Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. Although he told many intriguing tales about his childhood, he was actually the son of a well-to-do family, attending a military academy. He served in the military for awhile, hoping to become an officer, but a heart murmur mustered him out of the service. He married his childhood sweetheart and nearly bankrupted the family during a succession of clerical jobs for the next 15 years.
As a sales manager for a pencil sharpener company, he was responsible for placing ads in pulp magazines. Reading the stories printed in them, he remarked that he knew “if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten.” Burroughs sold his first story to All-Story Magazine for the princely sum of $400. That story, “Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess,” was printed as “Under the Moons of Mars” in serial form from January to September of 1912, under his pen name, Norman Bean. (The story goes that he thought his own writing so strange that he submitted it under a pen name, Normal Bean, to show the editor that he had a decent brain.) That story was eventually published as the book The Princess of Mars in 1917. Burroughs’ most famous book, Tarzan of the Apes, was published in 1914. That story was first published in All-Story Magazine as well. When Burroughs was paid $700 for its publication, he decided to become a full-time writer. Burroughs wrote several book series besides Tarzan: John Carter’s adventures on Mars and Venus, the tales of Pellucidar, at the Earth’s core, and The Land That Time Forgot. Although his books are somewhat dated because of the racism and chauvinism of his age, their pure storytelling factor has kept them in print.
The books made Burroughs a wealthy man. He bought a ranch north of Los Angeles and named it Tarzana—a suburb grew up around the ranch. He and his second wife moved to Hawaii in 1940. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he became the oldest war correspondent in the Pacific theater. Burroughs died on March 19, 1950, while reading a comic book in bed.