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Edgar Rice Burroughs
 From Tarzana, California
Memories from the 
Danton Burroughs
Family Archive
Danton Burroughs

Part I

The voice of Ed Burroughs speaks all through this narrative...
just as it did when it was the guiding light through Joan's lifetime.
Joan Burroughs was born on January 12, 1908, at the Park Avenue Hospital to Emma and Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Her name is pronounced "Jo-anne" in the Burroughs family). Coincidentally, Ed's future wife Florence was born a few months later and this was the same year that Percival Lowell published Mars as an Abode for Life in which he suggested that Mars was once covered by oceans and that it supported a very old, complex civilization struggling to support life by building a canal system to bring water from the polar ice caps. At that time, Joan's father, Ed Burroughs, had finally found secure employment and what looked like a promising career with Sears where he was head of the stenographic department which employed 150 people.

Joan, Papa and Mamma in 1928
Baby Joan's Arrival: 1908 ~  Joan, Papa and Mamma 20 years later: 1928
Emma Burroughs

Papa and Joan: March 10, 1908Papa changing Joan's diaperPapa taking baby Joan for a stroll in the baby carriageGoo Goo Ga Ga: Emma, Ed and Aunt Jessie talk to Joan
A Proud Papa's Cartoon Gallery
From the Danton Burroughs Family Archive

True to form, however, soon after the birth of his first child, Ed left this job to start his own company in the advertising business based upon a correspondence course aimed at preparing students in salesmanship: Burroughs & Dentzer, Advertising Contractors. The business did poorly and by the time Joan's brother Hulbert was born a year later, the Burroughs family was in a penniless state. Ed pawned Emma's jewelry, wrote the poem "Poverty," and as a Christmas present his father, Major George Tyler Burroughs, paid off the money they owed to brother Coleman. Ed's lack of funds resulted in his creating personalized drawings and verses for home-made Christmas cards that he sent out to family that year.
Illustrated advice to nephew Studley Burroughs
From the Danton Burroughs Family Archive ~ Copyright ERB, Inc.
Accurst and cursing.
Thou Drab of Sin and Vice and Misery;
Thou spur to Fortune.
From thy shrunk womb a Lincoln springs.
Engulfest thou a thousand who might have Lincolns been. 
Seducer, thou, of Health and Happiness and Love;
Murdress of countless children, wan and pinched.
Honor in thee? Forefend us God!
Who lies with thee reeks of thy filth,
The butt of Ridicule the jest of Fate,
Loathing and loathed to a dishonored grave.
Just when the Burroughs fortunes were at their nadir in 1911, Ed had success in pitching "far-fetched" stories to pulp magazines and for the first time in his life he watched the money roll in as fast as he could write more stories.

When Joan was five in September 1913, her father, ever the impulsive wanderer, celebrated his new-found success as a writer by taking the family, including baby John Coleman,  to California for the winter: ". . .  I had decided that I was too rich to spend my winters in Chicago so I packed my family, all my furniture, my second-hand automobile and bought transportation for Los Angeles." They then drove south to Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, where they rented a house at 550 A Ave. Later in the winter they moved to 4036-3rd St., San Diego. Between writing sessions, Ed and the family piled into their old Velie car and roamed over the southern California countryside and even visited Tijuana, Mexico. (Mexico!  Do you remember your first trip there? You were five, Hulbert was four, and Jack wasn't one.  I shall never forget Jack and that real estate agent who was helping us find a house.) The seeds had been planted for what would grow into lifelong love affair between the Burroughs family and the sunshine state.

Joan with mother and brothers at 550 A Avenue, Coronado, CaliforniaHulbert Family Residence - 194 Park Avenue (Park and Robey)Joan with mother and brothers at 6415 (later 414) Augusta St. Oak Park
They returned to Chicago in March 1914, staying for two months at the Hulbert home at 2005 (194) Park Avenue until they bought and moved into a large five-bedroom home at 414 (6415) Augusta Street, Oak Park. Through all these moves and the daily pressures of raising three young children Ed kept up an intensive writing schedule. He even had a number of poems published in the Chicago Tribune's "A Line-O'-Type Or Two" column. Of special interest to Joan was one he had written just after her birth back in 1908: "Joan's Pick-Me-Up Song." He also contributed a satirical poem about their California visit: "The Climate and the View.

Emma with kids: Hulbert, Jack and Joan

" Joan was especially close to her father and she remembered him as being a patient and attentive father throughout her childhood years. He called her his "little RoBud." He allowed the children to enter and leave his study at will and would often stop writing in mid-passage to play with them as they crawled all over him. In remembering those years, Ed once said, "Were I literary and afflicted with temperament I should have a devil of a time writing stories, for now comes Joan with Helen in one hand and Helen's severed arm in another, strewing a thin line of sawdust across my study floor. I may be in the midst of a thrilling passage -- Tarzan may be pulling a tiger out of Africa by the tail -- but when Joan comes even Tarzan pauses, and he stays paused until I have tied Helen's arm to her torso once again for the hundredth time." Sometimes at night, after a day's writing, Papa Ed would read what he had written to his family. One of his reasons for doing this was to use them as sounding boards for his own evaluation of his work and he obviously got a kick out of watching their reactions. Emma especially was very story-minded and he always invited her comments and criticisms. It was this panel of experts that saved Jane from her death in Tarzan the Untamed. They raised such a howl that he had to restore her in the sequel, Tarzan the Terrible. The children were actually their dad's greatest fans and they often emulated the antics of Tarzan. But their most special time was bedtime when he would walk up and down the hall adjoining their rooms each night and tell them bedtime stories. They marvelled at the imaginative cliffhangers he spun for them before they drifted off to sleep. Stories like "Grandpa Cazmk and His Flying Machine" or "Arabella, the Goat" never saw publication, but they were legendary in the Burroughs family. Ed made a point of giving each child autographed first editions and Joan collected all the stories that he wrote.  At one time Ed had aspirations of becoming a professional cartoonist, so he often illustrated his book dedications and autographs with clever cartoons poking fun at himself.

The next family trip to California -- by auto caravan in the summer of 1916 -- was incredibly more adventurous and less direct. Ed spent weeks gathering supplies, vehicles and planning the route. While many thought that the main reason for the author's trip was to gather inspiration for his writing, more likely the reason was Ed's love of family togetherness. That and his near-obsession with motor travel which was always high adventure in those "pioneer days" of travel on America's road system. Ed's writing inspiration actually came from the fantasy world of his imagination. "The less I know about a thing the better I can write about it."

The trip really started off as a trip to Maine via Michigan in two vehicles: a Packard Twin Six 1-35 touring car and a converted Overland delivery truck, "Happy Thought," with a trailer, "Calamity Jane." They left Oak Park during a late afternoon rainstorm on June 14, 1916: "The party leaving 414 Augusta street, Oak Park, upon this fateful day consisted of Emma Hulbert Burroughs, Joan Burroughs (8 1/2), Hulbert Burroughs (6 1/2), 'Jack' Burroughs (3 1/2), Theresa Witzmann, maid, Louis J. Ziebs, chauffeur; Edgar Rice Burroughs, Emma Hulbert's husband; Dickie, canary bird; and the Jinx." Tarzan, the airedale terrier pup, also went along. Jinx was the name for the 'bad luck spirit' that seemed to follow them at every turn with breakdowns, bad roads, rain and mud, wind and dust, heat and cold, sickness, bugs, snakes and wild animals, etc. Things got so bad that they abandoned Calamity Jane and Happy Thought. On June 19th, Ed purchased a new 3/4 ton Republic Truck in South Bend, Indiana, sent down from the factory at Alma, Michigan. The load from the abandoned vehicles was then transferred to the truck: an enormous refrigerator, an oil cook stove, a fireless cooker, a hat box, galvanized iron tanks for kerosene and water, a phonograph, folding cots, stools, tables, a bath tub, two trunks, countless suit cases and bags, seven rolls of bedding, toys, a flag, tent poles and stakes, and a great tent. The Burroughs family travelled with all the comforts of home.
Ed in Morrison LakeEd's Republic Truck with Joan, Hulbert, Judson Branch and Louis J. Ziebs ~ July 2, 1916
Copyright ERB, Inc. ~ Not for reproduction

By the time they reached "Camp Branch" at Morrison's lake, near Coldwater, Michigan, they had made the impulsive decision to cancel the trip to Maine and head to California instead, after returning to Oak Park and hiring a new chauffeur. Concern for the children's health had played a major part in the decision as word had reached them that there was an outbreak of infantile paralysis in the east. "Undoubtedly I shall always roll, at least as long as I have the price of rolling, and drag my family with me until they are old enough to anchor for themselves..."

Camp Disaster near Rolling Prairie, Indiana, June 18, 1916Camp Disaster near Rolling Prairie, Indiana, June 18, 1916On ERB's yacht, Morrison Lake, Camp Branch: Judson Branch, Joan, Theresa Witzmann, Hulbert, Emma, Jack, Julia Branch
The Burroughs family caravan left Oak Park for California on August 7. They named each evening's campsite throughout their summer overland adventure and the names they chose give a pretty fair idea as to the route hazards they encountered:

(See the original document in ERB's handwriting here)

Gary - Emergency Camp #1 ~ 2. Camp Despair ~ 3. Camp Joy ~ 4. Camp Disaster ~ 5. Misawana: Emergency Camp #2 ~ 6. Camp Branch ~ 7. Eagle Lake Camp ~ 8. HOME ~ 9. Camp Fly ~ 10. Rattle Snake Camp ~ 11. Camp Clover-Kings? ~ 12. Camp Thixton ~ 13. Camp Point?: Emergency Camp #3 ~ 14.  Hannibal: Emergency Camp #4 ~ 15. Camp New Bridge ~ 16. Camp Busted Pump ~ 17. Camp Pitt ~ 18. Camp Ev. Luth Trinity School ~ 19. Camp Horseshoe ~ 20. Camp Winwood? ~ 21. Camp Big Wind ~ 22. Camp Raggedy Man ~ 23. Camp Moon ~ 24. Camp Coyote (Aug. 29) ~ 25. Camp Hutchinson (Aug. 30) ~ 26. Camp Mouse (Aug. 31) ~ 27. Camp Arkansas (Sept. 1) ~ 28. Windy Camp (Sept. 2) ~ 29. Camp Jack Rabbit (Sept. 3) ~ 30. Camp Mosquito (Sept. 4) ~ 31. Pike's Peak Camp (Sept 5.) ~ 32. Pike's Peak Camp (Sept. 6).
(See the original documents with autographs here: Page 1 and Page 2)
Joan was often sick during the trip but most times, with the aid of dosages of calomel and cathartics, she made rapid recoveries from her biliousness. "Joan and Hulbert drove the Packard all day to-day. They steered and used the foot accelerator. . . . All that I did was to sit ready to save us from sudden death." Travel with three young children necessitated frequent stops. This problem was partially solved by inserting a funnel in the wooden floorboards of the vehicle. The family made a ceremony of raising a flag over the camp at the end of each day. For nightly entertainment, Joan and Hulbert would often play popular music on the phonograph that they had packed among the mountains of gear stowed in the truck.

During a stay in Hannibal, Missouri, while the vehicles were being repaired after hitting the ditch in a rain storm, the family visited the home of one of Ed's favourite authors, Mark Twain. Later Joan and Hully went with their dad on a tour of Tom Sawyer's cave: "How the characters in some of my stories get along so well in 'Stygian blackness' is beyond me, yet they do it."

Mark Twain's HomeMark Twain Cave ~ Hannibal Missouri
The trip was fraught with danger and hardships and was especially hard on Joan and her younger brothers: "Joan sick all day. After supper she stiffened out as though dying. . .  drove into town. . .  got Dr. Tucker to come out. . .  doctor said it was merely reflex action following a bilious attack.. . .  Emma broke down. . . I had done mine in the drug store where I could make a holy show of myself."  The next day Hulbert suffered the same malady. Ed and Emma came to the decision that they would never make such a trip again. Just past the halfway mark they gave up on camping and shipped much of the cargo by train so that they could travel faster and lighter over the Santa Fe trail to Los Angeles. Despite the hardships of the journey, everyone seemed to agree that it was experience that they would remember with great fondness for the rest of their lives. "If I had the choice of three children from all the children of the world, and one or more wives from all the wives in the world, for another similar trip, I could not find any better than those with which God has blessed me."
The Hollenbeck Hotel circa 1916Hollenbeck Hotel Lobby circa 1916
September 23 marked the end of the three-month, 3527-mile journey to Los Angeles. The family recuperated in the Hollenbeck Hotel at Spring and Second Streets before moving into a rented house at 355 South Hoover Street. At the request of the Republic Motor Truck Company Ed described the family's cross-country adventure in a limited edition, leather bound booklet: "An Auto-Biography." Ed then entered his battle-scarred Republic truck in the Great Motor Truck Show of Los Angeles where it proved to be the most popular entry. The family's exploits on this trip were recorded in Ed's best humorous style in a journal he called "Diary of an Automobile Camping Tour" (unpublished).
The Burroughs Packard Twin Six 1-35 touring car parked at 355 South Hoover St. ~ Los AngelesAn Auto-Biography by Edgar Rice BurroughsTravel gypsies in California

In 1917 Joan and Tarzan, the dog, spent most of the summer with the Coleman family at Morrison's Lake near Coldwater, Michigan. Family members included Emma's mom, Aunt Jessie, Uncle Roy, Uncle Will, Margaret, Judson, Margorie, Edith and Theresa. Her parents and Hulbert and Jack joined her later in July for their summer vacation. Her dad was quite involved at that time in Hollywood film deals (The Lad and the Lion and Tarzan of the Apes) and in his duties as an officer in the Reserves: Company A, Second Infantry. Although in his forties at the time he was determined to help in the war effort. When Emma talked him out of enlisting, stressing his greater duty to his three young children, he spent much of his time commanding a reserve unit. Jim Pierce, Joan's future husband, often told the story of their first meeting:

"[Mr. Burroughs] was a major in the militia in Oak Park, Illinois, during World War I while I was at nearby Fort Sheridan. Part of our officer's training personnel and several companies from Fort Sheridan went down to Oak Park for a big parade. I told Joan that the parade was where I first spotted her, waving at the soldiers from the curb. She was only ten, and I was eighteen. I told her I made up my mind right then that she was the one for me. It made a good apocryphal story that she loved to repeat in later years."

Letterhead: The California Limited ~ Santa Fe ~ enroute
Oak Park ~ July 16  1917
Dear little Joan -
Your letters and postal came today and we were very happy to hear from you & to know that you are having a nice time.
We leave for home tomorrow morning - by "home" I mean Morrison's Lake. Am glad the "cammah" is painted and hope Tom Ball has the engine in running. It is raining here today & is quite chilly for July. Mamma could not find Theresa's note and is bringing the little "box" down to  Theresa. Hulbert, Jack and Mamma join me in sending you lots of love & kisses with 33 1/2 hugs. Give our love to Grandma, Aunt Jessie, Uncle Roy, Uncle Will, Margaret, Judson, Margorie, Edith and Theresa and be sure that you kiss Tarzan for me. Two collies called on us today. One was "Black" and we think he came to look for Tarzan. He and Tarzan used to play together -- do you remember? Well, my little daughter, we will see you tomorrow night but do not be disappointed if we are late as I may have tire trouble again. We didn't have any trouble coming home except that I got "cost" twice in Hammond. We reached home about 5:40 P.M.
With lots of love,
"Papa looking at cabbage growing in garden at 700 Linden Ave, Oak Park"
("The big nut!"}

Tarzana Ranch ~ 1921Joan and pet on north drivewayThe Burroughs Family: Joan, Hulbert, Emma, Jack, Ed

On March 1, 1919 Ed purchased Mil Flores ($125,000), the 540-acre country estate of the late General Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the Los Angeles Times. It was located in the San Fernando Valley in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. Ed rechristened the estate, Tarzana Ranch and took on the joys and frustrations associated with the role of gentleman farmer. The lifestyle of the Burroughs family changed drastically as the ranch turned out to be a dreamland -- for both young and old. Ed built barns, corrals, riding stables, scenic gardens as well as a golf course, ballroom, theatre and swimming pool on the estate. A schoolroom was also maintained for a number of years in which the children were tutored. The Burroughs family hosted regular pool parties, dances and movie showings for people of the valley as well as for Hollywood celebrities. Sadly, this social whirl took its toll on Joan's mother. She developed a drinking problem. She had always been a wonderful wife and mother but now she became prone to compulsive drinking sprees. She had not learned to drive so the family chauffeur drove her everywhere. Ed gave strict orders for young Joan to accompany her mother and the chauffeur during her visits to the city for social gatherings and shopping trips.

Jim Pierce described situation: "Emma would often get started drinking during a hair-dressing session or with the sales person in a department store that she always dealt with. During fitting sessions and hairdressing operations, Emma would be out of Joan's sight. Joan would wait in the outer rooms and when Emma came out, she would be unable to navigate without help from Joan. Sometimes Joan would have to go to the parking lot to get assistance from the chauffeur. One of these saleswomen of a big fashionable department store would plan parties for customers in a hotel where she lived and have Emma as a guest, who would also foot the tab. Joan would stay with her Mama on these occasions as she was told to do, but she could not stop her from drinking. Joan suffered humiliation and trauma from these sessions. She would break into hysterics at times, and yell and scream at these hustlers and freeloaders until they would break up the party. Emma sometimes passed out cold and Joan would have to get the bellboy to bring the chauffeur to her aid. All of this caused Mr. Burroughs great anguish when Emma was carried into the home."

The new Burroughs pool - looking north
Ex-cavalry man Ed was an excellent horseman and passed this skill and his love for horses onto Joan and her brothers. The kids joined him on most of his early morning rides along the many rough and scenic trails that wound through the range land gullies and into the Santa Monica mountains to the south. These experiences in horsemanship served Joan well as she went on to display her riding skills in many California horse shows.
Joan and brothers showing amusement at JoN's misadventuresEmma and Joan at the riding ring
Joan entered the Ramona Convent in West Alhambra in August of 1920, but withdrew before Christmas. Hulbert and Jack enrolled in the Page Military Academy but they also withdraw after a short time. On the following January 4th, Joan enrolled in the Hollywood School for Girls - a much happier place than the Convent. Many of Hollywood's top personalities sent their children to this school and her friends included the daughters of Jim Jeffries, Francis X. Bushman, and Cecil DeMille. Her brothers enrolled at the Urban Military Academy in Los Angeles in 1923. In preparation for a career in theatre, Joan enrolled next in the Cumnock School of the Theatre in LA and from 1924 through 1926 she attended the Marta Oatman School of the Theatre in Los Angeles.
Ramona Convent
Joan's first noteworthy stage performance was on May 12, 1926 when she played "Kathie" in the school play The Student Prince. This was followed by an appearance in Enter Madame. Ed was always supportive of his daughter's aspirations to become a performer on stage and screen. The Burroughs children had been exposed to the entertainment business from an early age, in fact, the family had a standing reservation for a theatre box each Sunday at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Los Angeles -- an exciting weekly event for the whole family. Tarzana Ranch was used as the basis for the background of the book The Girl From Hollywood.  He even borrowed some of Joan's speeches and mannerisms in his description of the character of one of the girls in the book. The welfare of family was always foremost in the author's mind. When he formed Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. on March 26, 1923, the corporation charter listed himself as president and owning one-quarter share of stock, with Joan, Hulbert and Jack each owning a one-quarter interest.
Joan, Hulbert, Ed, Emma, Jack: Tarzana Ranch living room
Burroughs Family in the Tarzana Ranch Living Room
Ed, Jack, Emma, Joan, Hully
Burroughs Family in the Mecca Avenue Cottage Garden
Ed Burroughs trusted his children completely and tried to instill a sense of independence in them. When Joan was sixteen she was allowed to go out on dates but she could not remember a time when he had ever told her to be home at a certain hour or was loaded down with restrictions. All he said was that he thought she was capable of taking care of herself and that he had confidence in her. He demanded only one thing from his children: respect. The Burroughs family were not church goers. Joan once said: "Dad never discussed religion at home. He said he wanted us to choose our own church when we were grown up and possessed of sufficient intelligence to make our own decision. He did not go to church and we didn't either. He lived by his own conscience, of which honesty and humility were important."

I: The Early Years
II: Marriage and Career Years
III: Years of War and Turmoil
IV: Family and Laurels

Burroughs Camp Names ~ 1916
Visitors to the Burroughs Camp 1916 - Page 1
Visitors to the Burroughs Camp 1916 - Page 2
The Danton Burroughs Family Archive
ERB Dedications to Joan Burroughs
Those Burroughs Kids
The Tarzan Radio Show Premier
Tarzan Radio Show
The Edgar Rice Burroughs Online Bio Timeline
A Meeting With Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce in Tarzana 1971 ~ Part I
A Meeting With Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce in Tarzana 1971 ~ Part II
The Pierce Grave site in Shelbyville, Indiana
The Battle of Hollywood by the Oldest Living Tarzan ~ James H. Pierce
A Visit to Old Los Angeles

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