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Volume 0030

AN AUTO-BIOGRAPHY
By 
Edgar Rice Burroughs

author of 
Tarzan of the Apes 
The Return of Tarzan
The Beasts of Tarzan 
The Son of Tarzan
 

Compliments of the
REPUBLIC MOTOR TRUCK COMPANY
1917
ALMA, MICH. 


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The Detroit Daily Journal [July 22, 1916] "broke" the story of Burroughs' cross-country trip after the author "...a well set-up chap in a neat business suit presented himself in the editorial rooms and said quietly:
"I am Edgar Rice Burroughs."

As a matter of fact [reported the Journal], "the author of endless adventure stories had more adventures getting from Oak Park to Coldwater [Michigan] than Tarzan ever had.

"According to Mr. Burroughs' own statement, he ran his touring car 1,500 miles in reaching Coldwater, a distance of 193 miles from his starting point, and he figures that at the same rate he will travel 229,500 miles in getting to Los Angeles and will complete the journey in 23 years, 3 months and 15 days. [It took 99 days.]

"The equipment includes everything portable from a fireless cooker to a refrigerator, and from a phonograph to an electric break (sic) mixer. This equipment was too much for Calamity Jane (a trailer) and Happy Thought (an Overland truck) and one or the other of them broke down at least once every three miles.

"The start was made in a pouring rain July 14 and the first camp pitched in a torrent at nightfall at Rolling Plains, Ind. Inasmuch as Calamity Jane had broken down completely a mile away, and as the tentmakers had sewed the long side of the tent floor to the short wall, and as everything else that could possibly go wrong had gone wrong, the site was named Camp Despair. (See the original documents listing the names given to the camps including autographs of people met along the way: Page 1 and Page 2)

"However the next stop at Michigan City was so much better that it was called Camp Joy, and at the end of five days the party reached Coldwater, having in the meantime discarded Calamity Jane to her fate and purchased a truck, a transaction which involved Mr. Burroughs traveling from Alma, Mich., to Coldwater by rail, an experience which he does not expect to duplicate, as it required four different trains and 12 hours time, the distance being only about 100 miles.

"It was at Coldwater that they decided to start for California instead of Maine, but whether they ever reach there or not the author of 'Tarzan' will continue to write weird and unusual adventure stories. None of them will be about Calamity Jane or Happy Thought, however, because he has found that he can't write about anything he is thoroughly familiar about.

"'The less I know about a thing the better I can write about it,' says Mr. Burroughs frankly." 

More descriptions of this trip are featured in the Joan Burroughs biography at: 

ERBzine 1102
Click images for full size
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This is a chronicle of a 1916 cross-country automobile safari in which Edgar Rice Burroughs and his family drove from their home in Oak Park, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, camping most of the way. On June 19th, ERB had purchased a new 3/4 ton Republic Truck in South Bend, Indiana, to help carry all of their luggage. After months of bad weather and illness, they arrived in Los Angeles on September 3rd, 1916.

Three months later, in December 1916, W.A. Somerville, the advertising manager for the Republic Motor Truck Company, wrote to ERB asking him to write "a little book, detailing your experiences with your Republic truck on your recent transcontinental journey." Somerville also told ERB that the booklet would be distributed free and would have a circulation of approximately 250,000 copies. It is not known how many were actually published or distributed.

The original was probably published in 1917. It was bound in brown suede with brown satin end papers and instead of being stapled, was held together with a small cord in a bow knot. The interior line drawings were originally sepia toned.

Introduction by Robert B. Zeuschner included in a special reprint edition prepared for the Burroughs Bibliophiles in 1996.

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Without undue vanity and with no intention of boasting, I think I am warranted in saying that I have probably crowded more real living into the first four months of my life than the majority of my brothers and cousins experience in all the years which intervene between the factory and their ultimate burial ground -- the junk pile.

How little did I imagine in my brief childhood, as I purred through the quiet streets of Alma or rolled along the shady country roads beyond, what lay in store for me! Ah, but those were clean and happy days!

Author ERB writing in his travel journal while sitting on a camp stool under a tree. ~ The campsite with the truck and family members are in the background.

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The testing and tuning were my play-times, and always then were they they careful of me. They never took me out without plenty of oil in my crank case and water in my radiator, and one would have thought me a petted child of luxury designed to transport nothing less ethereal than a Parisian gowned debutante to her first ball, so careful were they of my paint and varnish. Each night I was carefully groomed and housed for fear the night air would mar my lustre and freshly painted resplendence ere I was led to the sales floor.

PICTURE OF TRUCK IN THE SHOWROOM

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In the early days of June in The Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred Sixteen I was born close to the banks of the Pine, where sleepy old Alma is rapidly awakening to the din of travail as a score or more of my brothers are delivered daily from our mutual birth-place -- the wonderful Modern Factory.

Not long were we permitted to remain at home -- scarcely was our paint and varnish dry ere we were hustled out into the world to do our share in maintaining the commercial supremacy of a nation. I dreamed great dreams in those days. Nothing less than Chicago entered my mind, for I had some twelve hundred brothers there, and I wanted to show them what a new Model F could do. Doubtless I should be purchased by some great packing company and thereafter be the envy of all my less fortunate fellows.

[TRUCK ON THE ROAD, ROAD SIGN IN THE FOREGROUND: CHICAGO 338 MILES]

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It was in the midst of one of these day dreams that I was told that I had been sold to an ice-man in South Bend. I wept bitterly.

The South Bend agent drove me from Alma to the Indiana metropolis, some two hundred and twenty-five miles. We arrived, if I recall correctly, on June 18th. The ice man was to come for me the following afternoon. I was still sobbing when The Agent brought a man to look at me. At first I thought it was the ice-man and made up my mind that I would run over him the first time he cranked me; but when I saw his garb I commenced to doubt, for I had seen the ice-man at Alma and he, I recalled distinctly, did not wear corduroy riding breeches, tan leather puttees or a deerskin coat. The Man walked around me, peeked under my bonnet and looked wise. He had a dapper, uniformed chauffeur with

[TWO MEN IN LONG COATS  LOOKING AT THE TRUCK]

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him who also peeked and looked wise. Then The Agent drove them around town in me for a few minutes and they went away. I was greatly mystified for although I listened intently I had heard no mention of ice.

Half an hour later The Man came back. He seemed in quite a hurry. He gave The Agent a check for me and I came into the possession of my first owner. The chauffeur ran me in the alley where I was backed up to a disreputable looking outfit consisting of a delivery car and a trailer, both heavily laden. I can tell you my side lamps opened pretty wide when I saw the stuff they were transferring from the old outfit to me.

[TRUCK BACKED UP TO TRANSFER GOODS]

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6There was an enormous refrigerator, an oil cook stove, a fireless cooker, a hat box, galvanized iron tanks, a phonograph, folding cots, stools, tables, a bath tub, two trunks, countless suit cases and bags, seven rolls of bedding, toys, a flag, tent poles and stakes, a great tent, and goodness knows what all beside. I didn't wonder that the little delivery car was sitting on its rear fenders. It seemed that it had taken them a week to come from Oak Park, which is a suburb of Chicago about one hundred miles from South Bend, and that they were buying me to carry all this junk clear to the Atlantic Ocean. If it had been mine I wouldn't have packed it all that distance with the St. Joe River running right through South Bend; but then, as I learned later, The Boss is one of these writer fellows, for whose mental functionings there is no accounting.

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7I began to buck up a bit when I learned that he wasn't an ice-man and that not only was I not to enter vulgar trade, but was to be driven by a man in uniform. I fear that I was quite vain in my youth. If I could have foreseen what the next few months held in store for me I might have regretted the ice-man; yet, I don't know. The ice-man might have abused me too, and I am quite sure I should never have become famous peddling ice around South Bend, Indiana, and I am certainly some famous truck today. I've had my pictures in the papers from Detroit to Los Angeles and I've been admired and talked about and discussed all the way across the continent, and to cap the climax I was the most popular entry in the great Motor Truck Show of Los Angeles -- why everyone hung around me and paid no attention at all to

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8 the spick-and-span brand new trucks. I feared the poor things would actually back-fire with envy.

But, take it form me, Fame has cost me dear. Talk about abuse! It was awful! Why even now my carburetor floods at the thought of it. The Boss didn't mean to be cruel to me. The trouble was he didn't know anything about a truck. Writers seldom have much use for a motor truck even when their output is as great as The Boss's, and so, of course, I wouldn't really expect him to know a great deal about me -- nor did he. Why he had me four months before he discovered that I didn't have a water pump and didn't need one.

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9He was always talking to the chauffeur about the water pump being out of order when I overheated, and the chauffeur shammed intelligence and said "uh-huh," or words to that effect. He didn't know that I didn't have a water pump any more than The Boss knew it.

Two men learned to drive in me, or at least learned to drive a truck, and learned to drive in the country -- which is very different from driving a touring car, or city driving.

The Boss drove a touring car which carried his family -- Mrs. Boss and the three little children -- and Theresa, the maid, and neither he nor the chauffeur seemed to realize that I am not geared like a touring car and can't flit around the country at thirty miles an hour in a mad chase to reach a certain spot without suffering the consequences.

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Then they overloaded me into the bargain. I am a Three-Quarter Ton Republic, but they put a ton and a half aboard me and drove me up and down the sides of mountains, through sand, through mud, through rivers -- everywhere that a truck is not ordinarily expected to go.

I know that they overloaded me, not alone because of the weight I could feel; but because The Boss was always talking about it. He seemed proud of it, though had I been he, I'd have been ashamed instead. He used to buttonhole every stranger he saw and brag about how much camp equipment he was carrying; but when he was loading up or unloading with the chauffeur he didn't brag much, though he used language.

They use language in automobile factories, as you may imagine; but no self-respecting motor truck ever had to listen to more lurid thought

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expressions than did I during the daily processes of loading and unloading when we made or broke camp.

You see The Boss was out on a camping tour with his family. We got as far as Detroit and then turned around and made for Los Angeles. They had a nice white canvas top made for me -- a regular prairie schooner top, and I was fitted up inside like a kitchenette -- stove, refrigerator, kitchen cabinet, and all the fixings. I guess there must have been a thousand different things
 
 

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in me when we were on the road, and on the outside The Boss had extra running boards fitted where he carried a water bucket, two big water tanks, a kerosene tank, lubricating oils, cans and lanterns.

Every night when we went into camp they used to hoist Old Glory at the end of a staff that fitted into a socket at the front end of the top. I liked that, and I can tell you that I was might proud, and happy, too. Those were the best hours of my life, for then Joan or Hulbert would get out the phonograph and the records, and with little Jack playing close beside me I would stand there resting and cooling off while I listened to the music the children loved best. The pieces were seldom classical; but we all learned to love them, and I shall never again hear "Are You From Dixie?" "Do What Your Mother Did;" "Hello, Hawaii, How

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Are You?" or half a dozen others without there rising before me a picture of some quiet and shady grove, a large green and white striped tent, and three little children and an Airedale pup romping around under everyone's feet.

When the tent and other equipment was out of me, Theresa would come in and cook on the three-burner oil stove. The Boss always tried to level it first and lighted it for her; but it never stayed level and seldom burned with all three burners more than five consecutive minutes. Twice it nearly set me on fire, flooding with oil and blazing way up to the canvas top. It was so bad once that The Boss had to come in with the pyrene gun which was attached to my dash and put it out.  The poor boob had never used one before and in the close quarters of my inside nearly asphyxiated himself as well as the fire.

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We crossed nine States and camped in many places. Everyone was nice to us and interested in us. It always made me proud to hear The Boss brag about me. Even if he did abuse me he more than made it up by the nice things he said about me to everyone, and I tried to deserve all that he said. I think I did, too, for I always was faithful and never shirked, even when I was called upon to do the work of a two-ton, three thousand dollar truck.
 
 

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L'ENVOI

It is all over now and I am hauling boxes for a new Boss in Los Angeles; but to the day I am junked I shall carry the pride and the memory of my Fame ever uppermost  in my mind, and strive to be what I always have been and what my brothers and my cousins are -- the best motor trucks for the money that ever were built -- a REPUBLIC.
 
 

JOSEPH MACK PRINTING HOUSE, INC.
DETROIT

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Scans from the original booklet

The Envelope


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