clock menu more-arrow no yes

The Great Gatsby was published 90 years ago. This is the tiny ad it got.

The ad for F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel.
The ad for F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel.
The New York Times/TimesMachine

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, published 90 years ago today, has repeatedly been hailed as the great American novel.

But it didn't always get such fanfare.

The page below, published on April 9, 1925, one day before The Great Gatsby's publication, shows that Fitzgerald's historic masterpiece was just one book among many. It got a tiny ad slot in a sea of sales for dime novels, ads for Easter Baskets, and news about cab rates:

The full page on April 9, 1925.

The full page on April 9, 1925, with an ad for The Great Gatsby tucked away. (The New York Times/TimesMachine)

You can browse the full issue at TimesMachine.

To some degree, the tiny ad misrepresents how anticipated Fitzgerald's book was. Though his star had faded, he was still the hot young writer who'd penned This Side of Paradise and the slightly less popular The Beautiful and Damned. About 10 days after publication, he received a strong review in the Times (though the book was called "more a long short story than a novel"), and on April 12 it got a larger ad (though it was crammed in with 19 other books).

But, in many ways, the tiny ad really does represent the early fate of The Great Gatsby. As Melville House recounted in 2013, many early reviews weren't as laudatory as the one in the Times. The St. Louis Dispatch called the book "a minor performance," and the Dallas Morning News pitied the decline of Fitzgerald's career. Sales weren't particularly strong, either: at the time of his death in 1940, Fitzgerald had earned a little over $13 in royalties in addition to his $2,000 advance.

Things have changed a bit since then. The most recent Great Gatsby movie took in more than $351 million in theaters worldwide.