 2013 Reissue date: September 17, 2020

The game of Monopoly was patented 80 years ago this week on July 30, 1933. The official Parker Brothers line is that the popular board game was solely created by an unemployed salesman and heating engineer named Charles Darrow. Last week in part I, we learned that Hoosier Dan Layman claimed to have developed the game in the late 1920s while a student at Williams College in Reading, Pennsylvania. From Indianapolis the game traveled back to the East Coast through friends of Layman.
Ruth Hoskins brought the monopoly folk game to the Atlantic City after taking a teaching job at the Friends School. Although contrary to the “Monopoly” legend, she and Layman never met, Ruth was introduced to it by one of his friends. In 1929 Ruth Hoskins began playing Monopoly in Indianapolis with her brother James and his friend Robert Frost “Pete” Daggett Jr., who was a close friend of Dan Layman. Her story is appealing if only for the sweet religious reasoning that may have cost her a fortune.

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Ruth Hoskins was a core member of Quaker “Friends” meeting group which changed Layman’s capitalistic folk game to a Quaker based game she too called “Monopoly.” In October of 1929, ironically very near the date of the “Black Sunday” stock market crash, Ruth Hoskins began teaching her version of Monopoly to other teachers, students, and Quaker acquaintances. Layman’s manufactured game, Finance, was not yet on the market and certainly not available on the East Coast at that time. Though slight differences appeared in her regional version of the game, Ruth’s game was remarkably similar to the modern incarnation of Monopoly.
Ruth first change to Layman’s game was to purchase properties rather than auctioning them, as the Quakers did not believe in auctions. Apparently the Quakers, who, according to their original tenant, were required to avoid “impudent noisy indecent behaviour in Markets and other publick” simply didn’t like the noise of the auctioneering. Ruth’s most significant claim to authorship of Monopoly as we know it today is that after she relocated to her seaside New Jersey home, she changed Layman’s Indianapolis street names (one of which was “LaSalle Street”) to those of streets found in her adopted Atlantic City hometown. Eugene and Ruth Raiford, friends of Hoskins, showed the game to Charles E. Todd, a hotel manager in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Todd introduced Charles and Esther Darrow to the game. The Darrows were occasional hotel guests; Esther was Todd’s former neighbor.
Charles Todd claims that sometimes in 1931: “The first people we taught it to after learning it from the Raifords was Darrow and his wife Esther … It was entirely new to them. They had never seen anything like it before and showed a great deal of interest in it… Darrow asked me if I would write up the rules and regulations and I wrote them up and checked with Raiford to see if they were right and gave them to Darrow – he wanted two or three copies of the rules, which I gave him and gave Raiford and kept some myself.”

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Ruth Hoskins said, while testifying during the same 1974 trial as Dan Layman, in her pretrial deposition. “To the Harveys [Cyril and his wife Dorothy], who introduced it to the Raifords [Eugene and his wife Ruth, Jesse and his wife Dorothea] … Everybody made their own [board] … We asked everybody we knew that could to come play it, because it was such fun.” Since Ruth’s entire circle of friends consisted mainly of scrupulously moral Quakers, whenever the subject of commercializing the game arose, it was rejected.
“We weren’t business people,” Hoskins explained. “We were school teachers. It was a good game the way it was.” She went on to say that since the game was being played in Atlantic City, it no longer made any sense to have properties named after places in Indianapolis or parts of Pennsylvania. The discussion came up that the names were for the most part unknown to us … Why not use Atlantic City names? … We named them out in honor of people who belonged to our group. For instance, well, Boardwalk was first. Everybody knows that, Boardwalk. But the Jones’s were living on Park Place and the Claridge was being built across the street and the Marlborough Blenheim was right there. That was obviously a very expensive part of the town and one that we wanted to honor.

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“We were living on Pennsylvania Avenue … The Copes lived on Virginia Avenue at the Morton Hotel … So it developed gradually. “… I know that there were the utilities and I know that the four railroads were there … We had ‘Free Parking’ and we had ‘Go to Jail’ and we had tickets to get out of jail and you got $200 as you passed ‘Go’.” The lawyers made a point to meticulously document Ruth’s story, street-by-street, because Parker Brothers’ last defense is that Charles Darrow put the Atlantic City streets on the board and therefore his game is different from other versions of Monopoly. Hoskins also suggested Connecticut, Vermont and Oriental Avenues. “All these I made up and then we discussed it with the group.” Other members of the group added New York Ave., Community Chest and Marven Gardens “because although it wasn’t a street, there was somebody living there”.
In spite of this evidence, Parker Brothers chose to promote the Charles Darrow version of the game, even though they knew that it was not Mr. Darrow’s creation. Parker Brothers officially sanctioned story claimed that “Charles Darrow as an unemployed salesman and inventor living in Germantown, Pennsylvania, who was struggling with odd jobs to support his family in the years following the great stock market crash of 1929. Charles Darrow remembering his summers spent in Atlantic City, New Jersey, spent his spare time drawing the streets of Atlantic City on his kitchen tablecloth, and using pieces of material and bits of paints, wood etc. contributed by local merchants for game pieces. A game was already forming in his mind as he built little hotels, houses and other tokens to go along with his painted streets.”
One glaring mistake pointed to as evidence of the theft of intellectual property can be seen in Darrow’s version to this day. Ruth’s original Marven Gardens designation, named for a residential area near Atlantic City, was misspelled by Darrow as Marvin Gardens. This, combined with the other similarities mentioned above, make it highly unlikely that Darrow’s claim to authorship of Monopoly is authentic. He seems to have simply been in the right place at the right time.
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Charles Darrow.

Although it is clear Charles Darrow was not the sole inventor of Monopoly, the game he patented was quickly becoming a best seller for Parker Brothers. Within one month of signing an agreement with Darrow in 1935, Parker Brothers started producing over 20,000 copies of the game per week, a game that Charles Darrow claimed was his “brainchild.” Parker Brothers most likely discovered the existence of other Monopoly games after buying the patent from Darrow, but by that time, it was evident that the game was going to be a huge success. According to the Parker Brothers, their best move was “to secure patents and copyrights.” Parker Brothers simply did what Rockefeller, Carnegie, Hearst and Edison did before them, they bought out, developed and published the acknowledged forerunners if Monopoly: The Landlord’s Game, Finance, Fortune, as well as Finance and Fortune.
Much of the true history of “Monopoly” remains a mystery, but what is known for certain is that Charles Darrow sold his ‘rights’ to Parker Brothers at age 46. And that’s a fact. The royalties from Monopoly made Charles Darrow a millionaire, the first game inventor to make that much money. In 1970, a few years after Darrow’s death, Atlantic City erected a commemorative plaque in his honor. It stands on the Boardwalk, near the corner of Park Place.
The city of Indianapolis is a mere footnote in the history of the board game Monopoly. You won’t find the names of Hoosier Dan Layman or Hoosier transplant Ruth Hoskins written in any history of the Parker Brothers company. But the next time you’re cursing the skies for the rotten luck of landing on Boardwalk with four houses AGAIN, you can now shake your fist in the air and personally thank the Hoosier men and women who put you there.

Indianapolis, Pop Culture

“Monopoly: the Hoosier Connection. Part I”

Hoosier Dan Layman with his invention.

Original publish date:  July 19, 2013 Reissue Date September 10, 2020

Last Winter, hundreds of thousands of voters in 180 countries elected a new “Monopoly” token that was added to the game earlier this year. The cat token won the race and replaced the iron, an original piece from 1933. By some estimates, more than 1 billion people have played “Monopoly” since its creation, with more than 275 million copies sold in 111 countries and 43 languages. But while the game’s success is indisputable, its origins are not. What we know is that the game of Monopoly was patented 80 years ago this month on July 30, 1933 by an unemployed salesman and heating engineer named Charles Darrow.
Darrow, reeling from the loss of his career during the Great Depression, enlisted his wife and son to design and hand-produce the very first games eight decades ago. Darrow drew the designs with a drafting pen on round pieces of oilcloth, and then his son and his wife helped fill in the spaces with colors and make the title deed cards and the Chance cards and Community Chest cards. Darrow called his game “Monopoly” and hand-painted one set per day, which he sold for $4.00 each. While Darrow received a copyright on his game in 1933, his original patent model and succeeding specimens have mysteriously disappeared from the files of the United States Copyright Office, though proof of its registration remains.
In 1935, Darrow licensed the game to Parker Brothers and quickly became the first millionaire game designer. When Darrow died in 1967, his New York Times obituary headline read “Charles B. Darrow Dies at 78; Inventor of Game of Monopoly.” That’s the official story line anyway, the real story is quite a bit more complicated.


The Landlord’s Game Board from 1904.

Some say that Lizzie J. Magie’s “The Landlord’s Game”, patented in 1904, was the first real monopoly game. Others claim it was a Reading, Pennsylvania college student, Dan Layman, and his pal, Louis Thun, created a game called “Finance” (that his friends called “Monopoly”) in the late 1920s. Or was it Ruth Hoskins? She learned how to play the game from a friend of Layman’s in Indianapolis. Yes, the game of Monopoly was created here in Indianapolis!
Originally titled “The Fascinating Game of Finance or Finance and Fortune” and later shortened to “Finance” for the sake of brevity, the board game was based on Ms. Magie’s “The Landlord’s Game”. The game featured the now familiar movement of pieces around the handmade board, the use of cards, properties that can be purchased, and houses that can be erected on them. The published board featured four railroads (one per side), Chance and Community Chest cards and spaces, and properties grouped by symbol, rather than color. Sound Familiar?
Hoosier Dan Layman developed his game while a student at Williams College in Reading, Pennsylvania in the late 1920s. In January 1975 during one of the many patent trials challenging the rights to the popular & profitable game, Dan Layman facetiously opined in his deposition that: “They forgot to mention that when Darrow died, he was working on the invention of the wheel.” The deposition insisted that Layman and his college fraternity brothers were playing Monopoly six years before Darrow ever saw it and he had copyrighted and published the first set of rules for the game in its modern form.
In an episode that must’ve foreshadowed the Zuckerberg / Winklevoss facebook controversy of this century, Layman created his version of Monopoly after being introduced to it by two of his Williams College Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity brothers, Frederick and Louis Thun. After leaving college, Layman returned to his hometown of Indianapolis and in his spare time he taught Monopoly to a variety of friends who made their own boards. Eventually Layman got the idea of marketing the game. So, he drew up formal rules (including: “Do not pass Go; do not collect $200.00 dollars, Ownership of a series entitles one to collect double rent on all the properties of that series, paying $50 to the bank, one may leave the jail the first time his turn comes around again…), and got a company called Electronic Laboratories, Inc., to make the board, cards, money and pieces (hotels, houses, markers).

In 1932, the board game “Finance” was first sold by the L. S. Ayres & Co department store chain. Initially, the game was sold in small black boxes (some of which came with poker chips for money) with four different versions of the rules and properties were auctioned rather than sold. Otherwise, it is almost identical to Monopoly including Chance and Community Chest cards. With L. S. Ayres & Co. and Electronics Laboratories producing and L.S. Ayres selling his version, Lyman published the game for a year before selling it to Knapp Electric for $200. Although Layman first intended to call his new creation “Monopoly”, the name was changed for trademark reasons. Some clarity to the Monopoly rights controversy can be found in the General Mills Fun Group (buyers of Parker Brothers and Monopoly) lawsuit against Ralph Anspach and his Anti-Monopoly® game in 1974. Dan Layman testified: “I understood from various attorney friends of mine that because Monopoly had been used as the name of this exact game, both in Indianapolis and in Reading and in Williamstown, Massachusetts, that it was, therefore, in public domain and that I couldn’t protect it in any way. So, I changed the name in order to have some protection.”
According to a Time Magazine article dated February 17th, 1936: “I wrote the entire rulebook for the game of Finance in 1931 (copyrighted 1932) and simplified the old game of Monopoly for manufacturing purposes…” said Dan Layman, “Almost exactly this same game as played at Williams was put on the market in Indianapolis early in 1932 through L. S. Ayres & Co.” This was the only article published which contradicted what would become Parker Brothers’ assertion that it had published the original Monopoly, and that Layman’s version was a spin-off. Layman had forced the retraction by Time in 1936, when an article two weeks earlier had published an article titled “Monopoly and Politics.”
What was unknown to Time was that Layman had sold the rights to the game to a small games manufacturer, David W. Knapp, the originator of the popular 1930s game “Krazy-Ikes.” Knapp was eventually bought out by Parker Brothers for $10,000- a significant sum at the time. But it was a far cry from the Millions in Royalties that were paid to Charles Darrow. Parker Brothers eventually published the game Finance, after simplifying the rules for easier play and marketing it as a separate entity. So much for Dan Layman’s claims.
Although the game company virtually ignored Hoosier Dan Layman’s virtual paternity claim as the “Father” of Monopoly, in the spring of 1935, Parker Brothers paid Layman’s old college fraternity brother Luis Thun a visit and offered to buy any remaining boards of their Monopoly game for $50 each. Thun said that he told the Parker Brothers representative “…it wasn’t at all clear to me how Mr. Darrow could be the inventor of a game… we’d played since 1925.” But $50 each for an obsolete board game at the height of the Great Depression proved too rich an offer to refuse and Thun caved, thus ending all claims to authorship of Parker Brothers’ best selling board game.
But Hoosier ties to the game of “Monopoly” does not end there. There is another historical footnote that binds Monopoly to our fair city.

Politics, Pop Culture, Presidents

The 1952 Presidential Conventions Revisited.

Original publish date:  September 3, 2020

Many readers will recall that I have a minor obsession with old paper. Photos, brochures, booklets, newspaper, documents, letters… PAPER! Sometimes I run across an item that illustrates things really haven’t changed that much. During a recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky, I found a box of paper in an antique mall that seemed to be calling my name. It was full of a miscellany of every sort, type & design. Some of which belonged to a woman who, in 1960, had been president of the Lexington women’s club and a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that nominated John F. Kennedy for President.
Hidden among them was a six-page letter about the 1952 Democratic convention in Chicago that nominated Adlai Stevenson for President written by an Eisenhower supporter. As I read the letter, it all sounded very familiar to me. Written on three sheets of stationery from the Warner Hotel in Warren, Ohio on July 25, 1952, it was sent to a couple living in Lexington. The hotel was named after Jonathan Warner, a long forgotten Lake Superior iron ore magnate and leading manufacturer of pig iron. The letterhead touts the hotel as having 150 rooms, all absolutely fireproof, and as being on the “European plan”, which basically means, all you get is the room; no meals included.

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Adlai Stevenson at the 1952 DNC.


The letter reads: “Dear Mother & Daddy. – I surely did not intend to be so long writing you all, but I guess you know that what with cleaning up after our guests, getting Teresa off to camp, and then getting ready to leave myself, that I haven’t had too many spare minutes. And I must admit that what ones I did have were devoted to the Democratic Convention! Have you ever seen or heard such a brawl as was going on yesterday over the seating of the three southern states! We were so glued to the radio, that we forgot every thing else, and ran out of gas!! Did we ever feel silly! It was just at dark, and fortunately we were in town, and some kind soul gave us a push to a gas station. It’s the first time either of us can remember of that ever happening to us! We sure laughed at ourselves! How we wished and wished we had our television set to see that disgusting spectacle! Tom says he would have forgotten to eat!”
The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago from July 21 to July 26. This was the same arena the Republicans had gathered in for their convention (July 7 to July 11). In 1952, the popularity of television was on the rise with 37% of American households owning televisions and both parties recognized the rising importance of television and the impact it would have on the political process. The 1952 Democratic convention was the second political convention to be televised live, coast-to-coast (following the Republicans three weeks earlier). After carefully watching the Republican Convention, the Democrats made last-minute alterations to make its broadcast more appealing to television audiences.

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The Democratic platform for 1952 called for a strong national defense, collective security against the Soviet Union, multilateral disarmament, repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, equal employment opportunities for minorities and public assistance for the aged, children, blind, and the disabled, expansion of the school lunch program, and continued efforts to fight racial discrimination.
The 1952 Republican platform pledged to end the unpopular war in Korea, supported the development of nuclear weapons as a deterrence strategy, to fire all “the loafers, incompetents and unnecessary employees” at the State Department, condemned the Roosevelt and Truman administrations’ economic policies (Code word: SOCIALISM), supported retention of the Taft–Hartley Act, opposed “discrimination against race, religion or national origin”, supported “Federal action toward the elimination of lynching”, and pledged to bring an end to communist subversion in the United States.
z 18510_detailThe letter continues, ” Gov. Battle has a brother living in Charleston, who goes to our church, + Tom knows him quite well, + we have been in their home, so we were especially interested in what he had to say. We thought the Louisiana Governor was crying, – did you? But I’m a telling you, the more I see of the southern states vs. the northern states, the prouder I am of being a Southerner!” Virginia Governor John Battle, of whom the letter speaks, was a Delegate to the DNC in 1952. When the Virginia delegation was threatened with expulsion at the convention for refusing to sign a loyalty oath (to whomever the party nominated), Battle delivered a speech to the convention preventing their expulsion.
The letter continues: “And I believe that if anything saves this country from socialism and communism, it’s going to be the southern states! I’m sure you must have heard Gov. Dever’s keynote speech, – the best description I have ever heard of the Democratic Party, – pure socialism! And he seemed to be trimmed in a bright shade of pink! Just listen to some of the phrases they use, – they sound exactly like the “Daily Worker”, and the “hate – mongering” they are accusing the Republicans of doing! It’s all certainly very clear, – and they’re quite bold about it this year too!”

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Gov. Paul Dever on rostrum placing name of Adlai Stevenson in nomination.

Not only was Massachusetts Governor Paul Dever the keynote speaker at the convention, he also made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, polling eighth out of sixteen hopefuls before dropping out after the third ballot. Both 1952 conventions came in the middle of a four-year period of anticommunist policies and attitudes, championed by Wisconsin Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, which came to be known as McCarthyism or more colloquially as the “Red Scare”. Beginning in February of 1950, McCarthy began denouncing the Truman administration for permitting known communists to remain working in the federal government. The accusations by McCarthy put the administration on the political defensive and led Truman to seek ways in which he might prove he was not “soft on communism.”
The letter continues: “We get a kick out of what they say about Eisenhower, because for months they were beating their brains out trying to get him to be their candidate!”
As early as June of 1943, politicians began suggesting to Eisenhower that he should run for President. Ike believed that a general should not participate in politics, and often told reporters that he did not want any political job “from dogcatcher to Grand High Supreme King of the Universe”. In January 1948, after learning of plans in New Hampshire to elect delegates supporting him for the forthcoming Republican National Convention, Eisenhower stated that he was “not available for and could not accept nomination to high political office”; “life-long professional soldiers”, he wrote, “in the absence of some obvious and overriding reason, [should] abstain from seeking high political office”. Both 1948 candidates, Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey, tried to get Ike to run for their respective parties but Ike maintained no political party affiliation during this time. Many believed that Eisenhower was too old to run.

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IKE

The letter continues, “Politics is a terrible thing, but thank God we still have it! What must foreign countries think of such behavior as goes on in these conventions! Barkley certainly packed a wallop in his speech, and had the perfectly tremendous over patience, one 35 minutes, the other over 45 minutes! He surely could end up with the nomination!”
After President Harry S Truman announced that he would not seek reelection, his Vice-President Alben Barkley declared his availability to run for president while maintaining he was not actively seeking the office. Barkley’s distant cousin, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson II had not yet committed to run. When Kentucky’s delegation announced that they would support Barkley, Truman encouraged Missouri’s delegates to do the same. Hoosier DNC chairman Frank E. McKinney and former chairman James Farley also supported him. To dispel concerns about his age, failing eyesight, and heart problems,

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Harry S Truman & Alben Barkley.

Barkley arrived in Chicago for the 1952 DNC and briskly walked seven blocks from the bus station to his campaign headquarters. On July 20 a group of labor leaders, including UAW President Walter Reuther, issued a statement calling Barkley too old and suggested that Democrats nominate someone younger like Stevenson. Barkley was unable to persuade them to retract the statement, which caused delegations from large industrial states like Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania to balk on their commitments to Barkley. On July 21, Barkley withdrew from the race. Invited to make a farewell address on July 22, he received a 35-minute ovation when he took the podium and another 45-minute ovation at the speech’s end. In a show of respect, a Missouri delegate nominated Barkley for president and House Majority Leader John W. McCormack seconded it, but Stevenson was easily nominated.

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The letter continues: “Glad the steel strike is over, but I wonder if there wasn’t a bit of timing involved? So that it would come during the Democratic convention?”
The 1952 United Steelworkers of America strike against U.S. Steel and nine other steelmakers was scheduled to begin on April 9th. President Truman, after being told that supplies of ammunition in Korea were already low and that even a 10-day strike would endanger the war effort, nationalized the American steel industry hours before the workers walked out. On June 2, 1952, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the President lacked the authority to seize the steel mills. The strike lasted 53 days and ended on July 24, 1952.
The letter concludes, “It’s 11:30 AM, and I had better be going out for some “brunch,” – slept until after 10. Want to thank you all again for all the food you sent by the kids, including the secondhand olives! – And also for meeting us halfway to take Jeane on. Hope you had a pleasant drive home, – we did, – it cooled off some, + we found we had a storm when we got home. It’s very pleasant here, – in fact, I had to wear a coat last night when we went out for dinner. Expect to leave about 3 o’clock this afternoon for Ashtabula, not very far from here. Then tomorrow afternoon we go to Akron to spend Saturday + Sunday with Ed + Margaret Bruner. Monday, Tom has to go to Cleveland, and we had hoped to spend that night with Mrs. Harrison, but she is visiting in Maine so will work that out later on. Anyhow, will be home Tuesday. Heaps of love – Mary Holley.”
Much in this letter written nearly seventy years ago should sound familiar to readers of today. Seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.