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'Tarzan of the Apes' Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Local historian Ralph J. Herman, Sr. shares some Tarzana history with Patch.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic Tarzan of the Apes, the will host a screening of the 1932 movie Tarzan of the Apes and will also host separate presentation by local historian and Tarzana native Ralph J. Herman, Sr.

“I’ve given probably 75 presentations over the year or more, large groups, small groups, etcetera,” Herman said. “For this event, for 100 years of Tarzan of the Apes, I’m going to concentrate mainly on a small bit of the history of the Valley.”

Herman, whose family moved onto part of the original Tarzan Ranch, worked on the ranch as a teenager.

“We had alfalfa, rice, barely and a small flock of sheep on the property,” Herman said.  “During World War II we had the Tarzana army camp on it, which not too many people realized existed.”

During his presentation, Herman will detail the history of the ranch, first owned by General Harrison Gray Otis, the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times who named it Rancho de Cabrillo. After he passed away, Burroughs’ purchased the ranch and named it Tarzana Ranch, the name of the community later.

“Otis bought the land out of the first parcel subdivided of the 47,500 acres. He used it for everything from raising goats to you name it. Edgar Rice Boroughs continued on with everything from small dairy farm on it and quite a range of additional animals,” Herman said.

At the presentation, Herman will also bring in some memorabilia to share with the audience, including a famous plaque that General Otis produced.

“The plaque was discovered within the walls of the writing quarters, it was actually Burroughs’,” Herman said. “He found the plaque on site and when he built the writing quarters he stuck it between the plaster, we later discovered it when we tore apart the place to rebuid and enlarge it.”

Herman will also bring in an original piece made in honor of Tarzan of the Apes, filmed in 1917 and released in 1918. Herman, who acquired it through auction, said that the gift, oil paintings in lineture, depicts original scenes from the movie.

“This was a piece that was presented to the head of the promotional group which promoted film," Herman said.

Herman said he has made it a point to know the history of the Tarzan Ranch because it fascinates him.

 “I got involved in what I would call investigative history when I was in high school, I was interested in the history of the ranch,” Herman said. “It’s also personal, it’s part of my life.”

To learn more about the history of the ranch and the valley come to the library Aug. 18 at 11:30 AM to hear Herman's presentation.

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