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During the first half of the twentieth century the American reading public had access to a source of entertainment now long gone: "pulp" magazines. These magazines were printed on cheap paper with a high pulp content (hence the name), wrapped in garishly illustrated covers, and were brimming with every type of fiction imaginable: westerns, romances, science fiction, tales of courtly intrigue, stories of historical adventure, the exploits of hardy explorers in foreign climes. Every issue brought you a handful of short stories and the latest installment of two or three different serials, so you had to buy the next issue (and the next) to find out how the tales ended. And then another serial would begin ...

If you happened to be walking by a newsstand in 1912 you might have stopped to look at the October issue of the All-Story magazine. Perhaps the cover caught your eye: a barbarously clad man sits astride a rampaging lion, his knife raised for the kill, as another man (probably the lion's intended dinner) looks on in horror. The title was as exotic as the illustration: "Tarzan of the Apes ~ A Romance of the Jungle." Fifteen cents would have gotten you a copy.

The author bore the rather weighty name of Edgar Rice Burroughs. And glancing at the magazine's contents page you might have realized this story was special, because instead of serializing this lengthy novel the All-Story's editor had decided to run it complete in this single issue. "If you will stop and realize how many thousands and thousands of stories an editor has to read, day in, day out, you will be impressed when we tell you that we read this yarn at one sitting and had the time of our young lives." So wrote Thomas Metcalf in the previous issue's buildup to Tarzan. "It is the most exciting story we have seen in a blue moon, and about as original as they make 'em." The All-Story readers, and eventually the world, agreed. From this one novel sprang two dozen more, over forty movies, hundreds of comic books, radio shows, television programs, Tarzan toys, Tarzan gasoline, Tarzan underwear, Tarzan ice cream, Tarzan running shoes ~ the list is virtually endless. Edgar Rice Burroughs became one of the twentieth century's most popular authors, and Tarzan one of the world's best-known literary characters. And all this from one story that came close to never being written at all.

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