I’m sure there are many things you could get out of reading The Great Gatsby for our Big Read program, but as I read the book I was entranced by all of the objects mentioned in it. The clothes, jewelry, telephones, perfume bottles, and other items are a visual treat for those that like collecting items from another era. To learn more about these items is to feel like you are entering into Gatsby’s world, and for that I turned to the many books in our Collectibles neighborhood.
Clothing: The clothing of the characters is mentioned quite frequently in the book, from Gatsby’s pink suit to the ladies’ white dresses. Also mentioned are accessories like boots, hats, handkerchiefs, and pocketbooks. Leafing through our many books on clothing and accesories from the 1920′s really brings the world of The Great Gatsby to life. For example the character of Jordan Baker is a 1920′s modern woman who enjoys a career as a golfer. I can just see her sporting one of these golfing ensembles for women pictured in Flapper Era Fashions from the Roaring ’20s by Tina Skinner and Lindy McCord.
Hollywood: Many of the characters would have been trying to emulate the styles they saw on the actors and actresses of that popular new medium: film. I can see Daisy’s daughter dressed like Peggy Montgomery, who as “Baby Peggy” was the most famous little girl in the movies during the 1920′s. Her is a picture of her and the highly collectible Baby Peggy dolls from Hollywood Collectibles: The Sequel by Dian Zillner.
Jewelry: Of course we know the characters in The Great Gatsby are wearing all sorts of gorgeous jewelry left and right. A couple of pieces pictured in Art Nouveou and Art Deco Jewelry by Lillian Baker seem to especially fit the book. One is this set featuring two brooches of highly stylized golfers. I can just imagine these adorning the clothes of Jordan Baker, the professional golfer in the book. Another is this set featuring bracelets with Egyptian motifs. They bring to mind the “pottery bracelets” that the book mentions (I assume that this is a reference to the design being inspired by the designs on Egyptian pottery).
Perfume bottles: This lush Art Deco dressing table set looks like it would be at home in Daisy’s bedroom. Picture from Miller’s Perfume Bottles: A Collector’s Guide by Madeleine Marsh.
Ladies Compact: The ladies at Gatsby’s parties surely were all carrying this popular (and highly collectible) “new” beauty accessory. Here is one that seems to suit the extravagance depicted in the book from Vintage Compacts and Beauty Accessories by Lynell Schwartz.
Cigarette lighter: ”I’ll be the man smoking two cigarettes”–Daisy’s joking remark in chapter 7 is just one mention of cigarette smoking throughout the book. This tabletop cigarette lighter seems to be Gatby’s style, pictured in Collector’s Guide to Cigarette Lighters by James Flanagan.
Furniture. I won’t go into a lot of detail about all the types of furniture mentioned in The Great Gatsby. But lamps are such an iconic symbol of the art deco period that I couldn’t resist for searching for a lamp that might have been in Gatsby’s house. Here is a picture of a beautiful early 1920′s art deco lamp with a strong Egyptian influence. From Popular Art Deco Lighting: Shades of the Past by Herb Millman and John Dwyer.
Telephone: One of the first objects I noticed mentioned a lot in the book was the telephone–Gatsby seems to always be taking a phone call, but of course he was not using a cell phone. Instead he would have been talking a phone that could have looked like this one pictured in Telephones: Antique to Modern by Kate E. Dooner
Sheet Music: One of the songs referred to in The Great Gatsby is “Three O’ Clock in the Morning”, a popular good night waltz of the time. It is mentioned in chapter six, Daisy hears it playing as she is getting ready to leave a party at Gatsby’s house. Here is a picture of one version of the cover for the sheet music that was available at the time, from Covers of Gold: Collectible Sheet Music by Marion Short.
Books: Near the end of the book, Gatsby’s father appears and shows Nick
Gatsby’s childhood copy of a Hopalong Cassidy book.
Here is a picture of the Hopalong Cassidy book by Clarence Mulford published in 1910 (the one in the middle) pictured in Collector’s Guide to Hopalong Cassidy by Joseph A. Caro.
Garage items: The garage that George Wilson owns and operates is another realm full of objects that today would be collectors objects. Here is what the gas pumps at his station might have looked like, from Gasoline Treasures: with values by Mike Bruner.
I hope you enjoyed this walk through memory lane as we enjoyed the objects of Gatsby’s world illustrated by the books from our Collectibles Neighborhood!