Edgar Rice Burroughs
Portraits of Edgar Rice Burroughs and scenes from Tarzan movies exhibited at a Los Angeles museum

“No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment.
If it entertains and is clean, it is good literature, or its kind.
If it forms the habit of reading,
in people who might not read otherwise,
it is the best literature.”
–Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), best known as the author of Tarzan and John Carter, has strong ties to Michigan, including his attendance at the Michigan Military Academy in Orchard Lake Village as a young man. It was there where he wrote part of Gods of Tarzan at Camp Branch that oversees Morrison Lake. The Lost Continent was written entirely at Sunnyside Farm, according to the Michael A. Hatt book Tarzan Slept Here (2014).

According to https://www.thoughtco.com: “When asked by an editor to write an article about the theme of the Tarzan books, Edgar Rice Burroughs said that the theme consists of just one word: Tarzan. Burroughs claimed that the Tarzan books did not have a particular message or moral agenda; rather, he said, Tarzan of the Apes was intended to serve as an escape from thought, discussion and argument.”

In recent years, the fictional story of Tarzan has received criticism because of its portrayal of Africans. Previously, in the 20th century, its sales were extremely successful and it continued to spawn spin-off books, comic books, and feature films, produced by a host of subsequent creators, into the 21st century.

An almost equally known work by the author is the influential science fiction masterpiece John Carter, which is said to have provided the foundations for such feature films as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar. Read more here: https://www.ign.com/articles/2012/02/17/without-john-carter-there-would-be-no-star-wars.

A bibliography can be found here: https://www.biblio.com/edgar-rice-burroughs/author/192.

Sunnyside Farm

Sunnyside Farm in Coldwater was originally bought by the writer’s in-laws, which they purchased as a retreat away from their life in Chicago. He visited there while dating his future wife, Emma. After they married, they continued to visit together. It is not open to the public but has been included in privately arranged tours of the area. In 2017, fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs attending a conference journeyed to Coldwater to visit the area where the young writer spent several summers. Read more about it at erbzine.com, which is the “First and Only Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.” 

Morrison Lake has been a popular fishing area for years, but the water had issues with toxins in 2019, so visitors are recommended to check with local government sources before entering.

Coldwater, which is part of historic Branch County, has a population of approximately 12,000.

More “ERB” Places to See

For more literary sites connected to Edgar Rice Burroughs, see the California and Idaho pages.

Coldwater is the first stop of our Michigan Author Adventures Trail, which runs northward through the state. Morrison Lake is the fourth stop.

Patricia Smart