Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Edgar Rice Burroughs! (1875 - 1950)

Today is the birth date of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the prolific creator of Tarzan and many other dashing adventure heroes. Born in Chicago, growing up he attended mainly military schools and served as an enlisted soldier in the 7th Cavalry, at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory before being discharged for having a heart ailment.

After years at a string of odd jobs, he finally began writing for the pulps when he reasoned (accurately) that he could probably create as good a story as the pulp writers he was reading. Tarzan of the Apes, one of his first two novels, was published in 1912. The rest, as they say, is history.

During WWII, Burroughs, in his sixties and living in Hawaii, became one of the oldest war correspondents serving his country.

I've only one of the Tarzan books on my shelves, THE RETURN OF TARZAN - a beat-up, hardcover copy I was lucky enough to find in an old junk shop, minus the dust jacket. It's the only Tarzan book I've ever read, but I was always familiar with the Tarzan character, of course, from the many movies I've watched since I was a kid.

Edgar Rice Burroughs may be the only author who has had 2 towns named after his famous fictional character: Tarzana, California and Tarzan, Texas. He's famous in outer space, too, a crater on Mars is named the Burroughs Crater.

Herman Brix aka Bruce Bennett.

 I think I've seen just about every Tarzan film ever made at least once. (Well, except for the silent versions.) I've even seen the movie starring Herman Brix aka Bruce Bennett as Tarzan. He was pretty good.

My all time favorite Tarzan though, is/was Johnny Weismuller even if he was not the Tarzan envisioned in the books. Weissmuller's Tarzan was certainly not Lord Greystoke. But he more than looked the part otherwise and his image is engraved on my movie-loving heart.

To learn more about Edgar Rice Burroughs and his many series of books, please go here to his Wikipedia page. And there is also an Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Website. And just for the fun of it, Tarzan  himself, has a website.

Some early Tarzan book covers, artwork and movie posters:

Art by Studley Oldham Burroughs.

Art by Allen St. John.

Art by Allen St. John.

Art by Allen St. John.

Art by Armstrong Perry.

Art by Frank Frazetta.

Tarzan meets his creator.


  1. Hello Yvette:
    Although familiar with the Tarzan [and Jane, of course!!] films, we have never read a single Tarzan book between us. Johnny Weismuller was our favourite too.

  2. Jane and Lance: I think I'm the only person I've ever met who's read one. :)

    Though there are plenty of Burroughs fans around who grew up reading his many adventure stories, including the ones set on Mars and in the middle of the earth.

  3. I enjoyed looking at these old covers.

    I read once that James Fenimore Cooper started writing much the same way that Burroughs did. The story goes that he was so disgusted with a novel that he threw it into the fireplace, saying, "I could write better than this!" His wife dared him to follow up on his words and the result was The Last of the Mohicans.

  4. ERB was that rare and prolific writer of fiction who wrote in many genres; in the main jungle adventures including Tarzan, western, science fiction, and historical. All his literary works came out in the backdrop of WWI, The Great Depression and WWII and just might have served as a diversion from the real-life horrors unfolding around him. I rarely come across secondhand books of ERB in India but at least I can read his novels online.

    Johnny Weismuller and Christopher Reeve essayed the roles of Tarzan and Superman to near perfection. It will be tough for other actors to dethrone either.

  5. Mark: I like that story re: Cooper. I am a big fan of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Though many people poo-poo the book now, I don't.

    I wonder how many of these author stories are apocryphal. :)

  6. Prashant: Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    Yes, Burroughs was a very prolicic writer of adventure stories that took the reader's mind off the troubles of the times. Not a bad thing for an author to do.

    It's good that you can read them online.

  7. Lovely collection of covers!

    I agree, Johnny Weismuller is the real Tarzon.

  8. I've actually never read a Tarzan book or seen one of the films. Bad Lauren!

  9. Well take yourself off to Netflix, this instant, Lauren.

    Watch: TARZAN THE APE MAN with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. Then watch TARZAN AND HIS MATE.

    You will then be allowed into the Johnny Weissmuller Club. HA!

  10. Yvette, this got right past me! I love Burroughs and his works, and enjoy finding things about the man himself. You have posted some of the best photos and artwork in this article, and it's just beautiful.

  11. Sadly I've never read any of the books. I've always wanted too, but never got around to it. I can't even tell you the last time I watched a Tarzan movie. I'm such a slacker.

  12. Becky: Thanks so much! It was a fun post to put together. Soon as I realized it was Burroughs' birthday, I knew I had to put something special together.

    I am such a Tarzan nut. :)

  13. Ryan: You? A slacker? I think not.

    I've only ever read one in my whole life. That hardly counts for much. :)

    But I do watch one or the other of the early Tarzan films at least once a year. :)


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