THE LOST LETTERS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
A Sampling of the ERB/Weston/Beatrice Connection
in the ERBzine Bio Timeline
The Burroughs-Weston letters trace a fascinatingly interwoven emotional
and business relationship that evolved as the two men and their wives engaged
in joint capital ventures, traveled frequently, and navigated the difficult
waters of child-rearing, divorce, and aging. Brother Men includes never-before-published
images, annotations, and a critical introduction in which Cohen explores
the significance of the sustained emotional male friendship evident in
the letters. Rich with insights related to visual culture and media technologies,
consumerism, the history of the family, the history of authorship and readership,
and the development of the West, these letters make it clear that Tarzan
was only one small part of Edgar Rice Burroughs's broad engagement with
modern culture. Ref: Brother Men: The Correspondence of
Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston
January 12, 1908: Emma gives birth to daughter Joan at the Park Avenue
Hospital. (The name is pronounced Jo-anne in the Burroughs family.) Lifelong
friends, the Westons have a daughter two months later. Ed dotes on new
baby: "Joan is a son-of-gun, she is THE BOSS of the ranch. She is spoiled,
ruined curdled. But what do we care. We are proud of it."
March 12, 1908: Ed writes to Bert Weston after learning of the recent
birth of baby Jane to the Westons: "I [now] know more about babies than
the man who invented them. I can tell a baby where ever I see one. No one
can fool me. I am getting so that I stop and inspect every baby I see on
the street. I can tell how old they are without looking at their teeth.
Many mothers with large families are coming to me for advice. So are fathers
without any families."
March 29, 1908: Letter from 194 Park Ave., Chicago Ill. to Westons:
"Sure I change Joan. If you dont know how to do it I will tell you. Insert
eight safety pins in your face, grasp infant firmly by hind legs, place
three cornered piece of cloth beneath stage entrance, put on shoe that
has fallen off during scuffle, grasp one end of one corner of didy with
teeth unoccupied by safety pins, take the other two corners in one hand,
drop them and put on the other shoe, do it all over again, in the mean
time say goo-goo and giggle-goggle. After pinning all securely feel of
baby. You will find her wet again by this time and should immediately commence
to change her again. Repeat."
March 1, 1918: During a visit to Coldwater, Ed looks for a cure for
his seven-year bout of neuritis. He has tried everything, and even looked
to Christian Science once. (June 22 letter to Weston): "This dope which
I obtained is put up by a druggist in Coldwater from a prescription given
to one of the Coldwater plutes (plutocrats) by a traveling salesman --
but where the traveling salesman got the prescription, deponent sayeth
not. Anyhow, it cost one and one half bucks per bottle and is absolutely
guaranteed to be harmless. Dr. Earle pooh-poohs the idea that it helped
me and so do I; however it was a remarkable coincidence that immediately
after commencing to take it the pain left me for the first time in years
and I have been steadily improving since. To show what a narrow minded
chump a man can be, I quit taking it because they doubled the price. .
August 12-26, 1918: Ed joins his company of six other Oak Park men
in training at Camp Steever, Geneva Lake, Illinois. The training is physically
demanding and they often work into the night with field maneuvers and trench
work. A slow dresser, Ed takes advantage of thepermission granted swimmers
to turn out for the Reveille formation in bathing suits and after the set-up
exercises takes a dip in the lake. He looks forward to the frequent swims
in the lake as a break from camp life. (Weston Letter Sept 4): Geneva is
a deep, clear-water lake. The water is never warm and the swimming is fine.
It is one of the deepest lakes of its size in the country and goes right
off within a few feet of the shore into deep water. At one place Government
soundings show it to be 1027 ft. deep but I did not go down to verify the
report. I derived considerable benefit from the training, especially in
the matter of the new spirit of military instruction. I believe three months
intensive training in an officer's training camp would make me a regular
guy again as I feel that I as after my five years at Orchard Lake. I notice
in the new draft law that bald headed men with three children are to be
put into A-1 class so I suppose you and I will soon be in the front line
He is later promoted to major and to the command of the First Battalion,
Second Infantry of the Illinois Reserves.
September 17, 1918: Ed, at 42, is too old to enter active service and
he complains to friend Bert Weston that militia work was "the only military
activity which Emma will permit me to indulge in...."
October 25, 1918: Ongoing correspondence between Ed and Bert Weston
shows their passionate feelings about the war. Weston writes: "Major, I
salute you!!! And a good little major I'll bet you are, and it is a doggoned
pitty ou are not majoring over in Flanders where you'd be a credit to yourself,
tribe and country, and not merely herding the "Park Ave Rifles" around."
Ed replies from his Militia office: "If they put me in that class (Class
G-1 to which Weston has been designated), I should go down and jump in
the lake. It looks very much as though the filthy Hun would have to lie
down and surrender within the next six months but I think he will only
do it after a complete and thorough licking unless a gleam of intelligence
manifests itself among the German people to the end that they rise up in
their wrath and massacre the entire darned military class."
December 7, 1918: In response to Ed's plans to get into farming, Ed's
friend, Weston, says he is toying with the idea of starting a farming enterprise
in Canada but fears that the Saskatchewan prairies are the "doggonedest
place in the western hemisphere to live.". He gives Ed the following advice
on farming: "I look upon a farm as a factory. If I go farming, I'll run
the damnedthing not with any idea of getting back to nature, but from the
point of view ofmaking it produce so much stuff for a 5 year average.
December 7, 1918: Ed and Weston are staunch Republicans. Weston writes
that a returning army major friend of his says that not a single officer
will ever vote the Democratic ticket again. To Weston's knowledge no Democrat
went into the army at all -- except by the draft route. Weston and son
Collins admit to detesting Jane Porter, "Tarzan was mightily stung when
he married her."
March 14, 1919: Ed urges old friend Bert Weston of Beatrice to buy
ranch sites on either side of the Tarzana Ranch. (Ed carries on
with a full description of Tarzana Ranch which I have transcribed in the
April 29: Weston sends congratulations to Ed for having killed off
Jane Porter in the Red Book serial of Tarzan the Untamed.
May 10, 1920: In a letter to Bert Weston Ed explains the reason for
his killing off and then resurrection of Tarzan's Jane in Tarzan the Untamed:
"... I left Jane dead up to the last gasp and then my publisher
and the magazine editor rose up on their hind legs and roared. They said
the public would not stand for it as I was having Tarzan fall in love with
Bertha, so I had to resurrect the dear lady. After seeing Enid Markey take
the part of Jane in the first Tarzan picture I was very glad to kill her."
April 26, 1927: Ed decides to not go through with a purchase of a new
Lincoln through Weston who can get a good deal on it and decides instead
to fix his old car up for $300 and use the money saved to make improvements
on Tarzana. Ed, a Jack Dempsey fan, does not share Weston's admiration
of boxer Gene Tunney (the Westons had met Tunney on a train trip from Grand
Canyon). He considers Dempsey to be a true fighting machine.
July 19, 1927: Ed's receipt of Weston's Detroit Free Press clipping
about the Oak Park (MMA) Academy prompts him to consider forming an association
of Orchard Lakers that could bring pressure to bear upon the state of Michigan
to re-establish a new Michigan Military Academy, preferably located at
Orchard Lake. He turns down Weston's offer for wholesale priced home
movie equipment, saying: "I have purchased so many things that the family
was hectic about only to find that they were nine day wonders. I now have
three projecting machines and seven hundred and twenty eight thousand miles
of film which are never used."
June 26, 1928: Ed orders a home movie camera and projector ($287.00
less a 30% discount through Owl Pharmacy) from Bert Weston (a few months
later Weston gives a similar deal to Ed's friends the Rosenbergers). He
wants it in time to experiment with it so he can get some good pictures
of Joan's outdoor wedding on August 8. They plan to use the area between
the chicken yard and the corral. He builds a cabinet similar to a small
smoking stand that holds everything pertaining to the photo outfit.
September 17, 1928: Ed receives the wedding films and they view them
at night. He has also taken film of Tarzana, Jack shooting a coyote and
horses galloping around the paddock. Jack is experimenting with putting
titles on the films. He later sends the wedding films to the Pierces
and then on to Westons.
Summer 1929: Ed makes unwise investments in a San Fernando Valley Airport
Los Angeles Metropolitan Airport) and Apache Motors airplane engine company.
Following Ed's advice, the Westons also have bought stock. The Government
buys a dirigible base near Zelzah near Tarzana and General Motors is trying
to get control of the Metropolitan Airport.
June 5, 1929: Ed and Emma return from a visit with Bert and Margaret
Weston in Beatrice, Nebraska.
October 29, 1929: The Stock Market Crash signals that Ed and Weston's
investments are in trouble.
March, 1930: Ed starts to suffer from severe abdominal pains which
interfere with his plans to visit with the Westons during their California
March 3: Rothmund, acting as proxy for Ed and the Westons, attends
a stockholders' meeting of the troubled Metropolitan Airport.
April, 1930: Jack pursuing his interest in photogaphy enlarges many
of Bert Weston's 35mm photos.
July 14, 1930: Ed sends Weston one of many letters expressing his regret
over having persuaded him to invest in the failed Metropolitan Airport
and aircraft engine stock.
September 13, 1930: Ed writes to Bert Weston: "Emma, Hulbert, Jack
and I just returned from a trip up the Redwood Highway to Grant's Pass
in Oregon and back down the Pacific Highway, which follows the Sacramento
and San Joaquin Valleys. We made the trip in two Aerocars. They are trailers
that hook on behind a car, with a special hitch. The big one, which is
called a Pullman and is twenty feet long, was hauled by my old 1921 Packard
Roadster. This car contains two lower berths, two upper berths, long divan,
lavatory, toilet, refrigerator, clothes press and various drawers and compartments
for clothing or what have you. The other trailer, which we used as a commissary
car, was hauled by a Ford Pick-up car that I bought for the purpose. It
was our dining room and kitchen. We took the cook and his wife, who slept
in the commissary car. It makes a very easy way of camping out and the
whole outfit worked out very nicely. I think one of these cars would be
a great thing for you and Margaret, who are always tearing around the country."
April 20s, 1931: Bert and Margaret Weston visit -- use trailer. Notebook
entries for Xontron, Dr. Science, etc: lost unpublished works.
March 27, 1932 (circa): The Westons visit Tarzana. They have been wintering
at Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Beach. Weston is glad to see that Ed is
looking much better than the year before when he appeared to be depressed.
Weston's son Jeff gets along well with Hully and Jack.
May 25, 1932: Bert Weston writes that he and everyone he knows are
thrilled with the new MGM Tarzan picture. . . but. . .."I think you
took too little for the next three Tarzans. Also, where did Metro get the
Tar-ZAN pronounciation? I have been around a whole lot with Tarzan's papa,
and know all you Tarzan folk fairly well, even to being well acquainted
with two Tarzans of the canine species, and I have never noted any accent
on the ZAN!"
May 25, 1932: Weston writes: "I do not know whether it is the climate,
or what, but you certainly have shaken off at least ten years since '31.
I hate to see you guys, who are my seniors, looking a good ten years younger
than I do, but, someway, all the rest of the family seem to like it, and
even go so far as to twit me about it.". . . "Hulbert is a real golfer,
if I ever saw one. He has got whatever a golfer has to have. That little
final wiggle, before he starts his swing, is just the sort of thing that
all rating golfers have, in some form or another. That is just a warning
that here goes a long one straight down the center!" . . . "I cannot
imagine being better situated than you are, with your ranch-house in the
San Franando, and that fine beach location.
March 14, 1934: Ed breaks the news of his separation to the Westons:
"I doubt very much that Emma and I will drive up to see you. I suppose
you have to know it some time, so I might as well tell you that we are
not living together. Emma is still at the beach, and my address is Tarzana.
June 25, 1940: Ed writes Bert Weston that Florence is discouraged with
the cost-saving measures, as well as the condition of the house and its
rats and scorpions. Ed relays a chain letter which contains a long
list of famous names: Senator Heflin, Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford, Col.
Lindberg, Dorothy Dix, John Barrymore, etc.
March 20, 1941: Ed writes Bert Weston of having met long-standing fan,
pulp writer, and professional wrestler, Prince Ilaki Ibn Ali Hassan. He
says Florence left the islands because of the increasing Japanese threat.