Category Archives: Winterthur

Thought of the Day 9.1.12 Edgar Rice Burroughs

“I write to escape…to escape poverty.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Русский: Эдгар Райс Берроуз

Edgar Rice Burroughs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois in 1875. Today is the 137th anniversary of his birth.

He was the middle child Major George Burroughs and his wife Mary Evaline. His younger siblings died of childhood diseases, leaving him the baby of the family. He bounced around several different local schools. Whenever there was an outbreak of a disease his parents took him out of one school and put him in another.  Since schools taught Latin and Greek as well as English he later …

“his erratic schooling… resulted in his … learning little English while taking the same Greek and Latin courses over and over again. Despite his claims to the contrary, this early exposure to Classical literature and mythology would serve Burroughs well in his future writing career.” [The Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Mini-Bio]

When a flu epidemic swept through Chicago his parents sent a teenaged Edgar to his brothers’ cattle ranch in Idaho. He love the rough and tumble “wild west”  with its range wars and saloon shoot outs and he lived there for six months before his parents realized the danger of  frontier life was on par with the danger of getting influenza. They called him home and enrolled him in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He didn’t last long there and was soon transferred to the more structured  Michigan Military Academy. He failed the West Point entrance exam  and signed up for the Army  as a private where he served with the 7th US Cavalry at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. He was discharged from the Army for a heart condition in 1897.

In 1899 he was back in Chicago working for his father ‘s company, and the next year he married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Hulbert. After a few years he and Emma travelled west to Idaho so he could try his luck with his brothers again, this time at gold mining. But that venture soon went bust and Burroughs went through a number of jobs from railway policeman to peddler for quack medicine.

One of his jobs was as a pencil sharpener wholesaler. He placed ads for the pencil sharpeners in pulp fiction magazines and he would read through the magazines to check the placement of the ads.

“After reading several thousand words of breathless pulp fiction Burroughs determined … that ‘if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.'” [The Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Mini-Bio]

Cover of "Under the Moons of Mars: A Prin...

Cover via Amazon

In fact he had already written stories, but his introduction into the pulp fiction market with Under the Moons of Mars,  for which he received a whopping $400 from All-Story magazine, was a turning point in his career. The story was serialized  in the magazine and produced as a novel under its original name of A Princess of Mars. By the time the last installment was published in July of 1912 Burroughs had completed two more novels. The Outlaw of Torn and Tarzan of the Apes. Outlaw was not picked up by the publisher, but Tarzan was an immediate hit. Burroughs got $700 for the book. He wrote a number of sequels for both Mars (11, including John Carter of Mars) and Tarzan (26).

Dustjacket by Armstrong Sperry for the first e...

Dustjacket by Armstrong Sperry for the first edition of Tarzan and the Lost Empire by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other book series by Burroughs includes:

  • The Pellucidar series, which takes place in the hollow shell of the Earth (7 books, including one featuring a cross over appearance from Tarzan).
  • The Venus series, where Carson Napier, who is attempting a solo flight to Mars, crash lands instead on the watery planet of Venus. — look for a film made from the series coming out next year. (5 books)
  • The Caspak series, a prehistoric series, including The Land That Time Forgot (3 books)

He crossed writing genres at will penning social realism, horror stories, and westerns (and more).

Burroughs was living in Honolulu,  Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He volunteered  to serve the war effort as a war correspondent  (the oldest in the Pacific theatre).

He died on March 19, 1950.

English: Bookplate of American writer Edgar Ri...

English: Bookplate of American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) showing Tarzan holding the planet Mars, surrounded by other characters from Burroughs’ stories and symbols relating to the author’s personal interests and career. Associated media: File:Letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Ruthven Deane 1922.jpg explaining the design of his bookplate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Winterthur Museum and Garden

“In beauty may I walk…with beauty before me…with beauty behind me…with beauty above me… with beauty all around me… may I walk…”— Navajo saying

[found on the stones of the labyrinth in the Enchanted Woods]

Winterthur was Henry Francis du Pont’s (HF)  masterpiece. He was born to a live of privilege on the estate in 1880 and began to supervise the gardens when his father, Henry Algemon du Pont (HA), went to Washington to serve as a Senator. HF and his wife Ruth had houses  in South Hampton, Long Island and Boca Grande, Florida, and an apartment in New York City, but he was never away from his beloved Winterthur for more than a few weeks at a time. He died there in 1969.

Oil painting of Henry Francis du Pont as a young man.

HF worked with the formal gardens that were already established on the estate and created his own. And he planted the March Bank. The March Bank was designed so guest and family members would see thousands of flowers in bloom from their bedroom windows every morning. As seasons changed from early spring, to late spring, to summer, etc the rooms would be transformed. Rugs, curtains and other color accents would be swapped out to match the show outside.

Du Pont considered the natural topography of the land when planting. He was a naturalistic gardener. His woodlands were composed of ground cover, shrub, small and large trees. When he planted azaleas he didn’t just pick one shade of pink or purple, he used gradations of the colors to create his “masterpiece of color.”

Looking north from the bowl of the Quarry Garden.

HF began his Quarry Garden when he was just 22 years old. A short hike down the slate stairs brings the visitor to a hidden gem of color and cool solitude. It is the perfect place to sit and relax on a hot summer day.

A more recent addition to Winterthur is the Enchanted Wood. This fantasy garden delights children of all ages. This fairy-tale inspired  garden delights children of all ages with its misty mushrooms, troll bridge, thatched roofed Faerie Cottage, tulip poplar house, May pole, labyrinth and a story circle that feels like a miniature Stone Hedge.

The estate was a working farm with a prize winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cows before it became a museum. While on a  trip to Vermont to visit the Webb dairy operation in 1923 HF was smitten with the antique American furniture he saw on display. He was attracted to the color combinations of pink porcelain  against the pine cabinetry. It was an “ah-ha” moment, and it started him on major trek in his life. When he got back to Pennsylvania he went antiquing in Chester County and purchased his first American Antique, a 1730 chest of drawers.

The house at Winterthur was originally built by  HF’s great-aunt and uncle the Bidermanns in 1837. It had a mere 12 rooms. Eventually they sold it to Henry du Pont, HF’s grandfather. Henry gave it to HA who added a wing and upped the room count to 30, brought in the cows, and added a railway station.    But Winterthur really blossomed under HF. At its peak the estate employed around 300 people, and had a post office, fire station and its own baseball team.  The house expanded too.  He needed room for his growing collection of American Antiques. He recycled facades and interiors from houses slated for demolition. The magnificent spiral stair case in the entrance hall was rescued from a Southern Plantation that was about to be torn down.  When he was through the mansion had tripled in size and had 175 rooms.

HF had the spiral staircase installed while the family was on vacation. It was a surprise for them when they got back to Winterthur.

If you were a guest at Winterthur when you pulled your car up to the entrance they (the du Ponts or more likely their staff) threw the front and back doors open so the first thing you’d notice was the gardens.  And They kept meticulous records. Guests never ate off the same china or saw the same flowers on the table.

In the formal dining room guest were expected to only speak to the person to their right or to their left (never across the table) so Mrs. du Pont manipulated the conversation at dinner.

Guest usually arrived in the afternoon in time for tea which was sometimes taken out in one of the gardens and was following by a game of Bridge. The best way to curry favor with Mrs. du Pont was to play bridge with her. In fact if you didn’t play bridge, you probably wouldn’t be invited back anytime soon.

Visiting Winterthur doesn’t require an invitation nowadays. The museum and garden are open to the public Tuesdays thru Sundays from 10-5 excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas. For details on planning your trip go to http://www.winterthur.org

The Chinese Room at Winterthur. HF found rolls of elegant wall paper with a seamless Chinese image (with no repeats) and knew he wanted it for his home. The only problem? When they unrolled it the room wasn’t tall enough. To solve the problem they curved the top of the walls to meet the ceiling and were able to extend the wall paper to its full height.

A hallway on the sixth floor of Winterthur.

Wooden eagle is one of the thousands of pieces of American Art that graces the halls of Winterthur

RitaLOVEStoWrite and her husband enjoyed their trip to Winterthur. I hope you enjoyed this blog and will be inspired to travel to the Brandywine Valley and see the magnificent house and gardens in person. In the mean time please LIKE the blog or follow me (at the top of the page.) 🙂


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