Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Born(1875-09-01)September 1, 1875
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMarch 19, 1950(1950-03-19) (aged 74)
Encino, California, U.S.
Resting placeTarzana, California, U.S.
GenreAdventure, fantasy, lost world, sword and planet, planetary romance, soft science fiction, western
Notable works
Notable awardsInkpot Award (1975)[1]
SpouseEmma Centennia Hulbert (1900–1934) (divorced)
Florence Gilbert (1935–1941) (divorced)
Children3, including John Coleman Burroughs
RelativesJames Pierce (son-in-law)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service
  • 1894–1897
  • 1917–1919
  • 1941–1945
Battles/warsIndian Wars

First World War

Second World War


Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950) was an American writer, best known for his prolific output in the adventure, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Best known for creating the characters Tarzan and John Carter, he also wrote the Pellucidar series, the Amtor series, and the Caspak trilogy.[2]

Tarzan was immediately popular, and Burroughs capitalized on it in every possible way, including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, films, and merchandise. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon. Burroughs's California ranch is now the center of the Tarzana neighborhood in Los Angeles, named after the character.[3] Burroughs was an explicit supporter of eugenics and scientific racism in both his fiction and nonfiction; Tarzan was meant to reflect these concepts.


Early life and family

Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875, in Chicago (he later lived for many years in the suburb of Oak Park), the fourth son of Major George Tyler Burroughs, a businessman and Civil War veteran, and his wife, Mary Evaline (Zieger) Burroughs. His middle name is from his paternal grandmother, Mary Coleman Rice Burroughs.[4][5][6]

Burroughs was of almost entirely English ancestry, with a family line that had been in North America since the Colonial era.[7]

Through his Rice grandmother, Burroughs was descended from settler Edmund Rice, one of the English Puritans who moved to Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century. He once remarked: "I can trace my ancestry back to Deacon Edmund Rice."[citation needed]

The Burroughs side of the family was also of English origin, having emigrated to Massachusetts around the same time. Many of his ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Some of his ancestors settled in Virginia during the colonial period, and Burroughs often emphasized his connection with that side of his family, seeing it as romantic and warlike.[6][8]

Burroughs was educated at a number of local schools. He then attended Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts, and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, but failing the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy at West Point, he instead became 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.[9]

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

After his discharge, Burroughs worked at a number of different jobs. During the Chicago influenza epidemic of 1891, he spent half a year at his brother's ranch on the Raft River in Idaho, as a cowboy, drifted somewhat afterward, then worked at his father's Chicago battery factory in 1899, marrying his childhood sweetheart, Emma Hulbert (1876–1944), in January 1900.[citation needed]

In 1903, Burroughs joined his brothers, Yale graduates George and Harry, who were, by then, prominent Pocatello area ranchers in southern Idaho, and partners in the Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Company, where he took on managing their ill-fated Snake River gold dredge, a classic bucket-line dredge. The Burroughs brothers were also the sixth cousins, once removed, of famed miner Kate Rice who, in 1914, became the first female prospector in the Canadian North. Journalist and publisher C. Allen Thorndike Rice was also his third cousin.[10]

When the new mine proved unsuccessful, the brothers secured for Burroughs a position with the Oregon Short Line Railroad in Salt Lake City.[11] Burroughs resigned from the railroad in October 1904.[12]

Later life

By 1911, around age 36, after seven years of low wages as a pencil-sharpener wholesaler, Burroughs began to write fiction. By this time, Emma and he had two children, Joan (1908–1972), and Hulbert (1909–1991).[13] During this period, he had copious spare time and began reading 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."[14]

In 1913, Burroughs and Emma had their third and last child, John Coleman Burroughs (1913–1979), later known for his illustrations of his father's books.[15]

In the 1920s, Burroughs became a pilot, purchased a Security Airster S-1, and encouraged his family to learn to fly.[16][17]

Daughter Joan married Tarzan film actor James Pierce. She starred with her husband as the voice of Jane, during 1932–1934 for the Tarzan radio series.

Burroughs divorced Emma in 1934, and, in 1935, married the former actress Florence Gilbert Dearholt, who was the former wife of his friend (who was then himself remarrying), Ashton Dearholt, with whom he had co-founded Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises while filming The New Adventures of Tarzan. Burroughs adopted the Dearholts' two children. He and Florence divorced in 1942.[18]

Burroughs was in his late 60s and was in Honolulu at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.[19] 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. This period of his life is mentioned in William Brinkley's bestselling novel Don't Go Near the Water.[20]


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. He is buried in Tarzana, California, US.[21]

At the time of his death he was believed to have been the writer who had made the most from films, earning over US$2 million in royalties from 27 Tarzan pictures.[22]

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Burroughs in 2003.[23][24]

Literary career

Aiming his work at the pulps—under the name "Norman Bean" to protect his reputation—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.[25][26][27][a] Under the Moons of Mars inaugurated the Barsoom series, introduced John Carter, and earned Burroughs US$400 ($11,922 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.[25]

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.[citation needed]

Burroughs also wrote popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving adventurers from Earth transported to various planets (notably Barsoom, Burroughs's fictional name for Mars, and Amtor, his fictional name for Venus), lost islands (Caspak), and into the interior of the Hollow Earth in his Pellucidar stories. He also wrote Westerns and historical romances. Besides those published in All-Story, many of his stories were published in The Argosy magazine.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[28] Also, the unincorporated community of Tarzan, Texas, was formally named in 1927 when the US Postal Service accepted the name,[29] reputedly coming from the popularity of the first (silent) Tarzan of the Apes film, starring Elmo Lincoln, and an early "Tarzan" comic strip.[citation needed]

In 1923, Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and began printing his own books through the 1930s.[30]

Reception and criticism

Because of the part Burroughs's science fiction played in inspiring real exploration of Mars, an impact crater on Mars was named in his honor after his death.[31] In a Paris Review interview, Ray Bradbury said of Burroughs:

"Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special."[32]

In Something of Myself (published posthumously in 1937) Rudyard Kipling wrote: "My Jungle Books begat Zoos of [imitators]. But the genius of all the genii was one who wrote a series called Tarzan of the Apes. I read it, but regret I never saw it on the films, where it rages most successfully. He had 'jazzed' the motif of the Jungle Books and, I imagine, had thoroughly enjoyed himself. He was reported to have said that he wanted to find out how bad a book he could write and 'get away with', which is a legitimate ambition."[33]

By 1963, Floyd C. Gale of Galaxy Science Fiction wrote when discussing reprints of several Burroughs novels by Ace Books, "an entire generation has grown up inexplicably Burroughs-less". He stated that most of the author's books had been out of print for years and that only the "occasional laughable Tarzan film" reminded public of his fiction.[34] Gale reported his surprise that after two decades his books were again available, with Canaveral Press, Dover Publications, and Ballantine Books also reprinting them.[35]

Few critical books have been written about Burroughs. From an academic standpoint, the most helpful are Erling Holtsmark's two books: Tarzan and Tradition[36] and Edgar Rice Burroughs;[37] Stan Galloway's The Teenage Tarzan: A Literary Analysis of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Jungle Tales of Tarzan;[38] and Richard Lupoff's two books: Master of Adventure: Edgar Rice Burroughs[39] and Barsoom: Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Martian Vision.[40] Galloway was identified by James Edwin Gunn as "one of the half-dozen finest Burroughs scholars in the world";[41] Galloway called Holtsmark his "most important predecessor".[42]

Burroughs strongly supported eugenics and scientific racism. His views held that English nobles made up a particular heritable elite among Anglo-Saxons. Tarzan was meant to reflect this, with him being born to English nobles and then adopted by talking apes (the Mangani). They express eugenicist views themselves, but Tarzan is permitted to live despite being deemed "unfit" in comparison, and grows up to surpass not only them but black Africans, whom Burroughs clearly presents as inherently inferior, even not wholly human. In one Tarzan story, he finds an ancient civilization where eugenics has been practiced for over 2,000 years, with the result that it is free of all crime. Criminal behavior is held to be entirely hereditary, with the solution having been to kill not only criminals but also their families. Lost on Venus, a later novel, presents a similar utopia where forced sterilization is practiced and the "unfit" are killed. Burroughs explicitly supported such ideas in his unpublished nonfiction essay I See A New Race. Additionally, his Pirate Blood, which is not speculative fiction and remained unpublished after his death, portrayed the characters as victims of their hereditary criminal traits (one a descendant of the corsair Jean Lafitte, another from the Jukes family).[43] These views have been compared with Nazi eugenics (though noting that they were popular and common at the time), with his Lost on Venus being released the same year the Nazis took power (in 1933).[44]

In 2003, Burroughs was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.[45]

Selected works

Main article: Edgar Rice Burroughs bibliography

Barsoom series (aka Martian series)

Main article: Barsoom

  1. A Princess of Mars (1912)
  2. The Gods of Mars (1913)
  3. The Warlord of Mars (1914)
  4. Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916)
  5. The Chessmen of Mars (1922)
  6. The Master Mind of Mars (1927)
  7. A Fighting Man of Mars (1930)
  8. Swords of Mars (1934)
  9. Synthetic Men of Mars (1939)
  10. Llana of Gathol (1941)
  11. John Carter of Mars (1964, two stories from 1940 and 1943)

Tarzan series

Main article: Tarzan

  1. Tarzan of the Apes (1912)
  2. The Return of Tarzan (1913)
  3. The Beasts of Tarzan (1914)
  4. The Son of Tarzan (1915)
  5. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916)
  6. Jungle Tales of Tarzan (stories 1916–1917)
  7. Tarzan the Untamed (1919)
  8. Tarzan the Terrible (1921)
  9. Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1922)
  10. Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924)
  11. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1927)
  12. Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928)
  13. Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929)
  14. Tarzan the Invincible (1930)
  15. Tarzan Triumphant (1931)
  16. Tarzan and the City of Gold (1932)
  17. Tarzan and the Lion Man (1933)
  18. Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1932)
  19. Tarzan's Quest (1935)
  20. Tarzan the Magnificent (1936)
  21. Tarzan and the Forbidden City (1938)
  22. Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1947, written in 1944)
  23. Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins (1963, collects 1927 and 1936 children's books)
  24. Tarzan and the Madman (1964, written in 1940)
  25. Tarzan and the Castaways (1965, stories from 1940 to 1941)
  26. Tarzan: The Lost Adventure (1995, rewritten version of 1946 fragment, completed by Joe R. Lansdale)

Pellucidar series

Main article: Pellucidar

  1. At the Earth's Core (1914)
  2. Pellucidar (1915)
  3. Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)
  4. Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929)
  5. Back to the Stone Age (1937)
  6. Land of Terror (1944, written in 1939)
  7. Savage Pellucidar (1963, stories from 1942)

Venus series

Main article: Venus series

  1. Pirates of Venus (1932)
  2. Lost on Venus (1933)
  3. Carson of Venus (1938)
  4. Escape on Venus (1946, stories from 1941 to 1942)
  5. The Wizard of Venus (1970, written in 1941)

Caspak series

  1. The Land That Time Forgot (1918)
  2. The People That Time Forgot (1918)
  3. Out of Time's Abyss (1918)

Moon series

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.[46]

Mucker series

Other science fiction

Jungle adventure novels

Western novels

Historical novels

Other works

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ A poem by Burroughs was published on October 15, 1910, in the Chicago Tribune as "by Normal Bean", and two more were published in the Tribune in 1914 and 1915.[25] "Norman" was an All-Story typesetter's presumptive correction of "Normal".[27] Burroughs used his own name for his other publications.[25]


  1. ^ "Inkpot Award". December 6, 2012. Archived from the original on January 29, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "Original Works < Edgar Rice Burroughs". Edgar Rice Burroughs. Archived from the original on December 26, 2023. Retrieved December 26, 2023.
  3. ^ "Tarzana and Tarzana Ranch, California". tarzana.ca. Archived from the original on December 23, 2023. Retrieved December 26, 2023.
  4. ^ Descendants of Edmund Rice: The First Nine Generations, Edmund Rice (1638) Association, 2010.
  5. ^ "Edmund Rice Six-Generation Database Online". Edmund Rice (1638) Association. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Schneider, Jerry L (2004), The Ancestry of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Google Books), Erbville Press, p. 296, ISBN 978-1-4357-4972-6
  7. ^ "Edgar Rice Burroughs". August 16, 2017. Archived from the original on March 12, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Taliaferro, John. Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan. pp. 15, 27.
  9. ^ Slotkin, Richard (1998). Gunfighter Nation. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-8061-3031-8.
  10. ^ Rice, Michael A. Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Edmund Rice (1638) Association, Inc.: "Meet Some of Edmund Rice's Descendants: Notable Writers & Entertainers", page 11, Accessed October 11, 2017.
  11. ^ John, Finn J.D. Archived August 4, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Offbeat Oregon: "Ill-starred gold-mining venture worked out well for Tarzan fans", March 8, 2015, Accessed October 11, 2017.
  12. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 34.
  13. ^ Holtsmark 1986, p. 5.
  14. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice (October 27, 1929). "How I Wrote the Tarzan Stories". Washington Post, New York World (Sunday supplement). ERBZine.com. Archived from the original on September 4, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  15. ^ Nelson, V. J. (May 15, 2008). "Obituaries / Danton Burroughs, 1944 – 2008; Tarzan Creator's Heir Protected the Legacy". Los Angeles Times – via ProQuest.
  16. ^ "A Plane-Crazy America". AOPA Pilot. May 2014.
  17. ^ "Joan Burroughs". Archived from the original on August 3, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  18. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 12–13.
  19. ^ Toland, John (1970). The Rising Sun (2003 Modern Library Paperback ed.). Random House. p. 220. ISBN 0-8129-6858-1.
  20. ^ "Edgar Rice Burroughs | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. February 19, 2024. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  21. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 13–15.
  22. ^ "'Tarzan' Paid Off Big to Burroughs". Variety. March 22, 1950. p. 7. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  23. ^ "Burroughs, Edgar Rice" Archived October 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  24. ^ Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (official website of the hall of fame to 2004), Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, archived from the original on May 21, 2013, retrieved March 22, 2013.
  25. ^ a b c d Edgar Rice Burroughs at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  26. ^ "The Hillmans' Virtual Visit to The Nell Dismukes McWhorter Memorial Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection Archived July 30, 2020, at the Wayback Machine" (with photographs). ERBzine 4(19).
  27. ^ a b Robinson, Frank M. 2000. "The Story Behind the Original All-Story." American Zoetrope 4(1). Archived from the original on March 16, 2013. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  28. ^ Tarzana Community Profile (PDF), US: NOAA, archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2012, retrieved July 4, 2012.
  29. ^ Holtsmark 1986, pp. 9–10.
  30. ^ "Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Celebrates a Century in Publishing". lapl.org. Archived from the original on January 23, 2024. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  31. ^ Sagan, Carl (May 28, 1978). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  32. ^ Weller, Interviewed by Sam (February 4, 2019). "Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203". theparisreview.org. Vol. Spring 2010, no. 192. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  33. ^ Kipling, Rudyard (1937). "8: Working Tools". Something of Myself. London: Macmillan & Co.
  34. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (June 1963). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 135–138.
  35. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (October 1963). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 119–123.
  36. ^ Holtsmark, Erling B. Tarzan and Tradition: Classical Myth in Popular Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1981.
  37. ^ Holtsmark, Erling B. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Twayne's United States Author Series. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
  38. ^ Galloway, Stan. The Teenage Tarzan: A Literary Analysis of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.
  39. ^ Lupoff, Richard. Master of Adventure: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
  40. ^ Lupoff, Richard. Barsoom: Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Martian Vision. Baltimore: Mirage Press, 1976.
  41. ^ Gunn, James. Foreword. The Teenage Tarzan by Stan Galloway. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. p. 3.
  42. ^ Preface. p. 5.
  43. ^ Disney's Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Eugenics, and Visions of Utopian Perfection Archived September 12, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, J. David Smith; Alison L. Mitchell Ment Retard (2001) 39 (3): 221–225.
  44. ^ Edgar Rice Burroughs's Venus, Part 2: Lost on Venus Archived September 12, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, by Ryan Harvey, August 30, 2011, Black Gate Magazine.
  45. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame - Winners by Year". SFADB. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  46. ^ ERBzine, archived from the original on August 22, 2007, retrieved November 15, 2007.


Further reading