Get out of jail free: how the WWII Allies used the game Monopoly to help POWs escape

Most of us think of Monopoly as a board game. Intellectual Property folk also think of it as a source of IP issues: trademarks in the name, trade dress of the game, copyright, and even patents. But how about this: a POW escape kit?

Megan Garber writes in the Atlantic about how the WWII Allies used the board game Monopoly to help POWs escape. Turns out that the U.K. manufacturer and licensee of Monopoly, Waddington, had perfected a method of printing on silk, which is in turn an extremely useful way of making maps that can be easily hidden and which make no noise when pocketed or used. (Again patent issues in the method of making the silk!)

The games/escape kits were sent via fake charities:

Posing as “charities” . . ., [the Allies] sent packages to their POWs that featured clandestine escape kits — kits that included tools like compasses, metal files, money, and, most importantly, maps.

And: They disguised those kits as Monopoly games. The compasses and files? Both disguised as playing pieces. The money, in the form of French, German, and Italian bank notes? Hidden below the Monopoly money. The maps? Concealed within the board itself. “The game was too innocent to raise suspicion,” ABC News’s Ki Mae Heussner put it — but “it was the ideal size for a top-secret escape kit.”

As someone who grew up watching Hogan’s Heroes and movies such as The Great Escape, this is fascinating stuff. Although numerous maps were made and helped prisoners to escape, unfortunately, none of the Monopoly escape kits remain.

For more info, see the story Garber links to at ABC News.

Cross-posted at Infoglut Tumblr.

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