Who is the rich New Yorker the Monopoly Man is based on?

At first glance, the board game Monopoly doesn’t seem like it has a New York City connection. The man who sold it to Parker Brothers in 1935 was from Philadelphia, and the board features properties in Atlantic City.

J.P. Morgan

Then there’s that mustached man long dubbed “the Monopoly Man” or “Mr. Monopoly.” He appears on the Chance and Community Chest cards, always in a Depression-era suit with a bowtie and top hat.

But the Monopoly Man isn’t just a board game invention—this iconic character (who has an actual name, Rich Uncle Pennybags) is supposedly based on the image of an actual New Yorker.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

So who is he? Apparently he’s modeled after banker J.P. Morgan. Morgan’s company financed some of the Gilded Age’s biggest corporations. He consolidated railroads, helped rescue the gold standard, and helped stabilize financial markets during the Panic of 1907, according to History.com. His former mansion on Madison Avenue is now the Morgan Library.

Phil Orbanes, a former VP at Parker Brothers and author of The Monopoly Companion, confirmed in this interview that the artist who drew Mr. Monopoly based him on J.P. Morgan.

Otto Kahn

On the other hand, a site called monopolyland raises the possibility that Mr. Pennybags is based on Otto Kahn, a German-born financier with a mansion on Fifth Avenue who died in 1934, close to the release date of Monopoly. (Morgan died in 1913.) Kahn also wore a top hat and had the requisite mustache.

They both certainly look like Uncle Pennybags. A composite perhaps?

[Top image: Biography.com; second image: pixy.org; third image: Wikipedia]

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9 Responses to “Who is the rich New Yorker the Monopoly Man is based on?”

  1. mkeit Says:

    Otto Kahn not Khan

  2. countrypaul Says:

    Composite or just stereotype, perhaps. Still, Morgan did a lot for America so maybe it’s a tribute to him. I’m sure Kahn did his share, too, but isn’t as well known any longer.

  3. Ricky Says:

    I styled a bridal photoshoot in the Kahn House/Sacred Heart School in the 1980s. It is a beautiful building with lots of great decorative work.

  4. Moskovitz Herb Says:

    You.call him Moneybags and Pennybags. Which is it?

  5. ironrailsironweights Says:

    Having just looked at many photos of both men I’d say Otto Kahn has a stronger resemblance.

    Peter

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