Tarzan was born in the jungles
of Africa, but his creator first saw the light of day amidst more tranquil
Edgar Rice Burroughs was
born in Chicago on September
1st, 1875. His father, George
Tyler Burroughs, was a Civil
War veteran and now a successful businessman. Major Burroughs and his
wife Mary had five other boys besides Edgar, but two of the children died
in infancy, leaving Edgar the youngest of the family.
"Eddie" attended several
schools during his formative years, often being shuttled from one to another
due to the outbreak of various diseases. At this time it was standard to
learn Greek and Latin in addition to English composition, and Burroughs
would often lament his erratic schooling, which resulted in his (or so
he said) learning little English while taking the same Greek and Latin
courses over and over again. Despite his claims to the contrary, this early
exposure to Classical literature and mythology would serve Burroughs well
in his future writing career.
An influenza epidemic hit
Chicago in 1891; hundreds died, and Edgar's worried parents wondered how
they could protect their fifteen-year-old son. A few years earlier two
of Edgar's brothers, George and Harry, had started a cattle ranch out west
in Idaho. This seemed like a logical safe haven, so George and Mary packed
Edgar onto an Idaho-bound train.
Ed took to the frontier life
like a duck to water. He rode the range, herded cattle, busted a bucking
broncho, and got to know a few thieves, murderers and bad men.Idaho at
this time was still a pretty rough-and-tumble place; a range war was brewing
between cattle ranchers and sheepmen, the law was fairly lax, and there
were even shootouts at the local saloon. Young Ed loved the half year he
spent in Idaho ~ then his parents found out about these sordid events of
frontier life and sent Ed off to the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
But Ed wound up being a bit
too rough-and-tumble himself for the faculty at Andover, so the Major shipped
his son off to the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake. Here Ed's
frontier skills stood him in good stead; he became an excellent trick rider
and crack shot, football quarterback and even did fairly well in his studies.
Not that he was an angel during his stay at MMA (he tried deserting during
his first year, among other escapades) but Burroughs had apparently found
an atmosphere conducive to his spirit.