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Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Behind Tarzan

March 3, 2015


Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois to Mary Evaline (Zieger) and Major George Tyler Burroughs a businessman and Civil War veteran. During his childhood he went to several schools and in 1891 he spent six months at his brotherís home on the Raft River in Idaho during the Chicago influenza outbreak. After that he went to the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then graduated from the Michigan Military Academy in 1895. Burroughs failed the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy (West Point) so he enlisted into the military. He was diagnosed with a heart problem making him ineligible to serve and he was discharged in 1897.

Following his discharged from the military he worked in several jobs, including on a ranch in Idaho and in his fatherís firm in 1899. He married his childhood love Emma Hulbert in January 1900 and by 1913 they had three children: Joan, Hulbert, and John. In 1911 he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler spending a lot of his spare time reading pulp fiction magazines, leading him to begin writing fiction. His first story Under the Moons of Mars which created the Barsoom series, was serialized by Frank Munsey in 1912 in The All-Story. Burroughs became a full time writer completing two novels, including Tarzan of the Apes. Under the Moons of Mars was first published as a book entitled A Princess of Mars in 1917 by A.C. McClurg. After three Barsoom sequels were published as serials McClurg published the first four serial Tarzan novels as books.

The character was a phenomenon from the start.

Burroughs wanted to integrate Tarzan into every popular medium, including comic strips, movies, and merchandise along with serials and books. Some experts told him not to seek this course of action as the different mediums would compete with each other. He proved them wrong turning Tarzan into a sensation who remains a cultural favorite to this day. In 1923 he created his own company Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and started printing his own books throughout the 1930s. Burroughs was living in Hawaii in his late 60s when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Even though he was of advancing age he applied for and became a war correspondent, making him one of the oldest in the US during World War II. He moved to Encino, California after the war ended and died of a heart attack in 1950. During his lifetime he wrote almost 80 novels many starring Tarzan.




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