Tarzan of the Apes, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, is one of the most successful fictional characters ever created. Fearless and intelligent, he met any situation (whether it be a hungry lion, a lost civilization or a damsel in distress) with complete aplomb. He’s the ultimate in wish-fulfillment, always acting capably and bravely in any situation.
Throughout his literary career, Tarzan of the Apes would roam across much of Africa, encountering many more lost civilizations than one would have reasonably suspected could exist. He fought evil humans, lions, panthers, apes and the occasional dinosaur. He was captured quite often, then threatened with execution or slavery or being tossed into a gladiator arena. But he always managed to escape and wreak havoc on his captors.
There were a total of 22 highly entertaining and commercially successful Tarzan novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs between 1912 and 1947, with several sets of shorter Tarzan stories being collected into two more books after Burroughs’ death. It’s not surprising that such an appealing and long-lived character would spill over into other media. Countless Tarzan comic books, movies, radio shows and TV shows eventually sprang up.
The exhibit includes first-edition books and looks at the origins of the series, why it was so popular, the many artists who dramatically illustrated the books, and the films from the silent era up to the 2016 release.
Burroughs proved to be an astute businessman and was one of the first writers to incorporate himself, which both lowered his income tax and provided a strong framework for all his various money-making efforts. In 1919 he moved to Los Angeles, purchased a large ranch in the San Fernando Valley which he later developed into the suburb of Tarzana. By then his book sales were in the tens of millions and they were translated into more than 30 languages.
Guided tours are offered of all the Russell Special Collections Libraries galleries each Tuesday at 2 p.m. (We have air conditioning!)