Today in Literary History – September 1, 1875 – Tarzan of the Apes creator Edgar Rice Burroughs is born

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan of the Apes and author of many other fantasy and science fiction novels, was born in Chicago on September 1, 1875.

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He enlisted in the army as a young man but was discharged because of a heart ailment. He then spent many years working at a series of low paid menial jobs.

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By 1911 Burroughs was married and a father of two children, living job to job. Out of desperation he decided to try his hand at writing for “pulp fiction” magazines.

As he later said, he believed 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.”

His first story to be accepted, a science fiction tale called “Under the Moons of Mars” was serialized in a pulp magazine in 1912 and earned Burroughs $400, better money than he had been used to making. He was soon earning enough to be a full time writer.

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Later that year he published his first book, Tarzan of the Apes, which would launch him into a very lucrative career, with dozens of sequels and an enormously popular series of movies. Today, most people have at least a passing knowledge of the Tarzan story and Burroughs’ Tarzan books still sell steadily.

Edgar Rice Burroughes and Glenn Morris

Burroughs published over 80 books in his life. None were as successful as the Tarzan series, but his science fiction novels were and continue to be popular.

But it was the Tarzan franchise of novels, movies, comic books and merchandise that made Burroughs his fortune. In 1915 he bought a ranch in California and named it Tarzana. It became the city of the same name, where Burroughs was buried after his death in 1950 from a heart attack at the age of 74.

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