Edgar Rice Burroughs: Curiosity on Mars

So what does a postage stamp have to do with the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? According to one of the planet’s biggest Mars geeks, this incredible scientific achievement might not have been possible without the inspiration of recent stamp honoree Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Digital Color Postmark Keepsake (click image to order)

In a far-ranging interview, the late Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles (1950), cited Burroughs as the writer who encouraged scientists to chase their Martian dreams.

“Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations,” Bradbury mused. “But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.”

Bradbury enjoyed teasing snobs who cringed at the influence of science fiction, but he was making a serious point. Although Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t a scientist, his romantic visions of other planets sparked the dreams of generations of space explorers.

“I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic,” Bradbury said. “Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely.”

Caltech, which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA, has already begun posting remarkable images from the surface of Mars, with many more to come. As we continue to “see Mars more closely,” remember what Burroughs bequeathed to us: a legacy of curiosity.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Stamp Swings Into Post Offices Today

“I have been writing for nineteen years and I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing, and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.”

So wrote Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) in the June 1930 issue of Writer’s Digest. And entertain he did. By 1930, Burroughs had published more than 40 novels, 13 of them about his most iconic character—Tarzan. By the end of his life he had written more than 70 books, including historical fiction and several popular series of science fiction tales.

Today we issue a new Forever® stamp in honor of Burroughs, one of the most popular and prolific writers of the early 20th century. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) The artwork for the stamp features Tarzan, his most iconic character, clinging to a vine, with a profile of Burroughs in the background. The depiction of Tarzan is an interpretation of the character by artist Sterling Hundley. To create the portrait of Burroughs, Hundley used a photograph taken by the author’s son, Hulbert Burroughs. The 1934 photograph shows Burroughs reading a hardcover copy of Tarzan and the Lion Man, which was published the same year.

The first Tarzan story, “Tarzan of the Apes,” was published in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine and issued as a book in 1914. “I do not say the story is true, for I did not witness the happenings which it portrays,” writes Burroughs in the first chapter, “but the fact that in the telling of it to you I have taken fictitious names for the principal characters quite sufficiently evidences the sincerity of my own belief that it may be true.”

And with that, America was hooked. Tarzan grew into a phenomenon that has transcended the printed word.

First Day Cover (click image to order)

In the years that followed, Burroughs’s Tarzan stories were published in magazines, syndicated in newspapers, and republished in more than 24 books. In 1918, the silent film Tarzan of the Apes became the first of more than 50 Tarzan movies. Tarzan was the subject of a comic strip beginning in 1929, radio series in the 1930s and the 1950s, and several television series in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Burroughs also wrote prolifically beyond the Tarzan series. He published dozens of stories in pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories, Argosy All-Story, and Blue Book, resulting in eleven books about John Carter of Mars and six books in the Pellucidar series, which focused on a world at the center of the Earth—a world also visited by Tarzan in the 1930 book Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He wrote novels about Apache warriors, samurai, prehistoric islands, and adventurers on the planet Venus, and, in an interesting departure, he also explored the modern world in The Girl From Hollywood, a 1922 novel about stardom, drug abuse, murder, and power.

The Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp was issued today at a ceremony in (where else?) Tarzana, California. Those who missed the celebration can still pick up a from the event.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

This Summer Stay Cool with Stamps

Today is the first day of summer, and you know what that means: backyard barbecues, naps in the shade, family vacations, blockbuster movies, iced tea and lemonade . . . and stamps! That’s right, things are really going to start heating up (ha!) in the coming weeks. Here’s just some of what we have planned:

A trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, for the release of the Major League Baseball All-Stars stamps on July 20. The stamps recognize the accomplishments of four baseball greats: Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Willie Stargell, and Ted Williams. (Boston, Cleveland, New York City, and Pittsburgh fans, don’t worry. We have baseball events planned for your towns on July 21!)

The release of the Innovative Choreographers stamps on July 28 in Los Angeles, California. The stamps pay tribute to four of the nation’s most influential choreographers: Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham, and Bob Fosse.

The completion of the incredible Flags of Our Nation series with the issuance of the last set of ten stamp designs. Texas, Utah, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, this means you! (The tenth design is the Stars and Stripes.) The stamps will be released on August 16 at StampShow 2012 in Sacramento. Will you be there?

The issuance of a stamp honoring prolific author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars.  The stamp coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Burroughs’s first story, “Under the Moons of Mars,” and his first Tarzan story, “Tarzan of the Apes,” in 1912. It will be released August 17 in, where else, Tarzana, California.

The start of a new stamp series commemorating the War of 1812, beginning with the release of the USS Constitution stamp on August 18 at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts.

The 150th anniversary of the birth of O. Henry, one of America’s most popular writers of short fiction whose stories include “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Birthday celebrations, and the stamp release, take place September 11 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

And that’s just the big stuff! Stay tuned here all summer long for trivia contests, exclusive stamp subject tidbits, event photos, behind-the-scenes interviews, stamp crafts (!), and lots more. Have a story or photo you want to share? Email us at uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com, and we may feature it in an upcoming post.

Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Sci-Fi Adventures Jump from the Page

[From guest contributor Jeff]

A century ago, Tarzan—the most famous creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs—leaped from the pages of magazines and books and into movies, the funny pages, and radio shows. Rediscovered and reinvented by later generations, Burroughs’ famous hero has since appeared in television series and video games, and the original Tarzan tales fill more than two dozen books. We can’t be blamed, then, if we sometimes forget that Burroughs’ mind often wasn’t on the jungle, but out among the stars.

Today, Hollywood reminds us that Burroughs was, at heart, a science fiction writer—a prolific and influential one, too, credited with popularizing what scholars now dub “planetary romance.” A mash-up of futuristic technology with anachronisms like sword-fighting and feudal pageantry, these swashbuckling tales flourished in pulp magazines from the 1920s until World War II, giving adventure-hungry readers their ultimate hero:

Burroughs’ first published story was, in fact, his first John Carter story. “Under the Moons of Mars” which graced the pages of All-Story magazine in 1912, introduced a Confederate Civil War vet mysteriously transported to Mars. In all, Burroughs wrote eleven John Carter books, thrilling the next generation of young science fiction writers and setting the interplanetary stage for the phenomenon that would be Star Wars.

With more than a century of science fiction to explore, why do readers return to Burroughs for high adventure? Maybe because he knew how to “call out to the human psyche at a largely unconscious level,” writes science fiction and mystery writer Richard A. Lupoff, who argues that the Mars books “call up the suppressed urges of the primitive man to take sword in hand and confront once and for all the vexatious world around him.”

Burroughs himself was famously restless, serving with the U.S. Cavalry and holding a dizzying array of unsatisfying jobs until he found a route to greatness through his own imagination. He never stopped thinking big: “If there is a hereafter,” he said shortly before he died in 1950, “I want to travel through space to visit other planets.”

Did Burroughs get his wish or not? We can’t say—but few writers can boast a feature film and a stamp celebrating the staying power of a century, as fine a claim to literary immortality as any. John Carter may yet outlive us all; check back in 2112.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.