Edgar Rice Burroughs was an adventurer in life before he opened up new worlds of adventure with his books. A cavalryman in Arizona, a policeman in Salt Lake City, a cowboy in Idaho, and a gold miner in Oregon, he did not start to write until he was thirty-five.
Then he found himself famous as the author of Tarzan of the Apes. During the first World War, Burroughs served as a Major with the Illinois Militia. The film version of Tarzan of the Apes, in 1918, was one of the first films to make more than a million dollars for its producers, and Burroughs owned stock in the film. He was one of the first authors to successfully publish his own books. At age 58, he became interested in aviation and obtained his pilot's license.
After witnessing the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he became perhaps the oldest war correspondent covering the bombing of the South Pacific and was an actual participant on at least one bombing mission.
Tarzan was born in the jungles of Africa, but his creator -- Edgar Rice Burroughs -- first saw the light of day in a well-to-do neighborhood of Chicago in 1875. Ed Burroughs, before writing the wildly successful Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, had lived an amazingly colorful life -- but had reaped few financial rewards. He received his education in military academies and spent time in the wild west as a cowboy, gold miner, railway policeman, stationery store owner and U.S. Cavalry trooper. He returned to Chicago to marry his childhood sweetheart Emma Centennia Hulbert in 1900 and to try his hand at a long string of largely unsuccessful business enterprises. Following the success of Tarzan, however, he turned out a torrent of imaginative novels in fantastic settings on other worlds and led his ape-man character to many more adventures across the African continent and even to the Earth's core.
In 1919, ERB bought a 550-acre estate in California's San Fernando Valley that he named Tarzana Ranch. The event that prompted this move was the block-buster success of the 1918 film, Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzana was close to Hollywood, but it also fulfilled his dream of becoming a gentleman farmer and allowed him to share his love of the outdoors with Emma and their three children.
Burroughs continued to write two novels a year, but still found the time and energy to evolve into a dynamic businessman, even subdividing some of Tarzana into city lots and a golf & country club. He became one of the first writers to form his own corporation, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., through which he published his own books and supervised his rapidly expanding entertainment empire. The iconic Tarzan went on to set many firsts: a long series of successful feature films and serials, newspaper adventure strips, Broadway and English stage plays, syndicated radio serials, Tarzan Clan youth clubs, advertising promotions, comic books, and a barrage of merchandising licenses. While doing all this Burroughs bought and flew his own aircraft and supported his children in careers of acting, writing, photography and painting.
In 1940, ERB and his second wife, actress Florence Gilbert, moved to Hawaii, where he witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He immediately drew upon his previous military experience and volunteered to command home guard units on the island. Major Burroughs later flew and sailed for thousands of miles to Pacific islands in his duties as a war correspondent. Following the war he spent his remaining years in poor health and died near his beloved Tarzana in 1950.