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Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950) was an American author, best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter, although he produced works in many genres. Burroughs also made cameos in the Martian series and was portrayed as the nephew of John Carter.


Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875, in Chicago (he later lived for many years in the neighboring suburb of Oak Park), the fourth son of a businessman and Civil war veteran, Major George Tyler Burroughs (1833–1913) and his wife Mary Evaline (Zieger) Burroughs (1840–1920). He was educated at a number of local schools, and during the Chicago influenza epidemic in 1891, he spent a half year at his brother's ranch on the Raft River in Idaho. He then attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, and failing the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy (West Point), he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus found ineligible for a commission, he was discharged in 1897.

What followed was a string of seemingly unrelated and short stint jobs. Following a period of drifting and ranch work in Idaho, Burroughs found work at his father's firm in 1899. He married Emma Centennia Hulbert on January 1, 1900. They had three children: Joan Burroughs (Mrs. James Pierce) (1908–1972), Hulbert Burroughs (1909–1991) and John Coleman Burroughs (1913–1979). In 1904 he left his job and found less regular work, initially in Idaho but soon back in Chicago.

By 1911, after seven years of low wages, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler and began to write fiction. By this time Burroughs and Emma had two children, Joan and Hulbert. During this period, he had copious spare time and he began reading many pulp fiction magazines. In 1929 he recalled thinking that:[1]

"...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."

Aiming his work at these pulp fiction magazines, his first story "Under the Moons of Mars" was serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912[2][3] and earned Burroughs US $400 (roughly $8800 in 2009).

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, which was published from October 1912 and went on to begin his most successful series. In 1913, Burroughs and Emma had their third and last child, John Coleman.

Burroughs also wrote popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving Earthly adventurers transported to various planets (notably Barsoom, Burroughs' fictional name for Mars, and Amtor, his fictional name for Venus), lost islands, and into the interior of the hollow earth in his Pellucidar stories, as well as westerns and historical romances. Along with All-Story, many of his stories were published in the Argosy Magazine.

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.

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 town, Tarzana, Calif. was formed in either 1927 or 1928.

Also the unincorporated community of Tarzan, Texas, was formally named in 1927 when the postal service accepted the name, reputedly coming from the popularity of the first (silent) Tarzan of the Apes film, starring Elmo Lincoln, and an early "Tarzan" comic strip.

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

Burroughs divorced Emma in 1934 and married the former actress Florence Gilbert Dearholt in 1935, the former wife of his friend, Ashton Dearholt, and Burroughs adopted the Dearholts' two children. This couple divorced in 1942.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Burroughs was a resident of Hawaii and, despite being in his late sixties, he applied for permission to become a war correspondent. This permission was granted, and so he became one of the oldest war correspondents for the U.S. during World War II. 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 seventy novels.

The Burroughs crater on Mars is named in his honor.


Edgar Rice Burroughs was a descendant of Edmund Rice, an English immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony, as follows:[4][5]

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, son of
  • Capt. George Tyler Burroughs (Oct 13, 1833 – Feb 15, 1913), son of
  • Mary Rice (Jul 12, 1802 – ?), daughter of
  • Thomas Rice (May 30, 1767 – Jul 18, 1847) son of
  • Capt. Tilly Rice (Nov 8, 1724 – Nov 6, 1803), son of
  • Obadiah Rice (Nov 13, 1698 – ?), son of
  • Jacob Rice (Feb 2, 1660 – Oct 30, 1746), son of
  • Edward Rice (1622 – Aug 15, 1712), son of
  • Edmund Rice (1594 – May 3, 1663)

Selected bibliography[]

Barsoom series[]

Main article: Barsoom

Popular culture[]

  • In the video game Jurassic Park: Trespasser there is a statue of E. R. Burroughs, possibly as a reference to his novel The Land That Time Forgot.
  • In Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven, several different fictional Martian races appear, including a people who are a combination of the Red Martians of Edgar Rice Burroughs and those by Ray Bradbury, and another who are unmistakably Burroughs' big fierce Green Martians.
  • In the Mars Trilogy novels of Kim Stanley Robinson the original capital city on Mars is named Burroughs as a sort of tribute. It is later flooded.
  • Season 1, Episode 29 of Disney's The Legend of Tarzan animated series, Tarzan and the Mysterious Visitor, illustrates Burroughs as a struggling writer who travels to Africa after learning about Tarzan in the hopes of getting inspiration for a new novel. (Notably, though, the real Burroughs never set foot in Africa.) The character is only referred to as "Ed" throughout the episode and his true identity isn't revealed until his name is shown on his book.
  • The 1980 novel The Number of the Beast, by Robert A. Heinlein featured characters named Zebediah John Carter, Jacob Burroughs, and Dejah Thoris Burroughs in homage to Burroughs' Mars novels. Among other things, these and the other main characters travel to various alternate universes, including Barsoom, Oz and Wonderland. The protagonist of Heinlein's Glory Road muses on Barsoom in one passage.
  • The Marvel Comics book Excalibur created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis paid a tribute to the John Carter stories in issue #16 and 17. The story was billed on the cover of issue #16 as "Kurt Wagner Warlord of ?". The series added a further tribute with issue #60 and the story "Braddock of the jungle".
  • In The Alternate Martians (Ace, 1965), A. Bertram Chandler explored a fictional Mars curiously combining characters, including Deliah (for Dejah) Thoris and Tars Tarkas, and characteristics of Burroughs's Barsoom with the malevolent Martians of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.
  • In Frank Frazetta's Creatures published by the Frazetta Comics imprint at Image, Burroughs appears as a member of a group of supernatural investigators led by former US President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • In Rocky II, Rocky reads The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County to Adrian while she is in a coma.
  • In the TV series ER, the character played by Noah Wyle is usually called simply Carter, but his full name is John Carter. The creator of ER, Michael Crichton, has cited the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs as an early influence, thus this homage.
  • In Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, John Carter appears twice. He teams up with H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quartermain, H. P. Lovecraft's Randolph Carter (revealed to be his great-nephew), and Wells' Time Traveller on a strange journey in the supplemental Allan and the Sundered Veil. Later, he is seen leading the Green Martians in a battle against Wells' Martian invaders.

Books on Edgar Rice Burroughs[]

  • Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs by Richard A. Lupoff
  • Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan by John Taliaferro
  • Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs by the Rev. Henry Hardy Heins
  • Tarzan Alive by Philip Jose Farmer
  • Burroughs's Science Fiction by Robert R. Kudlay and Joan Leiby
  • Tarzan and Tradition and Edgar Rice Burroughs by Erling B. Holtsmark
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs by Irwin Porges
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs by Robert B. Zeuschner
  • The Burroughs Cyclopædia ed. by Clark A. Brady
  • A Guide to Barsoom by John Flint Roy


  1. Edgar Rice Burroughs (October 27, 1929) "How I wrote the Tarzan stories," reprinted in: The Washington Post and New York World : The World Magazine (Sunday supplement). Available on-line at: http://www.erbzine.com/mag0/0052.html .
  2. ERBzine, Volume 0419 -"A Virtual Visit to The Nell Dismukes McWhorter Memorial Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection", with photographs.
  3. Zoetrope: All-Story: Back Issue
  4. Edmund Rice (1638) Association, 2007. Descendants of Edmund Rice: The First Nine Generations.
  5. Edmund Rice Six-Generation Database Online
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