Edgar Rice Burroughs


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Despite writing almost 80 novels in various genres, Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known as a pioneer of Science Fiction with his most famous works being the Tarzan series and the John Carter series. At the age of 36, his first publication, under the pen name of Norman Bean, was Under the Moons of Mars that was run as a serial from February 1912 to July 1912 in issues of The All-Story magazine.

Burroughs was born on September 1st, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. As a young man he had tried and failed due to health reasons to enlist at West Point Academy for a military career; Burroughs was diagnosed with a heart problem and thus ineligible to serve, and was discharged in 1897. After this, Burroughs worked a number of different jobs. He drifted and worked on a ranch in Idaho. Then, Burroughs found work at his father’s firm in 1899. In 1904, he left his job and worked less regularly, first in Idaho, then in his native Chicago.

By 1911, after seven years of low wages, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler and began to write fiction. Burroughs had read vast amounts of pulp fiction magazines and was amazed that “people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten.” Without any training or experience, Burroughs began work on his first story that would be published the following year. Under the Moons of Mars series was later published as a novel in 1917 under the title A Princess of Mars, but October 1912 saw the publication of his first novel, Tarzan of the Apes.


Burroughs’s most famous character.

Tarzan was a cultural sensation when introduced. Burroughs was determined to capitalize on Tarzan’s popularity in every way possible. He planned to exploit Tarzan through several different media including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies and merchandise. Experts in the field advised against this course of action, stating that the different media would just end up competing against each other. Burroughs went ahead, however, and proved the experts wrong — the public wanted Tarzan in whatever fashion he was offered. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon.

Burroughs continued to write popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving Earthly adventurers transported to various planets (notably Barsoom, Burroughs’s fictional name for Mars, and Amtor, his fictional name for Venus), lost islands, and into the interior of the hollow earth in his Pellucidar stories, as well as westerns and historical romances. Along with All-Story, many of his stories were published in The Argosy magazine.

From the John Carter series

From the John Carter series

Around 1915 or later, Burroughs purchased a large ranch north of Los Angeles, California, which he named “Tarzana.” The citizens of the community that sprang up around the ranch voted to adopt that name when their community, Tarzana, California was formed in 1927. Also, the unincorporated community of Tarzan, Texas, was formally named in 1927 when the US Postal Service accepted the name, reputedly coming from the popularity of the first (silent) Tarzan of the Apes film, starring Elmo Lincoln, and the early “Tarzan” comic strip. In 1923 Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and began printing his own books through the 1930s.

In his late 60’s Burroughs resided on Hawaii, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he requested to become an official war correspondent becoming on of the oldest U.S. war correspondents during World War II. After the war ended, Burroughs moved back to Encino, California, where, after many health problems, he died of a heart attack on March 19th, 1950.

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