Detroit Monopoly (USA)

Maker: Elmer Fisher - 1936

Dimensions of the board: 62.5 x 62.5 x 4.2 cm

Rev. Marjie Brewton from Bryant, SD, USA tells about this set:

This wooden, hand-made Monopoly game was a gift to my mother Esther Solberg when she graduated from high school in 1936. It was made for her by her uncle Elmer Fisher during the time he was confined to the tuberculosis section of the Herman Kiefer Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.

The board is of handpainted varnished plywood. All of the buildings are built to scale of what he could see out of his hospital room window! Besides the houses and hotels, he added apartment buildings and 4 skyscrapers from the Detroit skyline. The Photo Archivist of the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library could identify three of the four skyscrapers, namely:

  • The Fisher Building, from the Fisher Body Works, which is now part of General Motors Corp.
  • The Buhl Buiding, well recognizable by it's cross shape.
  • The Penobscot Building, actually having a radio tower-like structure with a red ball on top.

Above that he made one Fox Theatre (in red with FOX written in white), which is still in operation, one Hospital (white building with red roof) and 2 garages (yellow buildings with red roofs) where you can "get your flats fixed". In the match you first buy a house, then one apartment building, then a hotel and finally a skyscraper. There are 12 different colored apartment buildings, all having a black roof. It is said the apartment buildings look like the St. Eloise Mental Hospital.

Unlike in the regular Monopoly set Elmer made 20 (white) houses with different colored roofs. He also made but 4 (brown) hotels all having a red roof.

The garages, theatre and skyscrapers can only be built on 4 properties: Joseph Campeau Ave. (1st side), Dexter Blvd. (2nd side), Grand River Ave. (3rd side) and Woodward Ave. (4th side). The Woodward Ave. card, for example, reads as follows:

Cost $400
Rent $50
With Garage $600
With Theatre $1700
With Skyscraper $2300
Garage Costs $400
Theatre Costs $400 + 1 Garage
Skyscraper costs $400 + 1 Theatre

He made all the property cards (dim.: 70 x 75 mm) with a typewriter and oil paint. The Chance and Grab Bag cards are typed with hand drawn edgings of red and blue ink. (He changed Community Chest into Grab Bag, perhaps to protect himself from copyright laws?) Since there are skyscrapers and one would need more money, the one dollar bills of a regular Monopoly set have "thousand" typed on them. Also he made it $ 300 as you pass Go.

As a child, my brothers and I played with this as it was the only game we had … Meanwhile I've built a padded carrying case for the board, bankers tray and all the pieces.

Elmer turned out to create more deviations in the design of his Detroit game, compared to in those days recently introduced Parker Brothers Monopoly. The most striking is the fact that there are 12 spaces on each side instead of 10. They are:

GO - Brush St. - Grab-Bag - Beaubien St. - Brewster St. Settlements - Jos. Campau Ave. - D.T. & I. R. R. - Chene St. - Chance - Clay Ave. - Telephone Co. - Casmer St. - IN JAIL/ JUST VISITING - Drexel Ave. - Light Co. - Lenox Ave. - Field Ave. - Gray Ave. - Pere Marquette R.R. - Joy Road - Grab-Bag - Euclid Ave. - Dexter Blvd. - Seward Ave. - QUIET/HOSPITAL ZONE - Seminole Ave. - Chance - Iroquois Ave. - Van Dyke Ave. - Burns Ave. - Grand Trunk R.R. - Chicago Blvd. - Grand River Ave. - Boston Blvd. - Water Works - LaSalle Gardens - FREE PARKING LOT - Outer Drive - East Jefferson Ave. - Fisher Road - Grab-Bag - Merriweather Road - Michigan Central R.R. - Woodward Ave. - Chance - Bloomfield Hills - Checker Cab Co. and Palmer Woods.

    A look on the gameboard tells us that:
  • There is no name of the game mentioned on the centre-field.
  • The Grab-Bag and Chance fields are situated near the 2nd and 4th corner.
  • The 4 Railroad stations are situated on the seventh place of each side and the space shows the rail instead of a locomotive. The railroads are all Michigan State rail lines.
  • There is a real rascal in Jail.
  • There are 4 utilities! Electric Company is here Light Co. and Water Works also here is situated 2 spaces ahead the 4th corner. But there is a taxi company Checker Cab Co. operating on both the other sides as well. On the concerning spaces Elmer painted a very detailed T-Ford with spare tire on the back and a Michigan license plate # 123 - 36 (US mark for 1936). On top of the car is the cab number 99 and through the back window there are 2 people kissing each other.
  • On the Free Parking space is now Quiet/Hospital Zone.
  • There is a Free Parking, however it is situated on the 4th corner. Note that there is no referral to the Jail. The only way one can get put in jail is to be unfortunate enough to draw the Chance or Grab-Bag card that orders you there.

There are 5 tokens, resp.: 3 Scottie dogs (on a yellow, white and red base), an elephant and a donkey. That are all animals made of ivory mounted with a small nail to a little piece of wood as a base.

There is a wood bankerstray (dim.: 55.2 x 22.9 cm) as well, containing 7 places for the banknotes, 4 compartments for the buildings and cards and a section divided by tin dividers into 12 smaller sections for each of the various colours of property cards. The dice are also made of ivory, yellowed by age, with black pips.

With this set is a copy of regular rules for the game, and beyond that the instructions are on the property cards.