Tarzan was born in the jungles of Africa, but his creator first saw the light of day amidst more tranquil surroundings.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago on September 1st, 1875. His father, George Tyler Burroughs, was a Civil War veteran and now a successful businessman. Major Burroughs and his wife Mary had five other boys besides Edgar, but two of the children died in infancy, leaving Edgar the youngest of the family.
“Eddie” attended several schools during his formative years, often being shuttled from one to another due to the outbreak of various diseases. At this time it was standard to learn Greek and Latin in addition to English composition, and Burroughs would often lament his erratic schooling, which resulted in his (or so he said) learning little English while taking the same Greek and Latin courses over and over again. Despite his claims to the contrary, this early exposure to Classical literature and mythology would serve Burroughs well in his future writing career.
An influenza epidemic hit Chicago in 1891; hundreds died, and Edgar’s worried parents wondered how they could protect their fifteen-year-old son. A few years earlier two of Edgar’s brothers, George and Harry, had started a cattle ranch out west in Idaho. This seemed like a logical safe haven, so George and Mary packed Edgar onto an Idaho-bound train.
Ed took to the frontier life like a duck to water. He rode the range, herded cattle, busted a bucking broncho, and got to know a few thieves, murderers and bad men. Idaho at this time was still a pretty rough-and-tumble place; a range war was brewing between cattle ranchers and sheepmen, the law was fairly lax, and there were even shootouts at the local saloon. Young Ed loved the half year he spent in Idaho ~ then his parents found out about these sordid events of frontier life and sent Ed off to the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
But Ed wound up being a bit too rough-and-tumble himself for the faculty at Andover, so the Major shipped his son off to the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake. Here Ed’s frontier skills stood him in good stead; he became an excellent trick rider and crack shot, and even did fairly well in his studies. Not that he was an angel during his stay at MMI (he tried deserting during his first year, among other escapades) but Burroughs had apparently found an atmosphere conducive to his spirit.