Famous American author Edgar Rice Burroughs was the creator of Tarzan and other popular literary characters in the early part of the 20th Century. Edgar was born in Chicago on Sept. 1, 1875. He was the youngest in the family after two of five brothers died as infants. His father was a former Union officer, Maj. George Tyler Burroughs and his mother was Mary Burroughs. The family lived in a three-story brick house at 646 Washington Boulevard on the West Side between Lincoln and Robey Streets.
When Edgar was growing up in Chicago there were often contagious diseases that spread among children and caused the shut down of classes and interruption of school work. Edgar's parents tried to protect him from a dangerous influenza in 1891 by putting him on a train to Idaho where is older brothers George and Harry worked on a cattle ranch. Edgar loved the life on the frontier ranch for a half-year but then was send to Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. But he did not like Andover so his father sent him to Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake. It is believed that Edgar drove the first "horseless carriage" or automobile in Chicago in 1893 due to his father's position with American Battery Company. Burroughs graduated from MMA in 1895 and stayed on for a while as an instructor. In 1896 he went to Arizona to join the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, former regiment of George Armstrong Custer, but he was discharged a year later with no adventure to add to his resume.
Edgar returned to Chicago in 1899 to work for his father's American Battery Company. He married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Centennia Hulbert, in 1900. Edgar set out again, for the third time, to Idaho to make a living but wound up back in Chicago again in 1904 and for a time he worked as a manager in the clerical department for Sears Roebuck. Mostly, it was a time of short dead-end jobs and little money for the growing family with two children.
According to legend, Edgar was working in one of those dead-end jobs as a manager of sales people who sold pencil sharpeners when he noticed the popularity of "pulp" mystery and adventure magazines. Edgar started writing poems and fairy tales and by 1911 he wrote his first science fiction fantasy called Dejah Thoris: Martian Princess.
His third novel came out late in 1912 and it was called Tarzan of the Apes. All Story Magazine paid him $700 and he was now a full-time writer. He also continued writing science fiction such as At The Earth's Core and The Land That Time Forgot and a series of books on John Carter of Mars.
Finally at age 38, Burroughs was becoming a very successful writer by May 1914 when he moved his family to 414 Augusta Street in Oak Park. While living in Oak Park in 1915 Edgar published The Return of Tarzan, Son of Tarzan, and Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. The public wanted more Tarzan stories and Edgar was becoming one of the most popular action and adventure novelists in America as well as overseas. In 1916, he published The Beasts of Tarzan and The New Stories of Tarzan. But what is amazing is that he was also doing a lot of other adventure writing in addition to the Tarzan books.
The same month that America entered World War I in April 1917, Edgar moved his family to a larger home in Oak Park at 700 Linden Avenue. Edgar enlisted in the Illinois Reserve Militia on May 27, 1917. He became a Captain on Jan. 1, 1918. On Oct. 15, 1918 he became a Major in the First Battalion, Second Infantry Regiment of the Illinois Reserve Militia. On Aug. 31, 1918 the Army and Navy Journal published a letter to the editor by Burroughs in which he proposed a national reserve Army that did not then exist outside the National Guard units of the various states under the control of state governors. In September 1918 Edgar was honored by the Village of Oak Park for his contributions to the war effort.
In January 1918, an eight-reel silent film adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes made it premier in New York starring actor Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan. The commercial film was the first his history to gross more than one million dollars. The Burroughs family would often spend winters in California and in 1919 when Edgar was 43, they moved from Oak Park to his 540-acre estate called "Mil Flores" or "thousand flowers." The estate was later renamed as "Tarzana" for the character whose exploits paid for the land and it is now heart of Tarzana, California. Edgar continued writing and producing movies during his California years in the 1920s and 1930s.
Edgar and his son were actually living in Honolulu, Hawaii on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. They watched Japanese planes attack US ships in the harbor from a hotel tennis court. At age 66, he immediately volunteered for military service again as a sentry with Patrol 2, Company A, First Battalion to guard a warehouse on the wharf and worked at various jobs including as a war correspondent for The Honolulu Advertiser. In April 1942 Edgar again attained the rank of Major as a public relations officer for the Hawaii Businessman's Military Training Corps. He wrote about everything he saw on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.
After V-J Day, Edgar moved from Hawaii to a small house Encino, California in September 1945. By this time another series of Tarzan adventure films were being made starring Johnny Weissmuller.
Edgar Rice Burroughs died in Encino on March 19, 1950 at the age of 74.
There are several good fan sites for Edgar Rice Burroughs including The ERBzine. Another very good source of information is the Tarzan web site.