Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

FAQs, Articles, Reviews, Persona Directory, Hall of Memory
Summarizing ERB's works one chapter at a time
Shorts, Novels, Poetry, Plays, Pulps
Articles, Contributors: Tangor Responds, Edgardemain, ERB: In Focus, Nkima Speaks, Beyond 30W, Tantor Trumpets, Dime Lectures, Korak in Pal-ul-don, Public Domain novels of ERB
Worlds of: Barsoom, Pellucidar, Moon, Amtor, Caspak, Pal-u-don


A multi-author, multi-part information file on one of America's best-known authors is respectfully submitted by ERB scholars, researchers and fans in the interest of expanding appreciation for Edgar Rice Burroughs' works. The Edgar Rice Burroughs FAQ (ERBFAQ) is Copyright © 1997-2001 by the various authors. ERBFAQ Compilation Editor: David Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth (tangor@erblist.com)


The idea behind a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is to provide relief to a larger group when faced with repetitious, and therefore tedious, questions that all newbies invariably ask, such as "What else did he write?" "Any movies?" "How about comics?" "When did he start?" "Was he married?" "Who's Hully?" "Did ERB write 'Giant'?" "Who is the best artist?" "Where can I learn more?" Properly prepared, a FAQ contains enough info to satisfy the most FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and provides pointers to where the truly interested neophyte can go to get answers. We're not attempting an exhaustive work, we are only attempting to answer the most exhausting questions. :)

The ERBFAQ format is individual Mini-FAQs on specific topics.


Links below are to sections of THIS PAGE and are not links to other pages.

A Biographical Sketch by
George T. McWhorter

A Souvenir of the 1992 Dum-Dum, Louisville, Kentucky (Condensed from the original)

BURROUGHS, EDGAR RICE (September 1, 1875 - March 19, 1950), was born in Chicago, fifth of six sons of businessman George Tyler Burroughs and Mary Evaline (Zieger) Burroughs. He was the youngest of four surviving brothers and attended Chicago's Brown elementary. By 1886 he rode horseback to the Harvard School at 18th and Indiana Avenue. He was taught Greek and Latin before learning English composition.

An influenza epidemic in 1891 Chicago caused ERB's parents to send him to Idaho where older brothers Harry and George, with partner Lew Sweetser, owned the Bar Y Ranch in Cassia County. The city boy loved horses and became an expert bronco buster.

That Fall he was sent to Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts. Popular, ERB was elected class president but disliked the formal curriculum and ran away. ERB's father, a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War, believed a military school might benefit his son. At Michigan Military Academy, Orchard Lake (Fall 1892), ERB's commandant was Captain Charles King, a name he later used in his novels. ERB was on the football and cavalry teams and was editor-in-chief and artist for the student newspaper The Adjutant. He remained at Michigan Military Academy after graduating in 1896 as Assistant Commandant; a Professor of Geology, Cavalry and Gatling Gun.

ERB desired entry to West Point but failed the entrance exam (14 of 118 applicants were accepted). He enlisted in the army and was assigned duty at Fort Grant, Arizona, "B" Troop, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Colonel "Bull" Sumner. ERB's duties were "digging boulevards in the desert where no boulevards were needed" and chasing

Indian outlaws without strategy or success. A bout of dysentery uncovered a heart murmur which disqualified him for an army commission. ERB obtained an honorable discharge and returned to his brothers' cattle ranch in Idaho.

Ever desirous to start his own business, he bought a stationery store in Pocatello (1898). He sold it back to the original owner at year's end. Back at his brothers' ranch he decided the cattle business was not for him. In 1898 ERB returned to Chicago to work at his father's American Battery Company.

A regular salary ($15/week) encouraged ERB to marry childhood sweetheart Emma Centennia Hulbert on January 31, 1900. Her father, Alvin Hulbert, was proprietor of the Sherman and Great Northern hotels. In 1903, ERB and Emma joined brother George in Idaho to operate a gold dredge in the Stanley Basin.

ERB later joined brother Harry's gold dredging operations near Parma, Idaho (1904) in which town he was popular enough to be elected alderman; but the gold business soon failed. ERB and Emma moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where he worked as a railroad policeman rousting hoboes and drunks from freight cars. Dissatisfied, the couple sold their belongings at auction and returned to Chicago.

From 1904 to 1908 temporary jobs included time-keeper, light bulb and candy sales, peddling Stoddard's lectures, E. S. Winslow Company accountant and, at emotional nadir, volunteering to officer in the Chinese army (never happened). Early in 1908 he landed an excellent job managing the clerical department at Sears, Roebuck & Company but felt his destiny lay elsewhere. He resigned August 1908, determined to go into business for himself.

A bleak period followed. Emma's jewelry was pawned to buy food. They lived in Oak Park when Joan was born January 1908. Hulbert, their first son, arrived August 1909, by which time ERB was office manager for Physicians Co-Operative Association. The company sold "Alcola," an alleged cure for alcoholism but the Food and Drug Administration shut them down within a year.

Alcola's president, Dr. Stace, and ERB formed the Stace-Burroughs Company which sold booklets (written by ERB) on expert salesmanship. The Stace-Burroughs Company sank without a trace.

ERB formed a new agency which sold pencil sharpeners. While agents peddled product door to door he sat in a borrowed office. Killing time, ERB checked his ads running in various pulp magazines. He read some of the fiction and decided "if people are paid for writing such rot, I can write something just as rotten."

Under the Moons of Mars

He began his first story early in 1911. It was influenced by the popular theories of astronomer Percival Lowell. The story was so improbable he signed it "Normal Bean" to signify he was not insane. ERB sent it to Thomas Newell Metcalf, editor of All-Story, where it was accepted immediately. Metcalf changed the title to "Under the Moons of Mars" and ran it in six installments February to July 1912. A copy editor, assuming an error, changed ERB's nom de plume to Norman Bean. The pun spoiled, ERB dropped the alias permanently. He received $400 for his story, a staggering sum at the time.

Metcalf sensed untapped potential and suggested ERB write a story along the lines of Arthurian legend. ERB obliged with a Gothic romance entitled "The Outlaw of Torn." All-Story rejected it (eventually sold to Street & Smith's New Story Magazine in 1914). He had begun a third story "Tarzan of the Apes" in December 1911 and finished May 1912. Metcalf published it complete in one issue of All-Story, October 1912. ERB received $700, resulting in a decision to take up writing full time. This decision was further strengthened by the birth of a third child, John Coleman Burroughs (February 28, 1913), who would eventually illustrate twelve of his father's first editions.

During the next twelve months ERB wrote and sold eight novels.

After many rejection slips from several major publishing houses, ERB received an offer from A.C. McClurg & Company, Chicago. The company had previously rejected "Tarzan of the Apes" but the story's popularity resulted in a signed contract. ERB's first book "Tarzan of the Apes" was published June 17, 1914. It became a national best seller. McClurg published a total of 29 ERB books between 1914-1929. Most of these first editions were illustrated by J. Allen St. John, a Chicago artist now identified with the Burroughs legend.

In 1919, ERB purchased a 540-acre ranch in California's San Fernando Valley. Idyllic, ERB played at gentleman farming while solidifying a multi-million dollar industry. The ranch was named "Tarzana" and the city which sprang up around him officially took the name on December 11, 1930.

ERB routinely sold first serial rights to the pulps while retaining reprint and book rights. He was 36 when his first story was published in 1912. Eleven years later ERB incorporated himself and by 1931 decided to publish his own books to maximize earnings. ERB succeeded admirably and ERB, Inc. published 24 first editions.

In 1934, their children grown, ERB and Emma's divorce became final December 6, 1934. Four months later on April 4, 1935 he married Florence (Gilbert) Dearholt, a former actress and divorcee with two small children. They had a prenuptial agreement to part as friends if the marriage failed. They divorced after seven years on May 4, 1942. ERB remained devoted to her children the rest of his life.

ERB and son Hulbert witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941). A one-time major in the Illinois State Militia at Oak Park in 1919, ERB was finally in the right place at the right time to be of service. He became the oldest WWII war correspondent. His "Laugh It Off" column was published regularly in the Honolulu Advertiser. He visited Australia and several Pacific atolls and went on combat bombing missions with the 7th Air Force out of Kwajalein.

After the war, ERB retired to a modest home in Encino, California. He died on March 19, 1950 of a heart attack induced by a form of Parkinson's disease. His ashes were buried beneath a black walnut tree in the front yard of his corporate headquarters on Ventura Boulevard.

In the last year of his life ERB reread all of his books "to see what I had said and how I'd said it."

The Burroughs Style - A Writer's Analysis
by Mike Resnick

Unlike not only his pulp-writing peers, but even most of the literary prize winners of his era, Edgar Rice Burroughs is still being read and enjoyed today. Kids can pick up a 75-year-old Tarzan or Mars book and not find it at all archaic or old-fashioned. So perhaps it might be interesting to try to analyze exactly why his work has outlived that of almost all his contemporaries.

Well, to begin with, Burroughs was not a highly erudite man -- and I don't mean that as a perjorative. He grew up in an era where flowery prose was a sign of high literary skill, where fashionable authors never used a one-syllable word if they could find a five-syllable synonym. Burroughs was inspired to write his earliest novels when he read the pulp magazines in which his company's ads appeared and decided he could do better. The pulps were written for the widest possible audience, which meant that the very best pulp authors, unlike the more fashionable literary authors, were all but invisible. Burroughs is hardly intrusive in his first few books, and totally unintrusive for his last 60 or so.

So...simple, accessable language was his first virtue. But a lot of authors had that. What other skills did he possess?

For starters, the man had an inborn sense of pacing. He wrote action/adventure stories, and that meant they had to -move-. And move they did. His first effort, A PRINCESS OF MARS, shows him groping for the quickest way to get from point A to point B (and not doing all that well in the first half)...but by THE GODS OF MARS he instinctively knew how to start his story off at a gallop and then increase its speed through each subsequent chapter. A few books into his career he developed the technique not just of ending each chapter with a cliffhanger, but of moving from one viewpoint character to another. (Is an unarmed Tarzan facing a pride of hungry lions at the end of Chapter 12? Okay, let's see how Jane is doing in Chapter 13. Is she one grope away from a fate worse than death? Time to read Chapter 14 and see how Tarzan's faring.) Burroughs made too much use of coincidence, but again, that was a convention of the pulps.

Another thing at which Burroughs excelled was the creation of evocative languages -- and he created them by the bunch. From the guttural language of Tarzan's great apes to the stately tongue of ancient Mars, probably no author, not even J. R. R. Tolkein, was better at creating words that sounded like what they meant. (Think of an elephant trumpeting; what could he be called but Tantor? And how could a snake be anything other than Histah? What better name for the king of the apes, a creature that half-barks and half-growls its primitive language, than Kerchak?)

Burroughs' style and word use also evolved over the years. There is actually a "methinks" in an early Mars book; you'll never find that word again after 1915.

He created admirable characters, but they weren't perfect. Even Tarzan, the greatest of them all, was not without his weaknesses. Yes, he could stare Death in the face without flinching -- but he also had a fondness for absynthe, cigarettes, mad queens, and High Priestesses of the Flaming God. Carson of Venus was strong and likeable, but just this side of learning-disabled. But all of Burroughs' heroes held to a firm Victorian moral code, all knew the difference between right and wrong and invariably chose the right -- and in this day of body-count movies and anti-heroes, those values are perhaps more admirable than ever.

So...he could pace, he was accessable, he was a brilliant inventor of languages, and he told emotionally satisfying morality plays in an action/adventure framework. Anything else?

Well, yes. He had the capacity to imagine fully-fleshed worlds by the carload. With no predecessors to build upon -- he had far less in common with Wells and Verne and Kipling than with such pulpsters as Zane Gray -- he created Tarzan's mythical Africa, John Carter's Barsoom, Carson Napier's Venus, David Innes' Pellucidar, and such fascinating stand-alone works as THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (perhaps his most imaginative novel), THE MOON MAID, THE CAVE GIRL, and dozens of others. A case might even be made this his very best work came in the more realistic Indian novels, THE WAR CHIEF and APACHE DEVIL.

I am not saying he was the best writer of imaginative fiction. Far from it. But no one since then, not Doc Smith, not Heinlein, not Asimov, not Clarke, has created a greater number of wildly popular imaginative series. Yes, he was followed by many better, more subtle, more erudite writers (most of whom built upon his foundation), and no, if he were starting out today, he probably couldn't break into print. But so what? He was the first, and he is still very readable and very popular, and what more need you ask of a pioneer?

— Mike Resnick

Tarzan On Radio
by Pat Adkins

Tarzan debuted on radio on September 10, 1932 in _Tarzan of the Apes_, a fifteen-minute syndicated serial produced by American Radio Features Syndicate. James H. Pierce, star of the 1927 silent movie _Tarzan and the Golden Lion_, portrayed the ape-man and Joan Burroughs Pierce, ERB's daughter and Pierce's wife, played Jane. This first serial ran 286 episodes, with the first 130 episodes drawn from the title novel and the remainder from _The Return of Tarzan_.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., took over the series in 1934, producing two serials: _Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher_ and _Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr_, each running 39 episodes, based on an original story by ERB, and adapted to radio by Rob Thompson. Tarzan was portrayed by Carlton KaDell. (Jim and Joan Pierce had declined to continue their roles, and Jane was written out of these stories, which take place Tarzan and the Forbidden Citybefore Tarzan and Jane are married. In the late '30s ERB reworked the plot of _Asher_ into _Tarzan and the Forbidden City_ and part of _Tarzan the Magnificent_.)

It was only after Burroughs' death that Tarzan returned to radio, this time in a once-a-week, half hour format. Staring Lamont Johnson, _Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle_ premiered January 11, 1951 on a West Coast regional network, then moved to CBS the following year. A total of approximately 70 episodes were produced. Despite each episode's claim to be "in the very words of Mr. Burroughs," these shows were not adapted from ERB, though writer Bud Lesser demonstrated a good familiarity with the original books.

Tarzan on radio was far closer to Burroughs' literary version than most of the movie renditions; these shows can be quite enjoyable, and deserves the attention of Burroughs fans. Through an arrangement with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., that gives them access to master recordings, Adventures in Cassettes (www.aic-radio.com) will be releasing many of them commercially, in near perfect sound. Additional information about Tarzan on radio and Old Time Radio in general can be found at www.old-time.com/.

FILM: Tarzan & Hollywood; Pellucidar and Caspak
by Tangor (David Bruce Bozarth)

Glenn Morris


Tarzan of the Apes is the most famous of ERB's heros to appear on film. Beginning with Elmo Lincoln in 1918 more than 20 actors have protrayed the Apeman. Johnny Weismuller starred in the greatest number of Tarzan features and is the most easily identified Tarzan of all. Glenn Morris, Gordon Scott, Lex Barker, Jock Mahoney and Mike Henry delivered screen versions of Tarzan with varying degrees of box office success. The last major film version was Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (1984) starring Christopher Lambert.

Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) is the most recent live action Tarzan starring Casper van Diem and Jane Marsh. Disney produced an animated Tarzan feature which was released in 1999.

(Update) Alexander Skarsgârd became the most recent film Tarzan with moderate box office success worldwide as an articulate ape-man in "Legend of Tarzan" (2016).

Some argue that ERB's Tarzan is best represented by the film produced by Burroughs himself. "The New Adventures of Tarzan" (1935) a 12 episode serial featuring a sophisticated apeman played by Hermann Brix (Bruce Bennett). "New Adventures" was edited into a movie length product of the same name and late in 1938 more sections were pieced together to create "Tarzan and the Green Goddess". Hollywood's vision of Tarzan is quite different from the character found in the Burroughs books. He has been child-like, mono-syllabic, cultured, and (occasionally) articulate. The films run the gamut of pure adventure fantasy and romance to blood-thirsty erotica.

(Update) Over the years a number of Tarzan parodies have appeared on television and in cartoons, almost too numerous to mention. However, there is one adult (x-rated) Tarzan animated feature which ERB, Inc. pursued with successful legal challenges. One might find an mp4 floating about the web if you look hard enough. (Note: it's not very good and the animation is very crude.)


(Update) Barsoom has been added to the other worlds of ERB at home on the silver screen. Disney's John Carter of Mars (2012) starred Taylor Kitsch, and was roundly panned as a bomb at the box office for barely making back its $250 million cost after 16 weeks in world wide release.

The Oakdale Affair (1919) and The Lad And The Lion (1917) are early silents adapted from stories of the same titles; no copies remain and I have read no reviews of either.

In 1941 a serial entitled "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Jungle Girl" featured a female Tarzan, but otherwise bears no relation to ERB's published works; ERB, Inc. owns the copyright and has recently licensed it to video (source: Pat Adkins).

In the mid-1970s "At The Earth's Core", "The Land That Time Forgot" and "The People That Time Forgot" were produced. These films fall into the category of "B Horror" flicks with plots which ignore the books and rely on (cheap) special effects. Curiosities that failed to do well with the movie-going audience, they are still available at most large video rental stores.

(Update) A direct to video release of Asylum's The Land That Time Forgot appeared in 2009; other than changing location, characters, time period, events, and other things, it wasn't too bad.


by Jim Thompson

The First Link

Early in 1980 my pen pal Tom Martin suggested I write Frank Paul Shonfeld in West Croydon, a London suburb. On July 8th Shonfeld sent an official membership card (No. 28), a one sheet biography of ERB, and the following description of the ERB Chain of Friendship:

"The aim of the above-named Guild is to bring into contact with each other all the devotees of EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS so that each one of us is known to all others. ... to bond ourselves together with the one common denominator, EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS, who holds us all, link by golden link, within the ERB CHAIN OF FRIENDSHIP."

Frank introduced himself (excerpts). "I first began writing to ERB in the early 1920's; ... ERB was to prove a dedicated and highly conscientious person and always acknowledged a letter ... We exchanged Christmas cards, some of which I still have. He always call me 'Frank' but when war broke out here in 39 ... he always addressed me as 'my dear Seargeant'; ... he sent me each new book he (ERB INC) published... One of them, Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County, is a treasured possession because he wrote a short greeting of best wishes to me and, of course, signing it with his famous signature."

The Chain grows

Frank corresponded with John Coleman and Hulbert Burroughs, and later with Danton Burroughs, Jim and Michael Pierce, and Irwin and Cele Porges. The Porges were "Links" 2 and 3 in ECOF. Shonfeld never married and shared an apartment with his sister, Betty. The retired civil servant British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) holder quietly pursued hobbies, research, and developing a circle of correspondents. The wider world of Burroughs fandom was a most pleasant and unexpected surprise for him.

The ECOF Gatherings

At a banquet in Toronto, 1984, George McWhorter presented Frank with a special award honoring Frank's place in Burroughs fandom. The event was so successful it was agreed the ECOF should become an annual summer event; McWhorter offered to host the second meeting at Louisville. The ECOF event was envisioned as an informal summer celebration by Burroughs fans, rotating among individual fans who would organize a weekend around their own collection. The annual ECOF weekends remain voluntary and are loosely coordinated by Mike Conran, Bill Ross, George McWhorter, and a few other fans who serve as a clearinghouse.

Frank attended the second ECOF gathering in 1985 but had no idea how many fans, including more of his Chain of Friendship pen pals, would be present. Among the special guests were Burne Hogarth and Danton Burroughs.

Mike Conran hosted ECOF 86 in Jenison, Michigan. John F. Roy, guest of honor, received a "Lifetime Achievement" Award at the Saturday banquet. McWhorter prepared a greeting card, which all attendees signed, and it was sent to Shonfeld to honor the founder of ECOF. Mike Conran presented his rediscovery of ERB's "Tarzan Jr." which exists as a single copy, a miniature book in the Coleen Moore "Fairy Castle" doll house housed in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

Bill Ross hosted ECOF 87 in Baltimore. Darrell Richardson received the Lifetime Achievement Award. McWhorter published his ERB Dictionary.

Frank Westwood hosted ECOF 88 in England. The special event was a tour of Greystoke village and a banquet in Greystoke castle hosted by Neville Howard. Greystoke castle has belonged to the Howard family for generations. Pete Ogden received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mike Shaw and Ralph Brown co-hosted the 1989 ECOF Tarzana, California gathering. Guests of Honor included Burne Hogarth, Gabe Essoe, Danton Burroughs, Denny Miller, Gordon Scott, Eve Brent, and Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Irwin Porges. In addition to the traditional banquet were tours of ERB, Inc., the Tarzana ranch property currently owned by Ralph Herman, and the homes of Danton Burroughs, Mike Shaw and Forrest J. Ackerman (the "Ackermansion").

Ashley King hosted ECOF 90 in Binghamton, NY. Bill Ross received the "Lifetime Achievement" Award.

Frank Shonfeld died on July 31, 1990. He had remained active in ERB fandom until the last few years of his life. ERB fans gathered donations so that trees could be planted in his memory at Greystoke Castle.

Brian Bohnett hosted ECOF 91 in Williamson, Michigan. Mike Conran received the "Lifetime Achievement" Award.

John McGuigan hosted ECOF 92 in Denver, Colorado.

Ralph and Katie Brown hosted ECOF '93 in Willows, California. The "Lifetime Achievement" Award was presented to author John Eric Holmes, while Thomas Yeates received a "Golden Lion." GofH: Gordon Scott

Allan Gross hosted ECOF 94 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jim Bergen hosted ECOF 95 in Porland, Oregon. Guests included Peet Janes of Dark Horse Comics, artist Thomas Yeates, and author John Eric Holmes.

Jerry Spannraft hosted ECOF'96 in Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago. GofH: Denny Miller. Activities included a tour of J. Allen St. John's studio apartment, and Burroughs-related addresses in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago.

Brian and Judy Bohnett hosted ECOF 97 at their home in Holt, Michigan.

The Chain continues

In the summer of 1996 I obtained permission from my university to establish an e-mail discussion group devoted to the subject of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I named it the Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship List or ERBCOF-L, in honor of Frank Shonfeld.

Over the first few months the number of subscribers slowly grew to approximately fifty and has remained relatively stable at that size. ERBCOF-List has logged approximately 6000 messages in its first year of operation. In January of 1997 I was able to establish a HomePage on the Internet, and I used the ERBCOF-List "Welcome Message" as a foundation for creating a subpage devoted to Burroughs with similar information, but with the addition of several photographs and illustrations. At the same time I discovered the complimentary Burroughs discussion group (ERBList) managed by Bruce Bozarth and a variety of Burroughs-related Websites. I take some pride in having helped bring Burroughs fandom to the Internet.

ERB Reference Materials
by Robert Zeuschner

Bibliographies of the Writings of ERB (in print and available)

Out-of-print Bibliographies (but highly recommended)

Biographies of the Life of ERB

On the Literary Origins of Tarzan

Other Important Reference Books Still Currently Available

Other Reference Materials which are Out-Of-Print

ERB Movies

I do not know of any book which lists the non-Tarzan ERB movies.

SEE: Bozarth's FILM: Tarzan & Hollywood; Pellucidar and Caspak above for info in the films.