Edgar Rice Burroughs | 1875-1950

Well before the age of the multimedia corporation, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a multimedia corporation unto himself. Tarzan of the Apes was published in 1912. The next year, Burroughs founded the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., publishing house. In 1934, with Tarzan an established Hollywood franchise, he founded Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises and Burroughs-Tarzan Pictures. Burroughs had not always been such a savvy businessman. Born into a well-off Chicago family, Burroughs was something of a ne'er-do-well, leaving a job in Salt Lake City in 1904 to take another in Chicago from 1906 to 1908, and leaving that to hold a number of managerial and clerical positions through 1912. In that year, Burroughs had his first literary success with the pulp novel Under the Moons of Mars, featuring the hero John Carter, who would go on to do battle with Martians in another 10 books. It was, however, the Tarzan series (35 volumes of it) that fueled the Edgar Rice Burroughs industry. With the Martian books, the Tarzan books, and any of the other series or stand-alone titles in his repertoire, Burroughs specialized in the formulaic boys' adventure: All of his plots follow a courageous and individualistic hero as he battles monstrous villains and rescues the imperiled female. What separated Burroughs from lesser pulp writers was a meticulous attention to detail, whether of real worlds or worlds he imagined. This attention to visual detail also meant that Burroughs's narratives were ready for the burgeoning film industry. Hollywood fell at least as hard for Tarzan as Jane did, and Burroughs's creation has been a staple of film since the silent Tarzan of the Apes debuted in 1917. If the books were for boys, the movies, with their muscle-bound, loincloth-clad heroes and their feisty Janes, were for girls, also.