Burroughs Family archive of letters to son John Coleman BurroughsEdgar Rice Burroughs Archive in a total of sixteen letters, nine handwritten and seven typed, to his son, John "Jack" Coleman Burroughs, with additional material. This wonderful collection of letters from father to son begins in 1923, well into his writing career, through 1938. ERB appears to have had a very close and loving relationship with all three of his children, Joan, Hulbert and Jack. Jack Coleman Burroughs, influenced by his father's work, became an illustrator upon graduating college in 1934. After drawing comics for newspapers, Jack was hired by his father for ERB, Inc. to draw the illustrations for the books and continued to do so for almost all publications until ERB passed away in 1950.
Included the collection is a one page, typed letter dated June 19, 1936 from ERB to Mr. Bryant of Technicolor Motion Picture Corp stating "Please be advised that I wish to have photographed for test purposes only sixty feet of film." Then, handwritten as an aside, "at my risk." Additional material includes nine letters from other family members to Jack. On the back of an envelope from a handwritten letter on January 26, 1933 from ERB's wife, Emma, there is a rare commemorative stamp depicting the first edition dust jacket of Tarzan of the Apes. The stamp measures 1.625" x 1.0625".
Burroughs' successes and failures were often a result of his impulsive behavior. He would latch on to an idea and just as quickly drop it once it proved fruitless. After reading several pulp fiction magazines, he decided to try his hand with writing. Beginning with A Princess of Mars in 1912, ERB was able to sell most of his stories to add to the income from his unsteady employment. In 1923, ERB set up Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. to publish his books. Although this provided a low but regular income, the family often lived above their means.
In 1919, Burroughs and his family purchased a ranch in Reseda, California and named it Tarzana after his much beloved character. As John Taliaferro said in his biography of Burroughs, "No other name would have fit as well. Tarzan had paid for Tarzana, of course." With the exception of letters written while traveling, nearly all letterheads are from Tarzana Ranch. The writer brought recognition to the growing community and in 1930 a new post office was requested by the residents and they opted to rename the town Tarzana. During the mid to late 30's, Burroughs, no longer able to afford maintenance on the ranch, was forced to break up the property and lease it to new residents.
The earliest piece of the archive begins with a delightful handwritten letter signed from February 16, 1923. It is one page, 8 ½" x 11". The top half is letter is illustrated with an original four panel cartoon drawn by Burroughs. The drawing depicts ERB's two boys, Hulbert and Jack, climbing atop horses in their individual styles. Underneath is the note to Jack. "The train shakes so that I can't draw very well. I couldn't if it didn't shake at all, so what's the difference." and signed "Love and kisses to my dear children, Papa."
His impulsive nature led to other activities such as flight lessons. In a single typed letter signed on January 22, 1934, "The natural consequence of my flying is that Hulbert is going to start taking lessons; and I presume that when you are through college, you will follow suit." Then on May 27, 1934 in a typed two page letter on a single sheet, "You will be proud to know that I made a perfect landing - proud and surprised, as was I." Apparently, Jack took up flying as well while ERB's interest tapered off. In a typed one page letter from June 3, 1935, "No, I have not been flying much lately. Have you?" These letters are hand initialed with "O.B." for "Old Burroughs", a nickname his children bestowed upon him.
As indicated, Burroughs profited considerably from the Tarzan series. Taking full advantage of the character's popularity, he actively made deals for productions in film, radio and television. Dissatisfied with previous distorted adaptations, in 1935, he co-wrote The New Adventures of Tarzan, a new series under his company Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises. Handwritten across the recto and verso of a single sheet dated February 28, 1935, Burroughs tells Jack "I think we are going to have a good picture from what I have seen of the rushes and what little has been assembled and cut. The financing has been hard though. No one is willing to finance a picture being made in Guatemala." Signed "O.B.".
The archive offers an intimate view of the relationship between Burroughs and his family. Although Burroughs divorced his wife, Emma, in 1934, mention of it is never made nor does it seem to have forced a gap between ERB and his children. In this collection, any bitterness between the couple is entirely absent in the letters to Jack. In the additional material, notes from Emma mention frequent visits with her son. From page three of a handwritten bifolio dated June 10, 1934: "Will try to get over Wednesday at one. ... Am so very proud of you my dear. Love and kisses, Mamma. Anything you want me to bring over?"
Most letters are light hearted and filled with the daily activities of their lives, from dinner plans to film productions. On occasion though, Burroughs took an earnest and reflective tone, unreserved in his affection for his children. In a typed single page letter dated May 7, 1933 he states, "I am afraid, because we joke so much, that you have not realized how proud I am. You boys are doing the things and being the sort of men I should like to be if I could live my life over again." Signed "O.B.".
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