If asked to think of the year 1912 and what might have been significant about it, some folks
might recall it was the year the Titanic sank. A few parents of Brownies and other Girl Scouts
might remember it was the year the Girl Scouts were founded. It was also a good year for
literature, especially popular literature, for this was the year when (fictionally) an orphaned
boy of British nobility was raised by apes and became one of the greatest and most popular
adventurers of all time, dinosaurs were discovered (fictionally) on a lost plateau in South
America, and Gene Stratton-Porter dominated (factually) the book world.
Everyone has heard of Tarzan of the Apes, and most of us have seen at least one of the many
movies. But did you know when he made his first appearance? In the October 1912 issue of an
American pulp magazine, Tarzan made his debut. The author Edgar Rice Burrows also began his John Carter of Mars series earlier that year in the same magazine. Tarzan became enormously popular around the world and still has a strong presence today, over 100 years later.
Another fictional story known around the world appeared in 1912 when Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) published his novel The Lost World. The familiar tale of
explorers in South America, who come across a mysterious, hidden, and almost inaccessible
mountain plateau where dinosaurs have survived over the eons, continues to thrill us today. It
has influenced such books as Jurassic Park and The Lost World by the modern writer Michael
Crichton, and the movies of the same names. But it was Sir Arthur who started it all. His book
also contained a version of ape-like (although prehistoric) men. In a later adventure, Tarzan
also traveled to a lost world of dinosaurs in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, but inside the earth
instead of on a remote plateau.
By the end of 1912, a number of books had been published about the sinking of the
Titanic, which had happened earlier in the year in April. Like Tarzan and the dinosaurs of Conan Doyle’s lost world, the sinking of this “unsinkable” ship continues to reverberate today with books and movies still engaging us with the famous tragedy.
In 1912 Gene Stratton-Porter made it to the top of the book world. Her novel, The
Harvester, was published in August of 1911, and had made its way up to number five on the
best-seller list by the end of that year. Sales continued strongly throughout the next year. By
the end of 1912, Gene’s tale of David Langston, the harvester of medicinal plants, had become
the number one fiction book sold in America. The story of the Harvester and his Dream Girl was Gene’s first Top Ten book, with five more to follow: Laddie, Michael O’Halloran, A Daughter of the Land, Her Father’s Daughter, and Keeper of the Bees.