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:
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 trenches."
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 Bio Timeline)
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 (The 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
March 3: Rothmund, acting as proxy for Ed and the
Westons, attends a stockholders' meeting of the troubled Metropolitan
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
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
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.