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Just how popular were Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter" Novels? Think Harry Potter and then some…..

Barsoom, Edgar Rice Burroughs

In 1945 more than 30,000, 000 copies of his novels in 58 languages and dialects made him the most widely read author on earth.

In the July 14 edition of Liberty Magazine, way back in 1945, Lloyd Shearer wrote an article about Edgar Rice Burroughs entitled “Tarzan and the Man Who Made Him”.   It’s instructive to read that article with a fresh eye — just to gain some perspective on the massive popularity of Burroughs’ books in his day — a popularity that began a hundred years ago; constinued until his death in 1950; enjoyed a rebirth in the 1960′ when the likes of James Cameron, George Lucas, and Carl Sagan discovered Burroughs through paperback reprints; and now may be on the verge of yet another rebirth as Disney’s long-awaited and much discussed “John Carter” makes it to global cinemas on March 9.

Listen to what Shearer had to say in 1945:

“In the past thirty years [Burroughs] fifty-seven novels and their by-products have grossed more than $l0,000,000. IN 1923, after a decade of writing Tarzan stories, he was getting such big royalties and had so many side lines from his literary production that he set himself up as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. That enabled him to publish his own works and handle profitably all his serial, radio, movie, and foreign rights.

Today the more than 30,000, 000 copies of his novels in 58 languages and dialects make him the most widely read author on earth. Tidy sales of other items include some 21 Tarzan motion pictures, 364 radio programs, more than 60,000,000 ice-cream cups, 100,000,000 loaves of Tarzan bread, countless numbers of Tarzan school bags, pencils, paint books, penknives, jungle costume, toys, and sweaters. In addition there are the famous Tarzan comic strips, carried by 212 newspapers with a circulation of more than 15,000,000. All told, royalties alone in good years amount to more than double the President’s salary. Nor is that all. Two U. S. post offices have been named for Tarzan — Tarzana, California, and Tarzan, Texas; and Webster’s New International Dictionary offers Tarzan as “The hero of a series of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is a white man, of prodigious strength and chivalrous instincts, reared by African apes.”

I highly recommend reading the whole article, which you can do, courtesy of Bill Hillman and Erbzine — click on the link below and spend a fascinating 10 minutes with Edgar Rice Burroughs, as seen in 1945 by Lloyd Shearer:

One thought on “Just how popular were Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter" Novels? Think Harry Potter and then some…..

  • It’s incredible to see just how popular Edgar Rice Burroughs was. Even today his name still commands attention.

    I think there is little doubt that even just including a line such as “Adapted from a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan” in the lackluster marketing campaign for JOHN CARTER would have done much to bring people to the movie.

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