F. Scott Fitzgerald Fitzgerald's Signature
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Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. He was named after his second cousin three times removed, the author of the Star-Spangled Banner . When Fitzgerald was twelve, his first writing to appear in print was a detective story in the school newspaper when he was thirteen. In college, Fitzgerald neglected his studies to write scripts and lyrics for college musicals articles for college magazines.

World War I began and he joined the army in 1917. In June 1918 Fitzgerald was assigned to Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, Alabama. where he fell in love with the beautiful, eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre, the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. The war ended just before he was to be sent overseas and after his discharge in 1919, he went to New York City to seek his fortune in order to marry.

Fitzgerald quit his job in New York in July 1919 and returned to St. Paul to work on his novel as This Side of Paradise . The publication of the book, made the twenty-four-year-old Fitzgerald famous almost overnight, and a week later he married Zelda in New York. They began on a grand life as young celebrities. Fitzgerald tried to earn a serious literary reputation but his playboy ways got in the way. Their only child Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald was born in October 1921.

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald
The Fitzgeralds went to France in the spring of 1924 seeking quiet for his work. He wrote The Great Gatsby, possibly his best-known novel, during that summer and fall. He revised the novel and the The Great Gatsby was published in the spring.

The Fitzgeralds returned to America. After a short, time spent writing for the movies in Hollywood, Fitzgerald rented a mansion near Wilmington, Delaware, in the spring of 1927. Zelda began ballet training, intending to become a professional dancer. The Fitzgeralds returned to France in the spring of 1929, where Zelda's intense ballet work damaged her health and caused problems in their marriage. In April 1930 she suffered her first breakdown. Zelda was treated at a clinic in Switzerland. Fitzgerald stopped work on his novel as he wrote short stories to pay for psychiatric treatment.

Fitzgerald was not among the highest-paid writers of his time. His novels earned comparatively little, and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories. During the 1920s his income from all sources averaged under $25,000 a year--good money at a time when a schoolteacher's average annual salary was $1,299, and a new Chevrolet cost $619, but not a fortune. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald did spend money faster than he earned it; the author who wrote so well about the effects of money on people's character was unable to manage his own.

The Fitzgeralds returned to America in the fall of 1931 and rented a house in Montgomery. Fitzgerald made a second unsuccessful trip to Hollywood in 1931. Zelda suffered a relapse in February 1932 and entered Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She spent the rest of her life as a resident or outpatient of sanitariums.

In 1932, while Zelda was a patient at Johns Hopkins, Fitzgerald a house rented outside Baltimore, where he completed his fourth novel, Tender Is the Night . Published in 1934, the novel he'd worked hardest on was a failure. It made little money and critics didn't care much for it.

Fitzgerald worked as a freelance script writer in Holly wood again, and again wrote short-short stories for magazines. He began his Hollywood novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, in 1939 and had written more than half of a working draft when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940. Zelda Fitzgerald died in a fire in Highland Hospital in 1948.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure. It seemed that he would be forgotten. People began to read his books again between 1945 and 1950. By 1960 he had achieved a secure place among America's best writers: The Great Gatsby, a work about hope in an American setting, is said to be the classic American novel.

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© Copyright August 22, 2001, Office of the Secretary of State.
Last Modified October 04, 2002 .