Volume 1194
From the Bill Hillman News Clippings Archive
The ERB / Oak Park Connection

Who Remembers Famous Son Edgar Rice Burroughs
March 24, 1974 ~ Journal  Sunday, Chicago, Illinois
By Jean Guarino and Bonnie Gross

Last Tuesday was the 24th anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs' death and not one word about it was mentioned in Oak Park. 

Burroughs -- one of Oak Park's not-so-celebrated famous sons -- is only begrudgingly  honored here. One suspects a little embarrassment on the part of most Oak Parkers to  claim the creator of Tarzan as a famous resident. After all, what literary merit does Tarzan have compared to the memorable Ernest Hemingway? 

Not much, you might instinctually answer. But, in sheer volume of sales, Burroughs' influence on our culture cannot be ignored. Several years ago, the figure was published that the Tarzan books had sold over 25 million copies in 56 languages. Several generations virtually grew up reading Tarzan of the apes  and seeing those movies. 

And yet. Oak Parkers praise their native son Hemingway and try to ignore Burroughs. There's an irony there, since Ernest left Oak Park as soon as he could and said not-always-nice things about his native village. Burroughs, on the other hand, moved his family to Oak Park at the beginning of his writing career and became actively involved in the affairs of Oak Park. 

The dissimilarities between Hemingway and Burroughs are striking. Hemingway was a compulsive writer from high school on. Burroughs never wrote a line until he was 36  and under severe financial pressure. 

Throughout his life, Hemingway had a style and excitement about him; Burroughs was a loser whose fantasies of power and adventure became the basic material from which he wrote. Burroughs was born in Chicago in a brownstone in what is now the 1800 block of West Washington Blvd.

After attending two military high schools, he tried to enter West Point. He failed the entrance exam and instead enlisted in the Army. Unable to break his losing streak, he was discharged from the Army because of a heart murmur, before he could receive a commission. The imaginative Burroughs reluctantly went to work for his father at a salary of $15 a week. In 1900, when he married Emma Hulbert. the girl he had pursued since childhood, his father's gift was $5 a week raise. After three years of what he considered "penal servitude" Burroughs felt he wasn't getting along with his father and headed west.

He was the American dreamer and drifted -- dragging his wife along -- from a backbreaking job with an Arizona mining company that failed to a job as a railroad cop rushing bums out of the yard. 

He was 29, married for four years and unable to support himself, let alone a wife. He had never held a regular job. His schooling had prepared him only for a military career, yet he flunked West Point's entrance exam. Writing about that time period. Burroughs says that was his lowest point. To raise money to return to Chicago, he sold the useless furniture they had hauled across the country. 

Chicago held only a series of disastrous jobs as salesman." "I hated them all and I hated myself. Most of all I hated the slant-heads I tried to sell to," he wrote. When his second child was born he had to pawn his watch to buy food. 

It was at this point that he was forced to move his family  to his father's "country home" at 414 Augusta in Oak Park. Out of desperation, he began to write. "I began to write not for any particular love of writing. It was because I had a wife and two babies -- a combination which does not work well without money." 

He had never met an editor or publisher and admittedly knew nothing about the technique of story writing. He had no idea how to submit a story and what to expect in payment. 

He submitted the first half of a story to Thomas Metcalf, editor of All-Story Magazine, and was encouraged. He assumed the pseudonym of Normal Bean (common head) and kept his writing a secret from everyone, including his wife. Metcalf bought Burroughs' story "Under the Moons of Mars" for $400 and it was published in 1912. 

He spent his spare time after that success at the Chicago Public library reading Jack London, Kipling and Stanley's "In Darkest Africa." 

He had little confidence in a story he wrote evenings "in longhand on the backs of old letterheads and odd pieces of paper" and was amazed when he received $700 for it. 

It was called "Tarzan of the Apes" and it appeared complete in the October 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine. Burroughs quit his job and decided to work full time at writing. "My income depended solely upon the sale of magazine rights. Had I failed to sell a single story, we would have been broke again. But the lean days were over: between 1912 and 1919 when he left Oak Park, he wrote 22 Tarzan books. 

The Burroughs' family"country home" at 414 Augusta to which
Edgar Rice Burroughs moved to at a low ebb in his life.

Burroughs and his wife and the three children soon 
moved to this stately home at 700 Linden
By 1918 on the eve of America's entry in World War I Burroughs, who had moved his family to 700 Linden, was appointed a major in the Illinois Reserve Militia. The militia had no active federal service and was organized primarily for local protection against any pro-German elements. The Sept. 28, 1918 issue of the Oak Parker lauded his work in the militia under the headline "Prominent Popular Oak Park Man Honored." The article urged "every eligible man to support Major Burroughs by enlisting in his battalion. For a year and a half he has cut down his output, and therefore his income. He sold his home at 700 Linden with the intention of moving to California, but abandoned the idea through a sense of duty and. at great personal expense, rented another home at 325 N. Oak Park ave. 

But once the war was over. Burroughs did head for a 47,000 acre ranch outside Los Angeles. The January 18, 1919 issue of the Oak Parker carried an article expressing in rather ponderous prose, that "our foremost citizen and patriotic friend is going west. Maj. Edgar Rice Burroughs and his interesting wife and three charming children carry with them to the land of rare sunsets the very best wishes for their future happy welfare." Another article described a farewell party hosted by 11-year-old Joan Burroughs, who they called the "leader of the juvenile set in Oak Park."

Once in California, Burroughs phenomenal success continued. His company Burroughs, Inc. encompassed Tarzan books, toys, comics,  household goods,. radio serials, films and fan clubs. In 1934 he divorced his wife of 34 years and married Florence Dearholt, 30 years his junior. The marriage ended in divorce in 1940. 

Burroughs worked as a war-correspondent in the Pacific Pacific during World War II and died in 1950 of Parkinson's disease and heart failure.

March 19, 1975 will be the 25th anniversary of his death. That's a nice, round number -- very appropriate for a celebration of some sort. A Tribute to Burroughs committee anybody?

Jungle Run
August 13, 1975 ~ World ~ Chicago, Illinois

In an uninhibited style, characteristic of jungle life, Tarzan portrayed here by Les McNeely, helps celebrate Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100th anniversary at a block party in Oak Park. 

Burroughs was an Oak Park resident when the character of Tarzan was given literary birth.

Burroughs left Oak Park home behind . . .
By Francis Walsh
World Chicago, Illinois ~ Wednesday, September 24, 1975
An advertisement offering "Two houses and a vacant lot" for sale ran in an Oak Park newspaper, March 16, 1918.

It was placed by Edgar Rice  Burroughs, creator of the famed Tarzan of the Apes. The home, still in splendid shape, is at 700 Linden ave.

"With eight bedrooms, three baths, four toilets, a sun parlor and a glazed sleeping porch," it was offered at- $30,000, which might just bringa bemusedsmile to the new owners who recently moved in. Burroughs had previously been in residence at 414 Augusta,and this house and a vacant lot on Ridgeland just north of Augusta were offered also.

It was while he was in residence at the Linden house that Burroughs published his blockbuster, "Tarzan of the Apes." He had come to Oak Park in 1913 with wife and three children. It was that year that he broke all records for production: 413,000 words!

By the time he decided to go to California (he finally got there in 1919) to get away from what he called our "abominable climate," he had become established as the country's leading producer of pulp fiction. The movies, radio, television, sweat shirts, Johnnyeismuller and yell contests and all the rest were ahead of him. When he died in 1950 he had put together a fortune of $15 million.

But after he left Oak Park for the heaven of California all was not sweetness and light. Lumps began to develop in the mashed potatoes. Listen to this litany of beefs in a March, 1919 letter to an old pal back East:  "My secretary and her husband threw up the sponge last week and departed hence for Illinois. I am now my own secretary, hog expert and goat  impresario. Also both my goat herders quit Saturday, a coyote killed a kid Saturday, three other kids died; I fired the ranch cook, it rained all over my freshly mown hay and the starter on the Chandler (early make of car) won't work.

"Otherwise we are having a heluva nice time. (I just glanced out the front window to discover that the pole on the rake is broken and that two men have stopped work to look at it, leaving them and the tractor idle). But somehow I can't help liking it -- I never loved any place in my life as I do this and if anything happens that I don't make a go of it I believe it would about break my heart."

The mind that had created fantastic worlds in outer space and the jungle was now grubbing with petty details of animal breeding. A herd of prize Angora goats had come with the property. Tarzana was a magnificent spread of 540 acres in the San Fernando valley. About the house on a small knoll were plants and shrubs from Asia and Africa no'ddingwelcome to the new owner.

Burroughs is the subject of a massive biography just acquired by the Oak Park public library. It is published by Brigham University Press; 820 pages, 270 photos, $14.95 or about $2.50 a pound.

The author is Irwin Porges, ardent fan and admirer. Porges and wife, a trained researcher, spent four years sifting through a warehouse of correspondence and memorabilia. ERB was a packrat who never threw out anything.. Thus we have preserved for us such unprofound trivia as this letter, written at age seven to his father, away on business:

"How are you. I miss you very much. We are all well."

But aside from scores of pages of such kid stuff there is much gold in this monster of a book.The rags-toriches-American-will-to-win-Horatio-AIger syndrome is at work here. Before he hit the Tarzan button at age 35, our hero had held 18 jobs in 15 years including door-to-door selling and patent medicine peddling. After his success, he prepared his autobiography and jotted down these stark notes. They reveal much about the aimlessness of
his many early "careers."

"I get a job as timekeeper on a construction job;dizzy heights... I  sell Stoddard lectures . . . candy . . . light bulbs... I am a Flop... get job as expert accountant . . . make good .... go to Sears . . . Joan born (first child) ... go into business with Dentzer.(pots and pans, door to door). . . Fail ... get job with Stace (peddling a patent medicine, supposedly cure for alcoholism) . . . Stace-Burroughs (correspondence course in how to succeed at selling) . . . Flop. . . headaches for years -- no vacation -- lunches (during one period he said his lunches for weeks consisted of three cents worth of ginger snaps) .
"Sell pencil sharpeners ... am just about ready to give up ... start writing a "Princess of Mars" ... in corset jobbers office at Market and Monroe . . . Champlain Yardley co. (they made scratch pads) . . . one half of story accepted . . . My first check (it was for $400). . . write "Outlaw of Torn". . . rejected . . . great poverty . .. pawning watch ... get job with System (advice to businessmen) . . . Jack born (second child) . . . give up my job and decide to depend solely on writing . . . everyone thinks I am crazy including myself."

Anyone with that talent for self-assessment in the face of adversity can't be all bad. Of course, once he got started he never lookedback.

Editors of Ballantine books, in a recent reprint of the Tarzan series, said, "In the 38 years until his death in 1959 Burroughs produced 91 books and a host of short stories and articles. No one knows how many copies of ERB books have been published throughout the world. It is conservative to say, however, that of the translations into 32 languages and Braille the number must be in the hundreds of millions."

ERB Inc., a corporation set up as far back as 1922 by the canny Burroughs, still multiplies and increases the fortune left behind by the founder. Television, movies, endless reprints and tie-ins have resulted in a pop literature monolith that is a phenomenon of our time. And it goes on and on.

Academicians, scholars of the classics and the more disciplined types of literature are advised to save their sneers. Here was a strange, curious and altogether remarkable man. His life,times and works are worth some serious attention.

His rich but overloaded biography is at the Oak Park library,where readers service department is doing a good job of keeping up with current events. If you can reserve it off the waiting list best take along a small boy and a little red wagon as the bookweighs six pounds. 

George and Gloria Lindstrom display their love of travel in decorating the former Burroughs home, 700 Linden ave. in Oak Park.
. . . but old surroundings would be familiar
by Jean Guarino
If Edgar Rice Burroughs could return to his former residence at 700 Linden,Oak Park, where he wrote most of his 40 Tarzan books, he would feel right at home.Two carved lion heads frame the doorway and the sidewalk is flanked by a pair of Japanese ceremonial lanterns. Both touches have been added by the new owners, George and Gloria Lindstrom, who are also planning to replace the front door with a mahagony one carved in Mexico; remove the cement sidewalk in favor a brick one: and completely re-landscape the property. They have already encircled the house with a low wrought iron fence and have built a new garage. The Lindstroms and their six children moved into the house in June and for most of the summer months the house was filled with painters and other workmen. "The entire house was beige but we like variety and so every room is a different color now," Mrs. Lindstrom explained.

The interior has a strong Oriental motif reflecting the Lindstrom's travels. The first floor consists of a living room, dining room, library, sitting room and kitchen. Eight bedrooms are scattered on the second and third floors. Many people would have difficulty filling a house of this size, but Gloria's problem is picking and choosing furniture and objects d'art from the 20 room house they left in West Chicago to fit into this "smaller'' house. George and Gloria are not new to Oak Park, having lived here years ago when they were first married. Lindstrom is an architect with offices in Glen Ellyn. The house was  designed by famed Prairie School architect E.E. Roberts in 1911, for the William H. Gardener familv.

The Lindstroms purchased the house from Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Remencheck who moved to Houston. The Remencheck's were active in civic affairs and Mary Remencheck served on the Oak Park-River Forest High school board. The Lindstroms were unaware of the house's' historical significance before they purchased it. Burroughs lived in the house from about 1913 to 1919. After leaving Oak Park for good he purchased a 47.000 acre ranch outside Los Angeles.

His first home in Oak Park was at 414 Augusta, his father-in-law's "country home," where he moved at an extremely low ebb in his life. He was 29. married four years and unable to support himself, let alone a wife. He had never held a regular job. His schooling had prepared him only for a military career, yet he flunked West Point's entrance exam. Out of desparation he began to write. "I began to write not for any particular love of writing. It was because I had a wife and two babies -- a combination which does not work well without money." In 1912 he sold his first story, "Under the Moon of Mars," to All-Story magazine for $400. He topped this success with a story he wrote in evenings "in longhand on the backs of old letterheads and odd pieces of paper" and was amazed when he received $700 for it. It was called "Tarzan of the Apes," and represented the end of Burroughs' lean days.

On Sunday, Sept. 28, at 1:30 p.m, the three-day celebration observing the 100th anniversary of Burroughs' birth will culminate with the laying of a permanent marker on the Lindstrom's front lawn. The stone will commemorate the fact that Burroughs resided in the house during his most creative years.

Related Oak Park Features
in Bill Hillman's ERBzine

ERBzine 0062

THE OAK PARKER, Vol. 34, No. 25, Oak Park, Illinois
September 28, 1918

Read More About the Oak Park Years in the
ERB Bio Timeline

Photos of Oak Park Residences
with an accompanying list of novels written there

Memories of Oak Park contained in the Joan Burroughs Pierce Bio

Edgar Rice Burroughs Museum in Oak Park
Grand Opening by Joan Bledig


Send all correspondence to

ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
No part of this Web site may be reproduced without permission.