Tarzan Stamp a Tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Legacy

Marking the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1912 publication of Tarzan of the Apes, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The stamp was designed by Sterling Hundley and includes a picture of Tarzan as well as Burroughs, his creator. It is denominated FOREVER indicating that it will always pay the current rate for First Class mail weighing up to one ounce.

The stamp was released on August 17, 2012, at a First Day Ceremony appropriately held in Tarzana, California. Tarzana is a district in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. It is located on the site of Burroughs’ ranch which he named Tarzana in honor of his famous literary hero.

Few literary characters have had the extensive coverage or enjoyed the longevity of Tarzan. The story of a boy raised by apes and growing up to be a heroic adventurer instantly captured the public’s imagination. Tarzan of the Apes appeared first as a magazine serial in 1912, and then was published in book form in 1914. Burroughs wrote 23 other books in the series as well as two for children. In addition to the books, Tarzan stories were published in magazines and syndicated in newspapers. Tarzan starred in 50 movies and 8 television series, as well as comic books, comic strips and radio programs.

For Burroughs fans, the stamp was a long time coming. The stamp, associated cancels, first day covers, and other philatelic products, join a great heritage of Tarzan collectibles. Virtually all Tarzan relics are avidly sought by collectors. Movie posters, still photos, props and other Hollywood memorabilia, always bring good prices as do action figures, trading cards, comic books and pulp magazines. Complete matched sets of the early Tarzan paperback editions can be hard to come by and expensive to own.

Writing was not Burroughs’ first calling. Before he picked up a pen he herded cattle on his brothers’ cattle ranch, served in the Seventh United States Cavalry, ran a dry goods store, worked as a railway policeman, peddled goods door-to-door, managed Sears’ clerical department, and was a wholesaler for a pencil sharpener company. Ads for the sharpeners were placed in pulp magazines, and when Burroughs read the stories in those magazines he decided that he “could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines." He started writing.

Burroughs’ contribution to the science fiction genre, and his influence on generations of authors and filmmakers has been lasting and significant. In addition to the Tarzan series, a few of his most notable works include The Land That Time Forgot (Book 1 of the Caspak trilogy) in which shipwrecked seamen struggle for survival in a lost world populated by primitive people and dinosaurs, and A Princess of Mars (Book 1 in the John Carter series), in which a Civil War veteran is somewhat mysteriously transported to Mars where he encounters alien civilizations and animals.

These were plot driven, swashbuckling tales of action and adventure. The heroes were larger than life and the settings romantic fantasy worlds flavored with a hint scientific detail but never constrained by the demands of plausibility.

Robert Heinlein, “the dean of science fiction,” cites Burroughs as an influence, as do Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke. Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel said that both Tarzan and John Carter inspired the development of the “man of steel.” Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury was an admirer of Burroughs. John Carter’s legacy can be seen in science fiction film from the original Flash Gordon series to more modern classics such as Star Wars and Avatar. It is virtually impossible to see the Jurassic Park movies without being reminded of The Land That Time Forgot.

Outside the realm of fiction, scientists Carl Sagan and Jane Goodall are among those who credit Burroughs with inspiring them to pursue their work. In his book Cosmos, Sagan says that it was Burroughs who instilled within him a vision of interplanetary travel. Goodall, who has spent her life researching and writing about chimpanzees, began reading the Tarzan books when she was 11 years old. She identifies these stories as the source of her interest in primates and her dream to travel and work in Africa. Goodall was a special guest of honor at the Tarzan Centennial Celebration.




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