Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Born (1875-09-01)September 1, 1875
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 19, 1950(1950-03-19) (aged 74)
Encino, California, U.S.
Resting place Tarzana, California, U.S.
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1911–50
Genres Adventure novel, fantasy, lost world, sword and planet, planetary romance, soft science fiction, Western
Notable work(s)


Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950) was an American writer, best known for his creations of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.

Early life[edit]

Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875, in Chicago, Illinois (he later lived for many years in the suburb of Oak Park), the fourth son of businessman and Civil War veteran Major George Tyler Burroughs (1833–1913) and his wife Mary Evaline (Zieger) Burroughs (1840–1920). His middle name is from his paternal grandmother, Mary Rice Burroughs (1802–ca. 70).[1][2][3]

Burroughs was educated at a number of local schools, and during the Chicago influenza epidemic in 1891, he spent a half year at his brother's ranch on the Raft River in Idaho. He then attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, and failing the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy (West Point), he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus ineligible to serve, he was discharged in 1897.[4]

Bookplate of Edgar Rice Burroughs showing Tarzan holding the planet Mars, surrounded by other characters from Burroughs's stories and symbols relating to his personal interests and career
Typsescript letter, with Tarzana Ranch letterhead, from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Ruthven Deane, explaining the design and significance of his bookplate.

Some seemingly unrelated short jobs followed. Some drifting and ranch work followed in Idaho. Then, Burroughs found work at his father's firm in 1899. He married childhood sweetheart Emma Hulbert (1876-1944) in January 1900. In 1904 he left his job and found less regular work; some in Idaho, later in Chicago.[5]

By 1911, after seven years of low wages, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler and began to write fiction. By this time, Burroughs and Emma had two children, Joan (1908–72), who would later marry Tarzan film actor James Pierce, and Hulbert (1909–91).[6] During this period, he had copious spare time and he began reading many pulp fiction magazines. In 1929 he recalled thinking that

...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.[7]


Aiming his work at the pulps, Burroughs had his first story, Under the Moons of Mars, serialized by Frank Munsey in the February to July 1912 issues of The All-Story[8][9][10] —under the name "Norman Bean" to protect his reputation.[10][a] Under the Moons of Mars inaugurated the Barsoom series and earned Burroughs US$400 ($9,775 today). It was first published as a book by A. C. McClurg of Chicago in 1917, entitled A Princess of Mars, after three Barsoom sequels had appeared as serials, and McClurg had published the first four serial Tarzan novels as books.[8]

Burroughs soon took up writing full-time and by the time the run of Under the Moons of Mars had finished he had completed two novels, including Tarzan of the Apes, published from October 1912 and one of his most successful series. In 1913, Burroughs and Emma had their third and last child, John Coleman Burroughs (1913–79).[citation needed]

Burroughs also wrote 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.

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.

In either 1915 or 1919, 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.[11] Also, the unincorporated community of Tarzan, Texas, was formally named in 1927 when the US Postal Service accepted the name,[12] reputedly coming from the popularity of the first (silent) Tarzan of the Apes film, starring Elmo Lincoln, and an 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.

Personal life[edit]

Burroughs divorced Emma in 1934 and married the former actress Florence Gilbert Dearholt in 1935, the former wife of his friend, Ashton Dearholt, adopting the Dearholts' two children. They divorced in 1942.[13]

Burroughs was in his late 60s and a resident of Hawaii at the time of attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite his age he applied for and received permission to become a war correspondent, becoming one of the oldest U.S. war correspondents during World War II, and is mentioned in William Brinkley's novel Don't Go Near the Water.

American film director Wes Anderson is Burroughs' great-grandson.[14]

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Burroughs in 2003.[15][16]


After the war ended, Burroughs moved back to Encino, California, where, after many health problems, he died of a heart attack on March 19, 1950, having written almost 80 novels.[17]

Selected works[edit]

Barsoom series[edit]

Main article: Barsoom

Tarzan series[edit]

Main article: Tarzan

Pellucidar series[edit]

Main article: Pellucidar

Venus series[edit]

Main article: Venus series

Caspak series[edit]

Moon series[edit]

  • The Moon Maid (1926; The Moon Men)
    • Part I: The Moon Maid
    • Part II: The Moon Men
    • Part III: The Red Hawk

These three texts have been published by various houses in one or two volumes. Adding to the confusion, some editions have the original (significantly longer) introduction to Part I from the first publication as a magazine serial, and others have the shorter version from the first book publication, which included all three parts under the title The Moon Maid.[18]

Mucker series[edit]

Other science fiction[edit]

Jungle adventure novels[edit]

Western novels[edit]

Historical novels[edit]

Other works[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Burroughs is mentioned in the classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird in the first chapter: "Routine contentment was: improving our treehouse that rested between giant twin chinaberry trees in the back yard, fussing, running through our list of dramas based on the works of Oliver Optic, Victor Appleton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs."
  • In Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven, several different fictional Martian races appear, including a people who are a combination of the Red Martians of Edgar Rice Burroughs and those by Ray Bradbury, and another who are unmistakably Burroughs' big fierce Green Martians.
  • Season 1, Episode 35 of Disney's The Legend of Tarzan animated series, "Tarzan and the Mysterious Visitor", illustrates Burroughs as a struggling writer who travels to Africa after learning about Tarzan in the hopes of getting inspiration for a new novel. (The real Burroughs never set foot in Africa.) The character is only referred to as "Ed" throughout the episode and his true identity is not revealed until his name is shown on his book.
  • Marvel Comics' Excalibur, created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis, paid a tribute to the John Carter stories in issue #16 and 17. The story was billed on the cover of issue #16 as "Kurt Wagner, Warlord of ?" The series added a further tribute with issue #60 and the story "Braddock of the Jungle".
  • In Frank Frazetta's Creatures published by the Frazetta Comics imprint at Image Burroughs appears as a member of a group of supernatural investigators led by former US president Theodore Roosevelt.
  • In Rocky II, Rocky reads "The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County" to Adrian while she is in a coma.
  • In Richard Bachman's short story "The Long Walk" the character named Olson introduces himself to Gary Barkovitch and says, "I'm John Carter... My home is Barsoom, Mars."
  • In the TV series ER, the character played by Noah Wyle is usually called simply Carter, but his full name is John Carter. The creator of ER and Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, has cited the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs as an early influence, thus this homage.[citation needed]
  • In the TV series Babylon 5, a character in season 2 named Amanda Carter — a Martian citizen and advocate of Mars' independence from Earth — is revealed to have had a grandfather named John who was a pioneer colonist on Mars. This has been confirmed by the series creator J. Michael Straczynski as a reference made by the episode writer Larry DiTillio to John Carter of Mars.[19]
  • In the 2012 Disney film John Carter, Daryl Sabara portrays Burroughs as a young man. In the film (as in the book), Edgar is the nephew and sole heir of John Carter, and receives Carter's belongings (including a journal of his adventures on Mars) after Carter's "death".
  • In Johnathan Littell's book, The Kindly Ones, the main protagonist, Dr. Max Aue, references some of Burrough's works when recollecting his childhood. Later he uses some of Burrough's themes in a letter to Heinrich Himmler as possible ideas for post-war Germany.

Books on Edgar Rice Burroughs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ One poem by Burroughs had been published October 15, 1910, in The Chicago Tribune as "by Normal Bean" and the Tribune published two more in 1914 and 1915.[8] "Norman" was an All-Story typesetter's presumptive correction of "Normal".[10] He used his own name otherwise.[8]


  1. ^ Descendants of Edmund Rice: The First Nine Generations, Edmund Rice (1638) Association, 2010 .
  2. ^ "Edmund Rice Six-Generation Database Online". Edmund Rice (1638) Association. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  3. ^ Schneider, Jerry L (2004), The Ancestry of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Google Books), ERBville, ISBN 978-1-4357-4972-6 , 296 pp.
  4. ^ Slotkin, Richard (1998). Gunfighter Nation. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-8061-3031-8. 
  5. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 34.
  6. ^ Holtsmark 1986, p. 5.
  7. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice (October 27, 1929). "How I Wrote the Tarzan Stories". The Washington Post, The New York World (Sunday supplement). ERBZine.com. 
  8. ^ a b c d Edgar Rice Burroughs at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved April 8, 2013. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  9. ^ "A Virtual Visit to The Nell Dismukes McWhorter Memorial Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection", ERBzine 4 (19) , with photographs.
  10. ^ a b c Robinson, Frank M, "The Story Behind the Original All-Story", American Zoetrope 4 (1), retrieved April 8, 2013 .
  11. ^ Tarzana Community Profile (PDF), US: NOAA, retrieved July 4, 2012 .
  12. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 9–10.
  13. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 12–13.
  14. ^ Wells, Jeffrey (November 7, 1993). "Lost in Filmland? These Guys Sure Found The Way". The Los Angeles Times. 
  15. ^ "Burroughs, Edgar Rice". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  16. ^ Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (official website of the hall of fame to 2004), Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, retrieved 2013-03-22 .
  17. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 13–15.
  18. ^ ERBzine .
  19. ^ Straczynski, J Michael (1994), "Posting", rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, Usenet, retrieved August 23, 2007 .


  • Holtsmark, Erling B (1986), Edgar Rice Burroughs, Boston: Twain, ISBN 0-8057-7459-9 

External links[edit]