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PUSHING THE ENVELOPE XVIII
Envelope Packets 202 - 211
Including Tarzan Celebrates Coffee
by John Martin
My "other hobby," buying, exchanging, making and mailing postal art covers,
ties in with my Edgar Rice Burroughs hobby quite a bit.
I enjoy making covers featuring Tarzan or other ERB characters,
and friends of mine have made and mailed me such covers as well.
I thought it would be fun to start scanning and sharing such covers
on the anniversaries of the dates they were originally postmarked.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: No. 202
-Maine's Munsey: Ancestor of Tarzan?-
A stamp celebrating Maine's 200th anniversary of statehood was issued March 15, 2020. For a first-day cover design, I looked around for famous people from Maine and discovered it was the birthplace of Frank A. Munsey.
One of the games that we fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs play is trying to figure out what may have inspired him to create the character of Tarzan. Burroughs himself said he was thinking of the story of Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome, who were said to have been nurtured by a she-wolf. Others have suggested Mowgli from Kipling's "Jungle Book" series or other characters.
But what about Munsey?
Munsey is generally credited with being the first to come up with the idea of using new high-speed printing presses to print on inexpensive, untrimmed, pulp paper in order to mass-produce affordable (typically 10-cent) magazines. The cheap magazines were filled with cheap fiction -- action and adventure stories aimed at working-class readers who couldn't afford the more expensive 25-cent "slick" magazines. Munsey began publishing "Munsey's Magazine" and the publications by him and his imitators were soon known as "pulps." Munsey was always adapting to the market, and would cease publication of some magazines when they became unprofitable but immediately replace them with new magazines with new titles.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, meanwhile, was trying to figure out a way to make a living for his family. After trying several occupations, he started a business selling pencil sharpeners and placed an ad which was answered by several job seekers. He sent them out to find customers for the thingamajigs while he stayed in the office, passing the time by reading pulp magazines. Burroughs later joked that the stories in those magazines were pretty rotten and he figured he could write stories that were just as rotten, so he wrote "Under the Moons of Mars" for "The All-Story" magazine, one of Munsey's publications. The story, serialized over six issues, was immediately popular and several months later Burroughs's second story, "Tarzan of the Apes," was published complete in the October 1912 edition.
One could argue that if Munsey hadn't started publishing story magazines on cheap paper it's possible no one else would have done it or, if they had, they might have had a different vision. If Munsey hadn't published the magazines, Burroughs would have had to find something else to do with his spare time (maybe work crossword puzzles; the first one appeared in a Sunday newspaper, The New York World, in 1913). And if Burroughs hadn't discovered he could make money writing and selling stories, there would never have been a need for him to invent someone like Tarzan, or write of other adventurers on the Moon, Venus, Mars and in lost lands with dinosaurs.
Munsey's first magazine was "Golden Argosy,” a weekly "boys adventure" magazine in a dime novel format with a mix of articles and fiction. After a few years, Munsey realized that his young readers lost interest when they got older and advertisers weren't spending much money with him because the magazine’s readers didn't have money to spend on the products they advertised. So in 1888, the name was changed to "The Argosy" to attract an older audience. In 1894 it became a monthly, designed to complement “Munsey's Magazine,” and in December 1896 it became the first true “pulp,” switching to an all-fiction format of 192 pages on seven-by-ten inch untrimmed pulp paper. It was renamed “Argosy Magazine,” and by 1903, circulation climbed to a half million copies per month.
“The Argosy” went through various title changes over the years, such as to “Argosy All-Story Weekly,” and ended up being one of the main publishers of the many more stories that Burroughs wrote. While Munsey was a shrewd businessman, Burroughs was no slouch. He was smart enough to sell only "first rights" to his stories, so he was free to have them republished in book form after the magazines had put them on the newsstands. He was also smart enough to form a corporation for his business, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., in Tarzana, California, and is today, more than a century after the publication of John Carter and Tarzan in 1912, involved in putting many of his stories online as comic strips, republishing his original books, and also in hiring modern authors to write new, authorized stories about the characters and worlds he created.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 203
Two Disney Tarzan postal covers have shown up in my mailbox lately.
First is Kala and her balu on their first meeting. Annajoy Marks used a stamp issued last summer, celebrating fruits and vegetables. Unlike many other moms, Kala never had a problem getting Tarzan to eat his veggies.
The Cover Monster of Ohio, meanwhile, made this first-day cover for the 2021 Love stamp. Yes, love at first sight for Tarzan. Jane took a little longer to make up her mind.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 204
Sports star, assassin apprehender and Tarzan trouper Rafer Johnson passed away Dec. 2, 2020. He was Spandrell in the Tarzan episode "The Prodigal Puma" with Ron Ely, pictured on the cover of a Gold Key comic book, and also played Barcuna in Tarzan and the Great River and Nagambi in Tarzan and the Jungle Boy.
Johnson was the 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, after winning the silver in 1956. He also won gold in the 1955 Pan American Games.
He was the USA team's flag bearer at the 1960 Olympics and lit the Olympic cauldron at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
In 1968, Johnson, football player Rosey Grier, and journalist George Plimpton tackled Sirhan Sirhan moments after he had fatally shot Robert F. Kennedy.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 205
While Perseverance prowls around on Mars, the Barsoomians are interested spectators, always keeping out of camera range but drawing inspiration from the diligence shown by the exotic explorer.
The Barsoom stamp, issued by the USPS in its Views of Our Planets set in 2016, was a logical choice, although some of the cancellation's wording is lost in the surrounding blackness of space. A second stamp combo I used leaves the wording more readable -- The Mars-Viking stamp from the 1991 Space Exploration stamp booklet, paired with a 33-cent Stampin' the Future stamp, issued in the year 2000. It was designed by Zachary Canter, then age 9, whose design was one of four by young people chosen by the Postal Service in a contest among more than 120,000 entries.
This special pictorial cancellation was offered by the Pasadena Post Office with the date of Feb. 18, 2021, the date that Perseverance invaded the Red Planet.
I paired the Mars-Viking stamp from the 1991 Space Exploration stamp booklet, with a 33-cent Stampin' the Future stamp, issued in the year 2000. That stamp was designed by Zachary Canter, then age 9, whose design was one of four by young people chosen by the Postal Service in a contest among more than 120,000 entries.
This special pictorial cancellation was offered by the Pasadena Post Office with the date of Feb. 18, 2021, the date that Perseverance invaded the Red Planet.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 206
Betty was quite thrilled during her visit to Bill's Gay Nineties in New York, and who wouldn't be, with Johnny Weissmuller so near. She didn't have a phone to text her friends on April 28, 1938, so she had to settle for grabbing a postcard to tell her friends about the experience. Maybe she mailed more than one! (Too bad she didn't ask Johnny to sign them!!)
Betty apparently had bad hand-writing... or maybe her hand was shaking as she wrote this postcard, but it's pretty hard to read in places. Seems to say "Johnny Weissmuller is sitting shoulder to shoulder with Bill. I'm so darn thrilled."
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 207
Tarzan was known to take a break from his busy jungle schedule now and then to enjoy a good cup of hot coffee and I can imagine Tarzan taking his black. Carolyn Marks of Bella Cachets drew and mailed me a Tarzan coffee cover, using one of the new Espresso stamps recently issued by the U.S. Postal Service, and she included Tantor, standing by with the pot in case he needs more.
I have made some Tarzan coffee covers as well and they are currently at Stamp Fulfillment Services beging canceled. I'll post images of those later after I get them back.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 208
Tuesday morning, I made an "In Memory" postal cover in honor of Tarzan actor Joe Lara and his wife, Gwen Shamblin Lara, using a photo from their wedding in 2018. They, and several members of their Remnant Fellowship Church, perished when their private jet crashed Saturday, May 29, 2021, in a Tennessee lake.
Lara starred as Tarzan in 1989's "Tarzan in Manhattan" and later as the ape man in the "Tarzan: The Epic Adventures" television series. Gwen founded the Remnant church as well as a successful diet program called "Weigh Down."
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 209
Tarzan was sipping from a cup in our first view of him in the 2016 movie, “The Legend of Tarzan.” Since this scene was of a meeting in a British government office, we may assume the brew was tea. However, the ape man was also known to enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Those who know Tarzan only from the movies might be surprised at that, since coffee wasn’t usually available in jungle scenes from many of those films. But as we read the original Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, we see that coffee was often available and Tarzan drank his share.
In the first novel, “Tarzan of the Apes,” Tarzan’s father who, along with his wife, Alice, had been marooned on the shore of an African harbor, fortified himself with a cup of campfire coffee before setting to work on building the little cabin in which would be born his son, who would later be orphaned and then raised by the motherly ape, Kala.
With his parents dead by the time he was one, and little John carted off into the jungle to grow to manhood, he didn’t have much chance to learn to drink coffee himself. However, when he was grown, another party was marooned by mutineers on the same shore, and the brigands were thoughtful enough to leave them with a few supplies, including coffee. So when Tarzan made contact with the group of people, which included his future wife, Jane, it’s possible that he may have been given his first taste of coffee, although the book doesn’t say so.
But in a later chapter, as Tarzan and his new friend, Paul D’Arnot, make their way through the African wilds toward civilization, we read that they entered a “native coffee house” where, presumably, they took advantage of the establishment’s brew.
In the second Tarzan book, “The Return of Tarzan,” the ape man, on assignment for the French government in the Sahara, enters an Arab restaurant and the common beverage in those places was coffee, so we may again assume the ape man imbibed. The ninth Tarzan book, “Tarzan and the Golden Lion,” tells of a schemer named Flora Hawkes who teamed up with four other baddies to rob the gold vaults of the lost city of Opar. The plan required that Tarzan be dealt with and Flora’s ideas is to slip him a Mickey Finn or put poison into the ape man’s coffee.
Fortunately, they settled for merely some knockout drops and one evening Tarzan, always one to screen any who ventured into “Tarzan country,” dropped in on their safari’s camp.
“Please sit down,” urged one of the men, Carl Kraski. “We were about to have coffee and we should be delighted to have you join us. We meant no wrong in coming here, and I can assure that we will gladly and willingly make full amends to you, or to whomever else we may have unintentionally wronged.”
Burroughs then writes: “To take coffee with these men would do no harm. Perhaps he had wronged them,, but however that might be a cup of their coffee would place no great obligation upon him. Flora [who had been the maid for Tarzan and Jane at their Greystoke estate in London] had been right in her assertion that if Tarzan of the Apes had any weakness whatsoever it was for an occasional cup of black coffee late at night. He did not accept the proffered camp stool, but squatted, ape fashion, before them, the flickering light of the beast fires playing upon his bronzed hide….”
Tarzan drains his cup to the last drop and the drug takes effect. The conspirators leave Tarzan to the merciless jungle and head on to carry out their plans of robbing Opar. But in the meantime, some from that very city chance upon the unconscious Tarzan and he is carried off to their temple to become a human sacrificed to the “flaming god.”
What happens next? In short, Tarzan prevails.
The 13th Tarzan tale, “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core,” has him meeting another safari – a friendly one this time – in Chapter I. The leader of the Safari, Jason Gridley, was seeking out the ape man to enlist his help in an expedition to the world inside the Earth. After Tarzan dropped in on Gridley’s safari, we read: “It was not until Jason and Tarzan were enjoying their coffee that evening that the ape man reverted to the subject of the American’s visit.”
Then, in the 22nd Tarzan adventure, “Tarzan and ‘The Foreign Legion’,” the book concludes with Tarzan and his allies, escaping from the Japanese-held island of Sumatra, and being rescued by a submarine. After boarding the boat, “they all went below for dry clothing and had coffee….”
On April 9, 2021, the U.S. Postal Service issued four different stamps in a 20-stamp booklet to celebrate various espresso drinks.
Espresso is actually gussied-up coffee. The difference between espresso and coffee is all to do with the way it’s prepared—not the beans themselves. In general, espresso requires a dark roast, fine grind, and high pressure to create an ounce or two (aka a “shot”) of concentrated coffee.
Espresso originated in Italy sometime in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Its name comes from the word esprimere which means “to express” or “to press out.” One reason espresso was created was to help cut the brew time of regular coffee. It is often completed in less than a minute.
Burroughs never mentioned an instance where Tarzan drank espresso. However, in the early part of “The Return of Tarzan” are a few chapters dealing with his time in Paris before his leapfrog to the Sahara and from thence back to his original African home, and it’s possible, when sampling the cuisine of that city in the company of D’Arnot, that he had opportunity to savor some.
In the jungle, however, only coffee was easily available – and Tarzan, as we learn from Miss Hawkes – took it black.
Thanks to my friend in Houston, Bruce “Tangor” Bozarth, webmaster at erblist.com, for tracking down all the Tarzan coffee references in the books for me.
I made five designs for my first-day covers for the stamps, showing four different types of espresso drinks, one with one stamp each and one with all four stamps.
Thanks to Nik Poliwko, comic and fantasy illustrator, for allowing me to use his clever art, showing Tarzan and a couple of his ape friends enjoying their “daily cup.”
Also, thanks to Ralph Brown, a fellow Tarzan fan, for use of the photo of a can of Tarzan-brand coffee from China, an item acquired during his many years of building a Tarzan collection.
Thanks too to Bill Hillman for providing the one of the Tarzan comic strip from his vast erbzine.com website.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 210
It was quite the kaffeeklatsch as characters from here and there showed up at the Burroughs Bistro to stand in line for their favorite drink.
There was a Polar Bear who eluded ERB in the introduction to The Moon Men, Beppo the Bear from further south, My Lord the Tiger from Cambodia, and Sheeta the Leopard and Tantor the Elephant and friends from Tarzan's Africa.
The beasts each made its preference known for the style of caffeine-laced drink it preferred and the busy baristas hastened to do their bidding.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE NO. 211
Just strolling around the Eiffel Tower in Paris you never know who you are going to run into. Work on the tower was started in 1887 and finished in 1889 so it was there before Tarzan went to Paris with his friend, Lt. Paul D'Arnot, but Edgar Rice Burroughs mentioned nothing about the ape man exploring the steel tree. I think he could have handled it just fine.
This is a cover I made by folding a page from a magazine into envelope size. I added the caption and an Espresso series stamp from the U.S. Postal Service and had it canceled with the first-day postmark from Seattle on April 9, 2021.
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