ERB: What, Me Worry?
Eddie was a ramblin' gambling' man. He was born in a pair of ramblin' shoes and he always took the most desperate chances. When he succeeded he was spectacular, but when he failed Ö oh, well.
Perhaps the biggest gamble he ever took was being born but then, as Eddie always said: to me to conceive is to act. Things started out well as he began his life as a little prince but would soon turn sour when he was eight and lost a confrontation with a twelve year old bully on a street corner on the way to school. That was a life changer; he'd gone from prince to pauper and worse was yet to come. But, hey, it's all education, isn't it now?
The next year he began a foot race with the plague which he would ultimately lose. But as with being born he was initially successful. In an effort to escape the epidemic he was transferred to an all-girls school. Apparently this was a polite plague selecting only boys. So like young Achilles Eddie took his place among the young ladies.
Still pursued, as one imagines, he was put for safety in a Latin School, one imagines as a place the fever would never look for him and if it found him would never enter the abode of such objectionable learning. Still, a young man of means, he owned both a pony and a bicycle. The pony he rode back and forth to school leaving it tethered outside while he soaked up the classical knowledge. The bicycle he rode for fun but tipped over banging his head against a curb. This left him dizzy for days perhaps contributing to his later character which was formed by a similar incident.
While secure at the Harvard Latin School of Chicago for a couple years, the plague was not to be baffled forever. Eddie took to his heels running as fast as he could way out across the Western Plains to Idaho to become a Jr. cowboy. No box tops necessary.
If this picture is any indication he was quite a dude. Look at those chaps! The rowels of those spurs were so big they dragged on the ground announcing his approach from some distance. It was not all bravado, however, as he did have quite a way with the horses. Eddie was quite happy on the ranch and he might have become a Sr. cowboy but fate put some itchin powder in Eddie's ramblin' shoes and he resumed his ramblin' ways. Doing an intellectual about face he and his guitar showed up at a Harvard prep school called the Phillips Academy. It was soon discovered that he didn't know how to play guitar and hadn't even learned any good cowboy songs such as The Streets Of Laredo, The Chisholm Trail and other titles of that ilk. Didn't even know how to sing, either.
This disappointed the faculty, as well as his low grades, so that they couldn't bear Eddie's presence. Thus he was told to put his ramblin' shoes back on and git along.
As you can tell, by this time Eddie was accumulating a fair amount of educational experience though not of the academic sort. Still of tender years and still outdistancing the plague Eddie had to find another educational emporium to fill out his youthful years. His father, actually the agent of all this agitation, for some reason thinking him a delinquent, did what all fathers of delinquent kids do, he enrolled the lad in a military academy. Supposed to make you learn to stand up straight or something like that. Yep. If the plague showed up there theyíd most likely make him stand at attention until he got tired of it.
After all this ramblin' Eddie was becoming quite a character. In addition to performing some typical goofy stunts Ed was a star rider on the Equestrian team as well captaining the football team as a quarterback. Just to put in some good words for Eddie here and raise him in your estimation, Ed led the Michigan Military Academy Tigers, or whatever they were called, to a draw against the mighty University Of Michigan Wolverines. Always an odd sobriquet I thought and in a competition between a tiger and wolverine which would you bet on.
Now, this nearly miraculous feat did not go unnoticed. He so impressed the Wolverine coach that Ed was offered a full football ride at Ann Arbor. Well, you might say, that was really wonderful. Yes, it could have been. But the imp of the perverse was down in those rambliní shoes as well as the itching powder as Eddie turned the coach down. If the offer had come from Yale that would have been different, but UM? Eddie had his heart set on Yale, which his brothers had attended, and it was Yale or nothing. Yale was uninterested.
That was a positive life changing experience that Eddie missed but fate was cramming the next few years with a bunch more, some of them very memorable. Plus the plague was waiting for him just around the corner. That was going to be a stunner.
First up was one of those glorious once-in-a-lifetime experiences that only succeeds if you're at the right age. Eddie was and he had one glorious summer in the year of '93. The Chicago Columbian Exposition. The promoters couldnít get it together to open in '92 which would have been that actual 400th anniversary year of the intrepid navigator's voyage, but the promoters were ready in '93. Eddie was seventeen and spent the summer of his life at the Expo grounds.
Iím going to have to try to set the Expo up for you because in its own way it was the highpoint of Western Civilization before and since. Western confidence just began to sort of evaporate after the fair was over.
II. Eddie In Wonderland
Built In A Matter Of Months
The nineteenth century was quite something. It was the century of magnificent discoveries and achievement. Society chooses to diminish those wonderful scientists by derogatorily calling them Dead White Men while sneeringly dismissing them. Pardon me, if I'm sentimental, but those were the guys that made the present possible and I can't admire them too much. Theyíll always be my revered ancestors to me and not Dead White Men. Down with negativity.
Technology and Science just exploded as scientific research opened new and very broad vistas to human view that never would have been opened without them. The machinery was incredible. The accumulated wonders were first put on display at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. Six million people wandered through. It was breathtaking as the world of tomorrow went on display.
Water Gate From Lake Michigan
The Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia followed as an international competition began to form. Next came the 1889 fair in Paris for which the Eiffel Tower was created to form the triumphal arch through people entered the fair. Boy, there was an eye opener. Over a thousand feet tall, 300 steps up to the first level and 300 more up to the second. Tough act to follow but out there on the very edge of civilization existed the city to do it. Chicago. Chicago itself was considered exhibition enough. The Iron Chancellor, Bismarck himself, said that his only regret was dying without ever having seen that Chicago.
By 1893 the conditions for a perfect fair had formed. Steam safely delivered hordes from across the seas and steam brought them to Chicago in long lines of Pullman cars pulled by a mighty eight wheeler. The conditions were perfect and Chicago had the men of vision to realize the perfect fair -- and how! And there were men to commemorate it as it deserved. H.H. Bancroft published a large size five volume set displaying its wonders in detail
Ferris Wheel, White City Foreground, Black City Background
The setting on Lake Michigan was spectacular; a one of a kind creation, never since replicated or even close to it. The Century Of Progress of 1933 was but a pale imitation. If you've read The Devil In The White City you know a fuller description than Iím going to give here. The White City, as the fair grounds were called, was a fairy land, life as it could be. It contrasted with the Black City, life as it was, of everyday Chicago. Industrialism was a recent phenomenon in the nineteenth century so that in the giddiness of creation such things as environmental concerns and labor relations had been neglected or at least not seen in their true importance. Everyday Chicago was a grim place; Eddie often makes unflattering remarks about his home town throughout his novels. It was smelly, smoky and dirty with huge slums not to mention institutionalized crime. Theyíve shut down the stockyards but the criminal mentality remains.
The White City in contrast was a city as it could be and should. L. Frank Baum would later use it as the model for his Emerald City. As there was great labor unrest in Chicago at the time the labor force was critical. Those who signed on were quarantined to the site while work was in progress so as not to be corrupted by the labor dissidents. They threw up some of the most massive buildings in existence, practically overnight. They created pleasure gardens and a whole pleasure island. They had the midway of midways, in fact the term Midway was originated at the Expo. In competition with Paris's Eiffel Tower the world's first monster Ferris Wheel was brought into existence. While in the US the Wheel was turned into a carnival ride, now many European capitols display huge four hundred foot Ferris Wheels next to their Houses of Parliament. No US city does; even the original Ferris Wheel was dismantled and has disappeared into some junkyard, perhaps having been converted into the steel beams of a skyscraper.
The Expo not only featured the technological and scientific triumphs of that fabulous nineteenth century, but all the intellectual advances; Francis Galton the English psychologist displayed his achievements; Frederick Jackson Turner announced his seminal work on the disappearance of the frontier; The Congress of World Religions set up its tent over in the Black City to discuss how religion was to meet the challenge of science.
One of the first of the body builders, The Great Sandow, performed his strength stunts and flexed his muscles giving Eddie the germ for his seminal literary creation a few years hence.
Imitation Zuni Cliff Dwellings were created, a whole Dahomian village was thrown up, staffed with real Dahomians brought over for the fair. Eddie was influenced by these but he really enjoyed the peep show -- forty beautiful women, count 'em, forty, on display for your delectation.
Dozens of huge buildings from nearly every State and country, art works created an instant museum to rival the great museums of the world. Just outside the gates, too late to be included within, the fabulous Buffalo Billís Wild West. History portrayed while it was still in making out on the Western Plains. As incredible as it may seem among the performers was no less than Sitting Bull himself, the engineer of Custerís defeat at his Last Stand. Amazing. It's all show biz, folks.
The White City shot up out of the beach sands and chiggers, existed for a few months and then it was gone, burned to the grounds by the labor malcontents of the Black City. Fire is the devil's best friend. Before it was gone Eddie and his fellows from the Michigan Military Academy marched into that Sacred City like so many Greeks at Troy, in pomp and circumstance. The troops of the MMA strutted in while the band played on. It filled Eddie's heart with pride. Five years later, slightly inebriated, he and a friend would hire a band parading along behind them through the streets of downtown Denver. Letís just say the fair entrance was one of those thrills.
The summer of Ď93 was one for Eddie to remember. In a few years automobiles would begin to fill the streets of the Black City. In the White City of '93 Eddie beat them to the punch driving fair patrons around in his dadís electric Morrison. The Morrison wasnít much in the way of self propelled vehicles, being little more than a buckboard with benches on it, but, there was no horse in front of it and Ed was behind the wheel.
There was so much at the fair that a casual weekend visit was merely the smallest of sips, a week was a swallow, two weeks perhaps a draught. Nobody could take it in, nobody, but Ed that is. He had the full three months of that glorious summer to walk the walks, cross the bridges, stroll the romantic Wooded Island to the fabulous Japanese pavilion, gape and take it all in. Youíve got to remember that in those days before movies, TV, videos and color photography bound in convenient volumes no one, or at least very few, had ever seen such things. The fair was the prototype for all the Disney Lands and Worlds now dotting the planet.
What Ed might have missed he may have spotted in a newspaper account, rushing back to the grounds to take it in. Not everyone would know how to use what he saw and experienced, Ed did. Even if it was impossible for him to understand what he saw at the time, Eddie tucked it into the back of his mind from which it emerged in dribbles into his fiction over the thirty years of his writing career.
How lucky he was to pass the Summer of Ď93 in this wonderland. Truly a life changing experience. Not the only one coming up, Eddie had a lot more awaiting him in what he described as a boring life.
III. Life Begins To Get Serious
First up was graduation from the MMA and the year he spent as a Geology instructor there. Then at the end of the year a depression seized Ed, probably caused by his failure to get an appointment to West Point. He joined the Army anyway leaving the MMA in the lurch while asking for the worst post in the Army's jurisdiction. He got it. He was very lucky the Army wasn't the French Foreign Legion or they might have assigned him to a post that made hell look a luxury resort, with no way out. The Army was more considerate, they sent him to Fort Grant in Arizona which was a few degrees cooler than hell although the accommodations were not much better.
The bad news was that Ed was in the Army finding this particular life-changing experience, decidedly unpleasant; the good news was that Eddie really liked the desert and the Apaches. Zane Grey beat him to the punch writing about it but after 1903 Eddie read Zaneís books assiduously. Both Arizona and Southern Utah, the border was disputed at that time, formed an irresistible attraction to him and he and Emma in their later years of marriage returned to it numerous times. Much later, even as Ed Burroughs was sadly contemplating divorcing this woman who had stuck with him through thick and thin, he retreated to the White Mountains Apache Reservation to ponder his situation. A deep respect for the Apaches was another consequence of his abbreviated tour of duty. Abbreviated because Ed developed what the Old Timers called a Ďtobacco heartí and Ed had his dad use his influence to get him out. When the going got tough Eddie always took off running. He remembered that street corner in Chicago.
Well there he was, twenty-two years old with no directions home, although he did find his way back to Chicago, a story in itself, which Iím not going to tell here, but fragments of it can be found in The Return Of The Mucker. Ed knew how to use every scrap of his experience to advantage. For a couple years Ed hopped back and forth between Chicago and Idaho where his brothers were still running the ranch where Eddie had earned those gigantic spurs.
It was on one of these trips he and an old Army buddy, a member of the "Might Have Seen Better Days Club" of that brief Army period, hired the band in Denver. It was also in Denver that Ed showed his gambling proclivities losing the money to cover the stretch from Denver to Idaho. As the baby brother, Big Brother Harry covered his act, but Ed had set a dangerous precedent.
Part of the reason for Ed's motation at this particular stage of his life was the maturing of his relationship with future wife Emma. As girls often do, she matured faster than Eddie and hearing her biological clock ticking was ready for the altar. Time was no longer on her side. Whether she could have ever rustled Ed out of bachelorhood is a topic for some rumination if she wasnít at the same time being courted also by a rich handsome young fellow by the name of Frank Martin. Irish; always a red flag for Eddie who had some Irish blood of his own but considered himself a full blooded English type.
Rich and Irish. Frank's dad was a big railroad magnate. Had his own private car to hitch at the back of the train. Well, to make a long story short Frank correctly discerned Ed's intentions of wanting to remain a bachelor yet keep Emma on his string. Ed would go away but he wouldnít stay away. Frank sat down and thought for a while, perhaps between breakfast and lunch, and thought he had devised a way to keep Eddie awayÖpermanently.
It was a good plan and should have worked but it didn't. Frank had his dad hook up the private car to a New York City bound train and then invited Ed along for the ride. Our Blithe Spirit got on the train without a qualm. One should never trust the other guy in matters concerning love or money. There are some guys who take the old saying everythingís fair in love and war quite seriously. Ed was to be given the coup de grace in Toronto on the way back. The boys went to the Toronto equivalent of Chicagoís Levee for a nightís entertainment. A couple thugs approached Ed flashing a black jack of sufficient weight and criminal dexterity to kill him but the coup and the grace separated. Ed was down and bloody but he survived. He promptly went back to Chicago and married Emma to keep her out of Frankís hands. Now it was Frankie's turn to cry.
We know he was a sore loser and if he didnít stalk Ed he didnít let him out of his sight either. Thirty-four years later when Ed and Emma parted Frankís man Patchin was sent to LA to gloat over the divorce. Even when Eddie died, Frank had preceded him, Patchin sent a mocking letter to Ed's son.
What Iím leading up to here is not even conjecture but just a bit of imagination, but since I know more than Iím telling, a possibility. As I pointed out for the last twenty years Ed had been dodging the plague; in 1901 he turned a corner and there he was face to face Mr. Typhoid Fever. Fever shook his hand and that was it. Eddie was down and almost out. It was a terrible bout but Ed did survive or else I might be writing about Zane Grey, a decidedly stuffy creature in whom I have no interest.
It was only a little over a year since Frank had been aced out of Emma. Definitely not long enough to cool off his hot Irish temper. A man who will attempt murder once will hold a long grudge and we know that Martin never stopped thinking of Emma and Ed. It may sound far fetched and may be it is, but as Ed caught the Typhus a year or so after snagging Emma I wouldnít be surprised to learn that Frank Martin passed a stolen bacillus on to Ed in some way. Certainly he couldnít have him assaulted again, an accident might have been difficult, so perhaps he introduced the disease into Edís food in some way. Just a suspicion.
Eddie didnít bounce back to his feet, but while he convalescing a very important book to him was issued which he devoured as it appealed to his romantic soul. He would read Owen Wisterís Virginian six or seven times by 1920. If one looks at in this way Ed made several attempts to escape Chicago until he finally succeeded in 1919. If one looks at it like that, as I say, Ed fled with Emma in 1903, 1913, 1916 and 1919.
I always look for a chain of events, the reason why. Wister's The Virginian has a terrific reputation although it is one of those classics that leaves me cold. Wister was one of Teddy Rooseveltís buddies. The book he wrote smells like a Gent roughing it in the wilds. Perhaps the appeal to Ed. On the one hand the novel deals with the Johnson County Range War in Wyoming of which Eddie was peripherally associated when he was an Idaho cowboy in Ď91. Several of the rebels who had killed men fled Wyoming while one or two went into hiding in Idaho. Ed apparently knew one of these desperadoes so The Virginian would have had a personal interest for him.
The love story of the book concerns a rough-hewn poorly-educated cowboy and a school teacher much above him whom he woos and wins. They then wed while for their cowboy honeymoon the hero takes his new wife out into the picturesque mountains of Wyoming.
IV. Buttons And Bows
A Western ranch is just a branch
Of Nowhere Junction to me.
Give me that city
Where the livingís pretty
And the girls wear finery.Ray Evans, Buttons and BowsI havenít read a study on Ed that gave any attention to understanding Emma or her history and yet she was a key figure in his success, while after Ed divorced her his production declined in both quantity and quality. It would seem then that whatever drove him as a writer was connected to Emma
From Paleface of 1948 starring Bob Hope.
There were striking differences between Ed and Emma. Whereas Ed was shifted not only from school to school, but from Illinois to Idaho to Massachusetts and finally to Michigan, Emma continued on at Brown School to graduation giving her a much more stable outlook on life. After graduation she studied voice in Chicago becoming familiar with the higher culture, while Ed was much more familiar with the lower reaches of culture. Emma would often chide Ed for his lack of culture as he preferred boxing to opera and in later life would become a devotee of professional wrestling with all its vulgar connotations.
The Hulberts, Emma's family, considered themselves as high class people and, indeed they were. Thus when Frank Martin came calling Emmaís father, Alvin was overjoyed finding Frank a perfect match for his daughter. Alvin quite frankly despised Eddie considering him a ne'er do well and young failure. There was certainly enough evidence to support his point of view. Before the marriage, in order to encourage Frank's attentions to his daughter, Ed was forbidden the house. And yet Emma had her heart set on Ed and would have him. Apparently her affection never wavered although her opinion of her husband varied. As it would turn out Alvin's view of the marriage was much more correct than Emma's. She should have listened to her papa.
As a young girl and woman the Hulberts treated Emma to the best of everything. While her heart was set on Ed, it is obvious that she dated during all those years when Ed was not in Chicago. It is important to remember that Ed was from Chicago, but his youth was spent elsewhere so that he was only faintly culturally of Chicago.
Emma was a clotheshorse. As the pictures show she was used to finery. Those are not only a lot of clothes she's wearing but fairly expensive clothes. Clothes that Ed definitely could not provide her during the first decade or so of their marriage. When he did come into his money it was his pride that Emma could buy any clothes she wanted and he was happy to have her do so.
So, Ed, his head spinning from the Toronto bashing, and woozy from his fever attack, never particularly stable anyway, conceived the notion of taking Emma to the foothills of Idaho to reenact Wister's novel. In 1903 then, Ed packed Emma and all their belongings to catch a train to Idaho riding baggage with Emma and their dog.
We have no record as yet of what Emma may have thought of this or whether she protested vehemently being overruled by Edís unreasoning passion. Of course between bashing, fever and excruciating headaches anyone might be excused erratic but innocent behavior.
Emma Riding Baggage Dressed Chicago Style
Perhaps she objected using an analogous argument to Ray Evansí
My bones denounce the buckboard bounce
And the cactus hurts my toes
Letís stay here where gals keep usiní
Those silks and satins and linen that shows
And Iím all yours in buttons and bows.
If she did use such an argument she was still in the baggage car with Ed and the dog.
Iím sure the trip was wildly romantic to Ed. His dadís battery factory was on Madison, the hobo main stem so that Iím sure Ed had discussed the hobo life with them. His 1915 novel The Return Of The Mucker would celebrate the hobo life style as well as its successor The Oakdale Affair. So there they were, he, Emma and the dog in the baggage car like three hoboes.
Look at the picture of Emma in her finery standing in the boxcar. The look on her face echoes the lyric:
Donít bury me in this prairie
Take me where the cement grows
Letís go back to where Iíll keep on weariní
Those frills and flowers and buttons and bows
Rings and things and buttons and bows.
I wonder if that was what was going through her mind.
Those long skirts didnít work well out in the brambles, Emma didnít have any other clothes, probably wouldnít have worn pants if available, nor was Emma entranced with the one room balloon shack Ed threw up, so their stay way out there was romantic to only one of them and of short duration.
Ed And Emma Dressed To Kill In The Wilds Of Idaho
Now comes an event painful to relate. Emma in her finery is way out there feeling miserable, while Ed having removed wife and possessions to the romantic wilderness has only forty dollars in his pocket with no way to earn more. He was a rambler, he was a gambler.
Ed's brother Harry was off in Parma so he and Emma went down to the station to catch a train to visit Harry. They had to put up for the night in what passed for a hotel room above the saloon. To this point in her life Emma had never even thought of roughing it and now she was learning all about it. To compound matters Eddie kissed her goodbye just like in Frankie and Johnny and went downstairs to find a poker game. His head must really have been hurting. They could have written the song Stagger Lee about him.
Well, he started with forty dollars thinking to inflate his stake to sixty or maybe eighty dollars, but fate decreed that he come away with empty pockets. The possible reward wasn't worth the risk. He had to have been playing with sharpies who took his cash and commiserated with his hard luck.
Let me illustrate how slick it can be. I was nineteen on the California Zephyr and two would be sharpers were trying entice me into a game of poker. They were really obvious and I wasnít biting, Iíd already dealt with sharpers aboard ship and come away cleaned. But, the railroad had an employee on board who must have been an amateur magician, he knew his cards. Dressed like a hick, walking and talking like one, he bustled up with his own deck of cards, invited me to stay, probably would have given me the best hands Iíd ever seen because he meant me well, but I wasnít really interested. Anyway he cleaned those two guys out in ten minutes and bustled off the way he came. They sat there stunned.
Now, I wasn't present at the game Ed was in but I'd be totally amazed if those boys didnít have a good laugh and dinner at Edís expense. Bad luck, good luck, Ed now stood at the bottom of the stairs swallowing hard, trying to figure out just how he was going to explain their dilemma to Emma. To be short about it, this was another one of those life changing experiences for Ed. No, sir, Ed didnít have an explanation that Emma would accept. I mean, she could have married a millionaire and here she was in a wretched so-called hotel room a thousand miles from nowhere without a dime. Think about it. What was going through her mind?
Their relationship changed right there. It was a change that Ed would never be able to overcome; Iím sure it was the primary cause for the divorce thirty years later as Emma could never forget while Ed could never get over his shame. But, Ed hung in there for now. He recorded much of this period in his novel The Girl From Farrissís While a romanticized view of the years between 1900 and 1922 can be found in Marcia Of The Doorstep when Ed was again in hot water for overextending himself financially in LA.
Iím sure the railroads had a bitter taste for Ed after Frank Martin and Toronto. The memory of that private car shone in Edís mind like a diamond, but for now he took a job on the Oregon Shortline as a yard policeman in Salt Lake City. That is until Emma rebelled at taking in boarders ordering Ed to take her back to Chicago:
Let's move back to that big town
Where they love a gal by the cut o' her clothes
And Iíll stand out in buttons and bows.
Ed had a garage sale, or whatever they called them back then, actually selling Emma's ornately carved marriage bed for a pittance. Iím sure that left a little scar too. Then, perhaps because Emma ragged him about riding baggage he bought a couple first class tickets back to the Black City which now appeared blacker than ever, I'm sure.
Ed was now a lost boy with responsibilities. The next seven years must have been a period of the blackest despair for him. He just couldnít get his act together. He wandered from job to job. He landed a job at Sears, Roebuck that was a good job paying three thousand dollars a year. Not bad money in those days when unskilled labor worked six twelve hour days for from five hundred to seven-fifty a year. Edís prospects were good. He probably could have moved up into the five to ten thousand class in a few years. He showed up at his front door saying: Honey, I quit. Emma's reaction wasn't recorded but Iím sure it was voluble.
And then, of course, there were the pencil sharpeners. Ed never did sell one but he did sit down and write half of A Princess Of Mars. Who would have believed it? Munseyís Magazine to who he had submitted it asked for the other half and gave him four hundred dollars to boot. Whether Ed and Emma sensed it or not they were on their way aboard the rocket, ready to ride.
We all hope for the success of our wildest dreams but few if any of us are prepared to manage the consequences of that success. It's not as easy as it might seem. Itís sort of like the town bum spending a dollar for a lottery ticket and getting fifty million in return. If the bum thought he knew money before he is now introduced to the real thing.
For Ed who in his conception was born a prince, made a pauper, spending decades in disappointed expectations, now realized his destiny again. Upbraided by Emma for being a poor provider he was now in a position to provide her every desire, after taking care of his first, of course. The past weighed heavy on Eddie. The difficulties of his courtship and the shame of that gambling night in Idaho had to be rectified, reversed.
It couldnít be, of course. One's failures can only be recognized, accepted and lived with. But in a frenzy Ed thought that by repeating the private car incident and the disastrous trip to Idaho he could wash away the stains. Thus, having established a market for his goods, most especially with the creation of his Ďmeal ticketí Tarzan, Ed did an incredible thing. Remember he still had no money in the bank, betting entirely on the come.
As with Idaho he packed up all his goods including his useless second hand car, wife and by now three kids, bought five first class tickets to San Diego and made another attempt at fleeing Chicago. First class wasnít the same as a private car but it was pretty close so Ed hopefully erased the shame of Frank Martinís trip to New York City and back.
Once in San Diego, which stay lasted nine months, or long enough to be born again as the New Ed, he must have lived a princely existence going through most of the ten thousand he earned that year, while returning to Chicago as broke as he had been when he and Emma boarded the train in Salt Lake City. So, he tried to eliminate his shame.
Once back in the Black City, having sold his production while in San Diego, he wrote some more, sold some more and made a seamless transition from the old Ed to the reincarnated Ed.
I would imagine that part of the plan was to get Tarzan published as a book and with that money establish himself as a man of means in his old home town. Move on up to the Gold Coast.
That would seem to be a very reasonable plan from our point of view but it was not that easy. Perhaps Tarzan, which is pure fantasy of the extravagant kind went well beyond publishersí literary expectations. No one would touch it then, even though from our perspective the story was pure gold as, indeed, it turned out to be although not for Ed. Perhaps the novel appeared to the literary taste of Edís day as comic books did to literary lights in the forties and fifties of the last century, something to be burned and banned, hence Edís success was of the bastard sort.
He finally did get his novel published in book form in 1914 but he was stripped of most of the financial benefits as it went almost directly to reprint publishers; thus his royalties were more than halved and mere pittances of what they might have been. Still, by the time royalties began to come in Ed had created a backlog of Tarzan novels so that with current production one a year would be published for about ten years.
As the profit motive didnít seem to be activating his publisher, the Chicago firm of McClurg's, Ed was reduced to pleading with them to print at least twenty to thirty thousand copies before a novel was sent to the reprint house. It seems incomprehensible that McClurgís wouldnít do so on their own but they obstinately refused to make money for themselves and hence for Ed.
Well, the records, as Iíve been told, have been destroyed so whatís to be said. Once again I suspect outside interference. McClurg's was an Irish house; Frank Martin was Irish. McClurgís a was semi-public company open to investors one assumes; Frank Martin had money to invest. Until a better explanation is provided I have to believe something along those lines was happening.
But, if Eddie could have lived long enough the wonders he would have seen. At one hundred he would have been a very rich man. Those successful intellectual properties just keep gaining in value. Better than stamp collecting.
While Ed appears to have been stymied at the publishing end, that enterprise was old hat, the new wonder of the authorial imagination was movies. The Big Money, to quote John Dos Passos, Thus to some extent the movies made up for what Ed was being cheated out of in publishing. The first film production of Tarzan was the industries' first million grosser. Thus when Ed successfully fled Chicago in 1919 his income was ten times what it had been in 1913. If his work was disparaged, as the say goes, he laughed all the way to the bank. Ed left Chicago with his pockets jingling.
Next: Part II: If Pigs Had Wings
Edgar Rice Burroughs Rides The Rocket: A Short Life
Next: Part II: If Pigs Had Wings
Ed's Grid Iron Memories
Michigan Military Academy Photos I
General Charles King Tribute
1896-1897 at Fort Grant with the U.S. 7th Cavalry
ERB and The Apache
ERB at the 1893 Columbian Exposition
Ed Burroughs and His Electric Flyer
The "Other" Burroughs
Official Bio I
The Mucker in C.H.A.S.E.R Biblio
The Mucker: eText Edition
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Personal Library
R.H. Patchin Correspondence
The Girl from Farris's
Marcia of the Doorstep
The ERB / Sears Connection
Official Bio II
tarzan.org ERB Bio
Meet R. E. Prindle
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