Chicago Tribune: John Carter, star of Mars and movie screens, was born in Chicago

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs fueled the imaginations of many with his pulp characters, like Tarzan and John Carter

By Jeff Long, Chicago Tribune reporter:  As John Carter rides into movie theaters Friday aboard what Disney hopes will be a blockbuster, generations of ageless 10-year-olds, including me, will follow, wide-eyed and grateful. Fans have waited decades for his big screen debut.
If you take the cinematic journey to Mars, or Barsoom as the locals call it, you’ll learn that the hero is a Civil War veteran from Virginia. But he was actually born 100 years ago right here in Chicago — in an office at the corner of Monroe Street and Wacker Drive.

That’s where a struggling Chicagoan named Edgar Rice Burroughs sold pencil sharpeners. Because business was slow, he had plenty of time to daydream of towering four-armed warriors called Tharks and a beautiful Martian princess, Dejah Thoris.

Part of Burroughs’ job was to check the ads in pulp magazines, which were otherwise filled with lurid tales of adventure and romance. He decided his daydreams were even more thrilling, and began writing them down on the backs of old letterheads.

Readers in 1912 enjoyed John Carter so much that Burroughs followed up later that year with a yarn about the child of an English nobleman orphaned in the African jungle. He wrote “Tarzan of the Apes” surrounded by the urban jungle of the Loop, in an office at 5 N. Wabash, during downtime at another dead-end job.


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