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Edgar Rice Burroughs Signature
Master of Imaginative Fantasy Adventure 
Creator of Tarzan and  "Grandfather of American Science Fiction" 
Issue 0169

Sponsored by Signal Oil
Continued in PART II at ERBzine 0169a

In 1931 Burroughs entered negotiations with Frederick C. Dahlquist of American Radio Features Syndicate to adapt Tarzan of the Apes to a fifteen-minute, chapter-a-day, five-days-a-week radio serial transcribed to 16" discs which could be syndicated worldwide. Burroughs, who had always been on the cutting edge of technology and marketing, had been fascinated with radio for years, having appeared himself on air as early as 1926 in Chicago. In a letter dated January 5, 1932, Burroughs wrote the following to Dalquist:

"We have had opportunities during the past few years to enter into arrangements to put our Tarzan stories on radio. While we have always believed that if Tarzan were properly presented over radio he would win an enthusiastic audience, we have never had presented to us a plan or presentation which met with our approval until you became interested and developed your ideas in the adaptation of the Tarzan stories. To me Tarzan is a real character, as he is, I believe, to several million men, women, and children not only in America but in the many foreign countries where the Tarzan books have had wide sales for a decade and a half. All of us to whom Tarzan has been an old friend and a source of pleasure would experience a sense of distinct loss were the idealism of many years destroyed; and so there are no rewards that could be offered that would tempt me to enter into any arrangement that I felt might reflect other than credit upon the Lord of the Jungle cause regret to his oldest friend or disappointment to the smallest boy. I am happy that you share my opinions on the matter, and it is extremely gratifying to me to know that your staff has so ably constructed the radio presentation of Tarzan that I am confident his broadcasts will cause even greater thrills to his old friends and be the source of winning many new ones. Your method of presentation will, I am sure appeal to everyone with its swift action and suspense . I think the sound effects are ingenious, and truly believe you will have every boy in America attempting the wild cry of Tarzan in victory and every adult dreaming that he, too, is a giant in strength and character and courage."

Not everything went as Burroughs had planned, however.  The contract with American stipulated that Burroughs would have the right to cancel if certain terms were not met and he followed through on this option as indicated in a letter sent by ERB, Inc. Secretary, Ralph Rothmans on July 29, 1932 in which he terminated the agreement:

"We are convinced that the program cannot be released on the air by September 1st and done right. YOu have noting on hand with which to start production, as Mr. Burroughs has not approved any of the scripts recently sent to him. In the space of seven months you have completed but two episodes and have made two records, which is an indication to us that you are not capable of doing the work satisfactorily."

"Inasmuch as twenty weeks have elapsed since execution of the contract and no royalties have been received by us, we are exercising our option of terminating the agreement. . .  "

This seemed to put a fire under Dahlquist, who informed Burroughs that Signal Oil and Gas Company had signed on as exclusive sponsor for the West Coast states, and he eventually persuaded Burroughs to give him a little more time to work on scripts, find a cast, and record opening shows. World Broadcasting System later signed a contract to sell the show in states east of the Rockies. Amazingly the American Radio Syndicate regained Burroughs' confidence, the author gave his approval for the go ahead,  and the show debuted a few days past the originally planned September 1, 1932 launch. He  is quoted as saying:

“Perhaps in my radio contract I shall insist upon the reservation to me of the interplanetary rights. Why not? Radio rights and sound and dialog rights would have seemed as preposterous twenty years ago... long before my copyrights expire television rights will be worth a fortune...”

The radio scripts, which used a combination of narration, dialogue, sound effects and original music, were closely supervised by ERB who had a special interest in the serial since it starred daughter Joan and her husband James Pierce. He was fascinated with the quality of the sound effects but did not hesitate to criticize the scripts whenever they appeared to be sloppily prepared, or whenever they presented the apeman as showing fear, laughing or exhibiting any other out-of-character behaviour.  The first serial ran 286 15-minute episodes. Tarzan of the Apes was adapted in the first 130 episodes, followed by a partial adaptation of  The Return of Tarzan.

Electrical Transcription ET Label


Signal News
Published by the Signal Oil & Gas Co. in the Interest of Its Dealers.
Vol. 1, No. 3,  September 1932.

World Premiere Introduces Radio Tarzan to Thousands

Saturday, September 10th, the first Radio Premiere on record presented to radio fans all over the State the first episode in the thrilling adventures of "Tarzan of the Apes," sponsored by the Signal Oil and Gas Company.

Critics and thousands of motorists who jammed the World Premiere Radio Show at Fox Pantages Theatre in Hollywood proclaimed it the most fascinating and colorful radio program they had ever heard.

Among those who participated in the stage show were Jim Pierce, all-American football player and well-known actor, who takes the part of Tarzan in Signal's sensational radio serial; Miss Joan Burroughs, talented actress and daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs; Mr. Burroughs himself, internationally known author of all "Tarzan" stories together with the entire Tarzan radio cast, including Lord and Lady Greystoke, Captain Tracy, Cecil Clayton, Yont, Professor Porter, Philander, (Joan Burroughs as Jane Porter and  James Pierce as Tarzan).

Representing the motion picture fraternity were Johnny Weissmuller, the 'Tarzan' of the recent Metro-Golden-Mayer picture, "Tarzan the Ape Man" who, much to the delight of the 3,000 Signal guests present, gave the famous Tarzan yell. Tom Brown from Universal, Barbara Weeks and Lillian Miles from Columbia, as well as scores of famous stars and Hollywood celebrities, including motion picture directors, editors and writers for motion picture magazines.

Representatives from local radio stations, including KFI, KHJ, KFWB and the entire staff of KNX were in attendance, while a number of popular radio stars, such as Clarence Muse, composer of  Sleepy Time Down South"; Cliff Arquette, in his characterization, "Aunt Hat"; Mary Rossetti, versatile singer, and the KNX Rangers appeared in the stage show.

Eddie Lambert, star comedian and producer of the "Nine o'Clock Reverie," acted as Master of Ceremonies for the show while Freeman Lang, inimitable Master of Ceremonies, presided over the "mike" to introduce the screen stars as well as the leading lights of radio land.

Included among the guests of the Company were several hundred Signal dealers and their families, Company employees and their families, and representatives from other oil companies, the California Oil and Gas Association and representatives from all the press.

Thousands of radio fans who were unable to attend in person enjoyed the premiere through the courtesy of KNX, who broadcast the entire three hour show.

Congratulations were received on every side by the Signal Oil and Gas Company on the World Premier which introduced the Company's thrilling Tarzan radio broadcasts. Congratulations are now being received by the Company on the program itself, since radio fans all over the State have heard the first week's episode over KPO (San Francisco), KNX (Los Angeles), KGB (San Diego), KDB (Santa Barbara), KMJ (Fresno), KERN (Bakersfield), and KFXM (San Bernardino).

Judging from phone calls to the radio stations, dealer reports from customers, as well as the universal enthusiasm and interest displayed everywhere by grown-ups as well as kids, it can conservatively be said that Signal's "Tarzan Over Radio" is off to a flying start.

Signal's Tarzan Jig-Saw Puzzle Contest, a unique and fascinating version of the popular jig-saw puzzle craze that is sweeping the country, officially opens Tuesday, September 20th. 

All that is necessary  to enter the contest is to stop in a t any Signal Service Station throughout California, and ask for an entry blank and copy of the first week's section of the Tarzan puzzle. Entry blanks and puzzles are absolutely free. 

Full directions as well as rules of the contest and a list of prize awards are continued in the official entry blanks obtainable only at Signal Service Stations.

The front spaced of the entry blank, dealers will note, has been divided into six sections, a separate space being reserved for each one of the six sections of the puzzle to be given out throughout the contest. 

The first week's puzzle section, called Section No. 1, will be delivered to Signal dealers Monday, September 19th. 

When both the entry blanks and the firs week's puzzle arrive, make absolutely sure that you furnish your customers with an entry blank and a puzzle section at the same time. This will be easy to do as the entry blanks and puzzles are both wrapped in bundles of 50 each.

A new puzzle section will be given away each week for six weeks, and when the completed puzzle is assembled it will unfold one of the most thrilling of all Tarzan's adventures, brightly illustrated in four colors. 

Contestants have until October 31st, 1932, to complete the entire six sections of the puzzle. Prize awards will be made as soon thereafter as possible. 

Sales Force Enthuse Over Tarzan Program
Every dealer I have talked to on the new program is enthused over the whole set-up as Tarzan is well known on account of the funny paper strip and the widely read Tarzan books. Believe the program will carry a tremendous appeal not only to kids but to grown-ups as well. Count on this office and its personnel for their entire cooperation. ~ John P. Picco, District Manager, Petaluma

This Tarzan program is going great! It's just the kind we need to tie the dealer and public in with our radio program. Great stuff, and you can depend on the boys from the Capital City to cooperate 1,000%.~  E.G. Nevin, District Manager, Sacramento

Dealer Likes Premiere
Just a word of thanks for a very fine entertainment at the Fox Pantages Saturday night. My family and myself enjoyed the program very much and wish to thank the Signal Oil and Gas Company and you for a very pleasant evening. Sincerely, Harry F. Schmieder, Buckeye Super Service, 4335 Gage Avenue, Bell, California.

Jim and Joan in a Tarzan Radio Show Promotional Photo
Joan Burroughs Pierce with Gale Gordon & James Pierce

Signal Oil launched a successful advertising campaign to promote the Tarzan radio show. Through their service stations they offered a blitz of Tarzan merchandise tie-ins - the first being a Tarzan jigsaw puzzle contest. As the popularity of the show grew across America, they created the Signal Tarzan Club and sent out membership cards, buttons, photos and prizes to members. All over the country, kids were begging dad to fill up at Signal, as one of the membership requirements was to bring a new customer to a Signal filling station. Signal gas stations sponsored baseball teams formed by Tarzan Club members. Club members gained points for persuading customers to buy Signal gasoline products and they could redeem these points for prizes such as radios, rifles, cameras, movie projectors, bicycles, watches and sets of Tarzan books. The Club was wildly successful and within a year it boasted over 100,000 members and soon it grew almost too large to manage. 

The Tarzan of the Apes radio show went on to play on scores of radio stations worldwide. In 1934 Signal Oil didn't renew the Tarzan contract, claiming that the project had been too successful. Membership in the Signal Tarzan Club had ballooned to an astounding 415,000 and was still growing. They just couldn't keep up. ERB, Inc. purchased all rights to the serial and continued to sell it, as well as producing and promoting their own Tarzan radio serials. Burroughs became so excited over the potential of this new cross marketing phenomenon that he started to think of ways he himself could adapt it to the marketing of his books

Signal Tarzan Club Button
Celluloid 1" Button
A few years before Signal's Tarzan Club tie-in, ERB had tried a similar Tarzan Club to promote his Tarzan books. Fired up by the success of Signal's version new club, he immediately started planning to revive his original idea and eventually he formed the nation-wide, TARZAN CLANS OF AMERICA.

Even though the radio series was immensely popular, Burroughs, most likely anxious to gain more control of the radio shows for ERB Inc., started to voice great dissatisfaction with the scripts and considered taking on the actual writing of the scripts himself.

“There is one factor that may have more effect on reducing book sales than any number of depressions, and that is radio, to which we are looking for far greater returns than our book royalties ever brought us. Already, with two programs, we are netting more than we do from the sale of all our books, which, taken in connection with the fact that there are hundreds of similar programs on the air, suggests that people are taking their fiction this way instead of through books.”

When the contract with American Radio Features came up for renewal in March 1934, they had not quite finished serializing Return; and Tarzan and Jane were not yet married. ERB did not renew the contract and took over production of the series himself. He had started a Tarzan script with a strong part for Jane which he wrote with daughter Joan in mind but before production could begin, Joan Pierce dropped out (she may have been pregnant) and Jim Pierce announced that he would prefer not to appear without his wife. ERB contacted all the show's clients and promised that the show would go on -- better than ever. He proceeded to write another script without Jane. The now-shelved  "Jane" script was subsequently turned into the novel, Tarzan's Quest.

Stage and radio actor Carton KaDell was signed for the Tarzan role and a large group of experienced actors was signed for the supporting cast.. Each story was planned to be a 39-episode serial spread over 13 weeks. Burroughs provided the plot outline for the first series: Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher. ERB's story continued on from the point in The Return of Tarzan where the previous series had been interrupted. For continuity he kept the characters Lord Tennington and Hazel Strong but he wrote Jane out of the script.

James & Joan Pierce: Radio's Tarzan and Jane

.From the Jerry O'Hara Collection


Vol II. No. 2 ~ Published by the Signal Oil & Gas Co. in the interest of its dealers  ~ March, 1933
Thousands of Motorists from Vancouver to Mexicali Write "We Want Tarzan"
New Series to Start Monday, March 13th, Three Times a Week

Tarzan wins again!
To the thousands of friends of Tarzan who have breathlessly followed his exciting adventures in t he jungle, his thrilling fights with wild beast and savages, victory has always been the reward.
Tarzan always wins.
But right here in our own civilization, as far removed from the jungle as possible, Tarzan has won perhaps the most complete victory in even his triumphant career -- the plea of thousands of fathers, mothers, school boys and girls, business men, educators and men and women from all walks of life who for a few short minutes of the day drop all their cares and worries and live with him -- his thrilling and victorious adventures -- the plea that they be allowed to continue these adventures with him.

Twenty thousand enthusiastic fans cared enough to write in and say, "We want Tarzan," when they learned from a short announcement coming to them over the air that he was thinking of signing off for good.

Thousands of friends of Tarzan scattered throughout California and the biggest percentage of them driving cars and using gasoline daily!

Here are a few of the letters, samples of those received from enthusiastic and appreciative motorists who through Tarzan Over Radio have come to know and use Signal Products. 

We wish to convey to you our sincere thanks and appreciation for the fine Tarzan programs over KGB. This has been without scarcely a single exception one of the cleanest and most interesting programs of our ten years' radio experience. We would enjoy their continuance. We will pledge our support t o the patronage, wherever possible, of your products. Yours for deserved success, Mr., Mrs. & "J.B." Mock, 732 Jamaica Court, Mission Beach, Calif.

Please do not discontinue Tarzan of the Apes, it would cause many tears in our home. My two children wait every evening for 7:15, they don't even ask to go out for fear of missing one episode of Tarzan. My husband and I also enjoy it and our many friends also. It has been splendid for the Signal Oil Co. to have this interesting radio serial on the air and trust they will see fit to continue it. Yours very truly, Mrs. L. Powell, 400 Brazil Ave., San Francisco

We have thoroughly enjoyed the Adventures of Tarzan, which your company has been sponsoring, and sincerely hope that you will continue to have this program in the future. It seems an excellent method for advertising Signal Oil and Gas, as the whole family  "listens in." Much success to Signal! Sincerely yours, W.P. Wilbur, M.D., Lakeview, Oregon.

We have listened to all the "TArzan" series -- that shows we enjoy them. And since listening have started and are still using, and hope to continue using, Signal gasoline and can tell you it hs put new life into our machine. Here's hoping "Tarzan" stays on the air. Sincerely yours for more sales, Mr. N.P.Storm, 42 Hale St., San Francisco.

Last night you asked those who would like the "Tarzan" program continued to write and to say so. Please let me say that I and a group of friends wish very much to have it continued. WE have listened to each episode from the first and think it the most interesting and most fascinating continuity on the air. We look forward to it every night and sometimes can hardly wait from evening to evening to hear how Tarzan and Jane are coming out of their adventures. There are five of us and we each have our own radios but meet to discuss the progress of our favorite hero, Tarzan. Please thank Signal Oil for the pleasure they have given us and say we want all of "Tarzan" that we can get. With sincere thanks for the pleasure we have had in the past with Tarzan and all his adventures. Respectfully, Leonie A. Pattee, 4863 North Palm Ave., La Mesa, Calif.

I am writing to beg of you to continue with Tarzan. My family and I have always been lovers of the Tarzan series, and when the Signal Oil Company advertised that they were going to commence the series, it made us very happy. In our estimation it has put the Signal Oil Company "on the map." Let the good work continue. Sincerely, Mrs. G. F. Dobsy, County National Bank & Trust Co., Santa Barbara


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ERB's Personal Credit Service Cart

Directory of Archive: Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Fantasy Adventure and the Grandfather of Science Fiction
A Radio Guide
Edgar Rice Burroughs Biography
Return with us now to those thrilling ERBzines of Yesteryear:
Electrical Transcription ET Label
Visit our other ERB of the Air OTR Sites
ERBzine 0011
Tarzan in Radio's Golden Age
ERBzine 0141
ERB of the Air
ERBzine 0142
Tarzan of the Air Radio Promo Handout
ERBzine 0143
Tarzan Radio Casts
ERBzine 0144
Tarzan and the Diamond of Ashair
39-Episode Radio Serial
Summarized by Bill Hillman
ERBzine 0659
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Dell Comic & Radio Serial Comparision
By Duane Adams
ERBzine 0660
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Radio Serial Episodes 1-18
Summarized by Duane Adams
ERBzine 0661
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Radio Serial Episodes 19-39
Summarized by Duane Adams


INTRO to 39 Episodes
WEEK 1 ~ 99.05,14

See more Signal Oil / Tarzan Promotions in
Danton Burroughs' Scrapbook Series
ERBzine No. 1945

Signal Tarzan Club Celluloid Button

Click for full-size promo splash bar

See Part II of the

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