On the 31st December 1935, the board game Monopoly was patented. Although the patent for the game was awarded to Charles B. Darrow, a Philadelphia heating salesman who had lost his job during the Great Depression, it’s now widely recognised that he was just one of many people who developed the complex design and rules that we now know as Monopoly.

As early as 1902 an Illinois-born writer and engineer called Elizabeth Magie created a board game called The Landlord’s Game which bears striking similarities to Monopoly. She patented this game in 1904 and approached Parker Brothers with the idea in around 1910. Although they declined to publish it, her self-produced copies became popular with Quakers, university students, and members of the public who supported Georgist economics.

Magie, by now married and with the new name Phillips, re-patented an updated version in 1924 and was again turned down by Parker Brothers. However, the updated version spread widely through word-of-mouth, with Charles Darrow’s wife eventually learning it. Darrow began to distribute his own version of the game, and in October 1934 was himself rejected by Parker Brothers who found the game “too complicated, too technical, [and] took too long to play.” However, successful Christmas sales led Parker Brothers to reverse their decision and the game from Darrow in March 1935. Before the end of the year they learnt that he was not the sole inventor, but pressed ahead with the purchase and helped him secure a patent, while they bought up the patents to similar games – including The Landlord’s Game – to ensure that they had definitive ownership of the idea.

The Exorcist is one of the highest-grossing films of all time, but originally opened in just twenty-six American cinemas. Famed for its ground-breaking special effects, the film terrified audiences yet was nominated for ten Academy Awards of which it won two.

The film, directed by William Friedkin who had previously had success with The French Connection, was adapted from William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name. This was itself inspired by reports of the real-life exorcism of an anonymous boy known by the pseudonym Roland Doe that emerged in the late 1940s. Blatty described his novel as ‘an apostolic work’ that sought to prove that if supernatural evil existed then so too must supernatural good.

These themes came through in Friedkin’s film, but for many audience members it was the sight of the twelve year-old Regan’s spinning head, levitation, vomiting and other extreme behaviour that proved most shocking and most memorable. With newspapers reporting cases of people fainting at screenings, The Exorcist quickly became a social phenomenon.

The film went on to sell 6 million tickets within just three months of its release in the United States despite a mixed response from the critics. While Variety praised its “expert telling of a supernatural horror story”, the New York Times criticised it as “a chunk of elegant occultist claptrap”.

Such negative responses failed to affect the film’s success, however. The Exorcist was the second most popular film of 1974 and, once gross earnings are adjusted for inflation, remains the ninth highest-grossing film of all time.

On the 21st December 1913, the first modern crossword puzzle was printed in the New York World newspaper. Created by British-born journalist Arthur Wynne, his diamond-shaped puzzle was originally called a ‘word-cross puzzle’, but due to a typesetting error the name was accidentally changed to a ‘cross-word puzzle’ and the name stuck.

Although examples of crossword-like puzzles had begun appearing in the mid-19th Century, Wynne was the first to include various features that we associate with modern crosswords such as a box for entering each letter and a symmetrical design. His first ‘word-cross’ was actually shaped as a symmetrical diamond with a hollow centre, but he soon went on to design other versions. Wynne was even the first to incorporate shaded black squares to allow the creation – and separation – of rows and columns of words that allowed more and more complex designs to be created.

Surprisingly, the ‘word-cross’ was just one of a number of puzzles developed by Wynne for the 21st December issue of the New York World’s ‘Fun’ supplement. However it caused a sensation and, before long, crossword puzzles had spread beyond the New York World to other newspapers in America and beyond. Within less than a decade they had begun to appear in comic strips such as Clare Briggs’ cartoon ‘Movie of a Man Doing the Cross-Word Puzzle’, and in 1924 the first collection of crossword puzzles was published by Simon and Schuster. This is also the same year that the first crossword appeared in a British newspaper, when the Sunday Express printed an adapted Wynne puzzle in November 1924.

Regular visitors may remember that earlier this week I released a podcast about the release of the the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the 6th December 1768. As with all episodes of HistoryPod, I researched this thoroughly and cross-referenced the date against as many sources as I could to ensure reliability.

In the evening of the 6th December I received a message from the editors of Britannica themselves. They thanked me for including the Encyclopaedia in an episode, but also included a correction – Britannica’s was first published not on the 6th December but the 10th. Based on my research, the date of the 6th appears to have come from an advert in an Edinburgh broadsheet newspaper on that day for the new Encyclopaedia. However, in the message from Britannica they revealed that they have only recently determined that the first edition was actually published on the 10th.

Consequently I’m releasing this brief correction to recognise the work of Britannica in confirming the real publishing date, and to ensure that HistoryPod remains an up-to-date and accurate record of significant events from our past. In case you missed it, here’s the story.


Officially titled Encyclopædia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, compiled upon a New Plan, the Britannica was published in three volumes over a three year period. A key part of the Scottish Enlightenment, the Britannica was founded by Edinburgh printers Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell although it was published under the pseudonym “A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland” to reflect the numerous people involved in its production.

Although considerably shorter than the 17-volume French Encyclopédie that inspired it, the Britannica was notable for its “new plan” that saw related topics on major themes grouped together into a single “treatise”. More than forty treatises on topics ranging from surgery to watch and clockwork were inserted in alphabetical order alongside shorter articles and technical definitions. This meant that the Britannica could be used for both quick reference and more comprehensive study.

Edited by 28-year old William Smellie, the first edition was released in weekly instalments known as “numbers” that were later bound into volumes. These included 160 copperplate engravings by Andrew Bell and stretched over 2,500 double-columned pages. An estimated 3,000 copies of the first edition were sold, with the completed set being reprinted twice before work on a second edition began in 1776.

Having gone through fifteen editions that grew to 32 volumes, the last printed version of the Britannica was released in 2010. It is now exclusively distributed through digital mediums including a subscription-based website.

On the 9th December 1965, American television network CBS first broadcast the animated cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now a staple of American Christmas television, the cartoon was originally financed by the Coca-Cola Company as a vehicle for Christmas advertising and was created in just six months.

By the mid-1960s, the Peanuts comic strip by American cartoonist Charles M. Schultz had become an international phenomenon. Ideas for an animated special had already been proposed, but it wasn’t until the influential Time magazine featured the Peanuts gang on the cover that sponsorship for the special was secured. Coca-Cola put up the money based on a simple pitch of “winter scenes, a school play, a scene to be read from the Bible, and a sound track combining jazz and traditional music.”

The creators took, at the time, a number of risks with the special. As well as exclusively casting children to voice the characters, Schultz opted for an unconventional jazz music soundtrack and refused to have a laugh track to accompany the animation. Combined with the necessarily simple animation and relatively slow pace, network executives expressed reservations about whether the special was even worthy of being shown.

However, having been completed just ten days before its network premiere the executives didn’t have much choice. They needn’t have worried, with popular and critical responses to the cartoon being universally positive. A Charlie Brown Christmas went on to win both a Peabody Award and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program, but more importantly captured the imaginations of the 16 million people who tuned in to watch it that evening.

Theatre in England had been banned by the Puritan Long Parliament in 1642 but, following the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, the ban was lifted. The king marked the revival of theatre by granting the dramatists Sir Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant a monopoly on theatre performances.

On 8 December 1660 Killigrew’s new King’s Company staged a production of William Shakespeare’s Othello at the Vere Street theatre in Lincoln’s Inn. Female roles had previously been played by boys or young men, but this particular performance is known for being the first professional production to feature a woman in the cast.

This date is well recorded but, considering the revolutionary nature of this performance, it is somewhat surprising that the identity of the actress herself is not known with any certainty. The majority of commentators believe that the role of Desdemona was played by Margaret Hughes, who went on to become an accomplished stage performer during the Reformation and the mistress of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. However, new evidence unearthed by the British Library in London suggests that it may actually have been Anne Marshall, a similarly well-regarded actress, who took to the stage that night.

Prior to the performance, a prologue composed by the actor and poet Thomas Jordan warned audience members that Desdemona would be played by an actual woman. Contrary to the commonly held view that actresses were equivalent to prostitutes, this prologue said she was “as far from being what you call a Whore, As Desdemona injur’d by the Moor”.

The Damned had released what is recognised as the first ever punk single a month earlier. “New Rose” may have been the first single by a punk band, but numerous groups had already built a sizeable following through chaotic live shows that arguably culminated in the Sex Pistols’ own performance at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976.

The Sex Pistols were signed to the EMI record label on 8 October and soon entered the studio to record their debut single which they did less than two weeks later on 17 October. Chris Thomas, who had previously worked with such influential bands as The Beatles and Pink Floyd, agreed to produce the single, which sent shockwaves through the recording industry.

In sharp contrast to the traditional rock n roll lyrics of “New Rose”, “Anarchy in the UK” was rooted in the anger and nihilism of the early British punk movement from its opening line. It reached number 38 on the UK charts, but this fails to reflect the impact that the record had on the country.

Less than a week later the band appeared on the Today programme broadcast on Thames Television in London. The host, Bill Grundy, later claimed that he and the band were all drunk when he invited them to ‘say something outrageous’ in the closing seconds of the show. Guitarist Steve Jones responded by calling the host a range of names littered with profanities. The band’s appearance was splashed over the national newspapers the next day, bringing both the band and the punk movement to national attention. Within a few weeks EMI ended the band’s contract.

On the 23rd November 1963, the first ever episode of cult science fiction television show Doctor Who was broadcast by the BBC. Called An Unearthly Child, the episode was the first of a four-part serial that saw actor William Hartnell take the role of the time-travelling Doctor – a character he played for three years. The show was greeted with a generally positive reception, even though its launch was affected by a power cut in parts of the country as well as being significantly overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous day.

Doctor Who was originally conceived to bridge the gap in the Saturday evening television schedule between the adult-oriented sports program Grandstand and the more teenage-focused music quiz Jukebox Jury. The idea of a time-traveling science fiction series appealed to Sydney Newman, the BBC’s new Head of Drama, who came up with the idea of a time machine that was bigger on the inside along with creating the mysterious character of “the Doctor”.

Produced by Verity Lambert and directed by Waris Hussein, An Unearthly Child was taped ‘as live’ on the 27th September. However Newman was unhappy with many elements such as technical problems and performance errors including fluffed lines, so a second version was taped on the 18th October.

The overshadowing of the episode’s first broadcast by the Kennedy assassination led to it being repeated directly before the second episode the following week which saw increased viewing figures. Popularity skyrocketed with the second serial – The Daleks – a storyline that was initially rejected due to it featuring so-called “bug-eyed monsters”.

On the 21st November 1877, American inventor Thomas Edison announced his phonograph, the world’s first practical machine that could record and play sound using a cylinder. Although Frenchman Charles Cros presented plans for a sound recording and reproduction machine called a paleophone earlier that year, the machine was never actually built. Edison made the first demonstration of his phonograph on the 29th November and patented it the following February. Within two decades it had spawned an entire industry built around the recording, distribution and sale of sound recordings.

Edison’s original phonograph was developed as a result of experiments that aimed to record telegraph messages. He had worked with diaphragms during his work developing the carbon microphone for telephones, and was aware that if you could inscribe the movements of the diaphragm he could effectively ‘record’ sound.

His first recording medium was a grooved cylinder covered with tin foil. As the cylinder rotated, an arm attached to a diaphragm would make an indentation of the movement into the tin foil. The arm moved up and down the cylinder, embossing the recording. By adjusting the machine, the arm could then be used to play back the recorded sound through a horn. The first machine was hand-cranked, but it worked well enough to impress everyone who heard it. Within six months he had demonstrated it to scientists and representatives of the government in Washington DC.

Although heralded as a ‘genius’ by the Washington Post, Edison did very little with his invention. Within a few years, however, other inventors developed engraved wax cylinders and – later – flat disks to record sound.

German pop duo Milli Vanilli were stripped of the Grammy Award for Best New Artist after it emerged that they did not sing any of the vocals on their debut album.

Milli Vanilli was founded by German record producer and songwriter Frank Farian in 1988. He had previously created the disco-pop group Boney M., for whom he provided all the male recorded vocals. This was despite another man, Bobby Farrell, being the male ‘face’ of the band during live performances.

In the late 1980s Farian began to record a number of songs for a new album, using session musicians and vocalists. Having decided that the vocalists did not have a marketable image, Farian recruited two good-looking male dancers to lip-sync to the tracks. Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan later claimed that they were “trapped” by the contract they had signed with Farian.

The group’s debut album, All or Nothing, was released in Europe in November 1988 and was followed by an American release, Girl You Know It’s True, four months later. Unlike the European release the American packaging explicitly stated that Morven and Pilatus were the vocalists. During a live performance for MTV that summer, however, the public witnessed a key sign of lip-syncing when the backing track began to skip and repeat part of a vocal line over and over again.

In December one of the vocalists on the recordings, Charles Shaw, revealed his involvement to a reporter. Despite a rumoured $150,000 payment by Farian to retract the claim, rumours about lip-syncing only continued. On 12 November 1990 Farian finally admitted that Morvan and Pilatus did not sing Milli Vanilli’s songs. Just four days later the group’s Grammy Award was withdrawn.