This Day In Literary History
On September 1st, 1875, the legendary American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, Illinois. As a young boy, he attended several different schools. In 1891, when he was a teenager, an influenza epidemic swept through Chicago, so he was sent to stay at his brother's ranch in Idaho for six months.
After the epidemic was over, Burroughs resumed his education. He attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, then the Michigan Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1895.
He applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but failed the entrance exam. So, Burroughs enlisted in the military and became a soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona territory.
His military career was cut short when he was diagnosed with a heart condition and discharged in 1897. For the next two years, Burroughs became a drifter, working primarily as a ranch hand.
Then, in 1899, he took a job at his father's firm. In 1900, Burroughs married his girlfriend Emma Centennia Hulbert. Four years later, he quit his job and worked at menial jobs in both Chicago and Idaho.
After spending the next seven years working at low paying jobs, he found decent work as a pencil sharpener wholesaler. By this time, he and Emma had two children, and he had begun writing part-time.
Burroughs read many pulp fiction magazines and believed he could do better than the other writers whose works were published in them. His first published story was Under The Moons Of Mars, (1912) a serialization that appeared in The All-Story magazine.
It proved to be so popular that Burroughs was paid a whopping $400 for the entire work - the equivalent of about $9000 in today's money. By the time the last part of the serialization was published, Burroughs had written two novels.
One of these novels was published in October of 1912 and would be the first in a series of over over 30 novels featuring Burroughs' most famous character. Tarzan Of The Apes told the story of a white man raised by apes after his parents die.
His parents were an English couple, Lord and Lady Greystoke, who found themselves marooned in the African jungle. Adopted as an infant by a female ape named Kala, the boy is given the name Tarzan, which means white skin in the ape language.
Tarzan grows up to become a man of formidable intelligence, strength, and speed - a great hunter. He discovers his parents' cabin, finds their books, and teaches himself their language. The jealous ape leader Korchak attacks Tarzan, who kills him and becomes the new lord of the apes.
An African tribe moves into the area, and one of their hunters kills Kala. Tarzan avenges her death, beginning a war with the tribe. The tribesmen believe that Tarzan is an evil spirit whom they have offended. They try to placate him.
When other whites are marooned on the African coast, Tarzan spies on them and helps them. One of the newcomers is a woman named Jane - the first white woman Tarzan has ever seen. He ends up saving her life.
Unfortunately, while Tarzan is away, Jane and the others are rescued and leave Africa. After Tarzan saves French Naval Officer Paul D'Arnot from the natives, D'Arnot teaches him how to speak French and behave around "civilized" white men.
Eventually, Tarzan leaves Africa and is reunited with Jane in the United States, where he discovers to his dismay that she is engaged to marry his cousin, William Clayton, who inherited Tarzan's parents' estate.
For the sake of Jane's happiness, Tarzan decides to conceal his true identity and not claim his rightful inheritance. Tarzan would become one of the most popular literary characters of all time and cross over into comic strips, comic books, movies, and television.
The first movie adaptation, Tarzan Of The Apes, was a silent film classic released in 1918, starring Elmo Lincoln as the ape man. But the best known adaptation was the first sound film adaptation, Tarzan The Ape Man (1932), which starred Olympic champion swimmer turned actor Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan.
The 1934 film Tarzan And His Mate featured a surprising underwater nude swimming scene, but it wasn't leading lady Maureen O'Sullivan. A body double was used - Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim, who had competed along with star Johnny Weissmuller in the 1928 games.
The nude scene was cut after the Production Code crackdown was imposed later in 1934. It would remain cut until Turner Entertainment restored the scene for the movie's first videotape release in 1986.
In addition to his Tarzan adventure novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs also wrote many science fiction novels. Two of his most popular science fiction books were The Lost Continent (1916) and The Land That Time Forgot (1918), both of which were adapted as feature films.
The Lost Continent was set in the distant future - the year 2137 - where Europe has descended into barbarism while the rest of the isolated Western Hemisphere has not. Civilized people are forbidden to enter Europe.
The Land That Time Forgot is set during World War I. While drifting through the ocean in a captured U-Boat, a crew of British sailors and their German prisoners get sucked into a subterranean passage. They resurface hoping to find a source of fresh water. They find that and something else - a lost land where dinosaurs still exist.
In 1923, Burroughs set up his own production company - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. - where he printed his own books through the 1930s. Around the time of the Pearl Harbor attack that led the U.S. into World War II, Burroughs was living in Hawaii.
Even though he was in his late sixties at the time, Burroughs applied for permission to become a war correspondent. Permission was granted, and Burroughs became one of the oldest war correspondents for the United States. After the war ended, he moved to Encino, California.
Edgar Rice Burroughs died of a heart attack in 1950 at the age of 74. All in all, he had written over seventy novels. Tarzan remains of the most popular literary characters of all time. The towns of Tarzana, California and Tarzan, Texas, were named after him, and a crater on Mars - the Burroughs Crater - was named after his creator.
Quote Of The Day
"I write to escape... to escape poverty." - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Today's video features a complete reading of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic adventure novel, Tarzan Of The Apes. Enjoy!