Design Entrepreneur, 1895 – 1915

Roycroft founded by Elbert Hubbard in 1895, was an arts and craft commune, of sorts, in the village of East Aurora, Erie County, New York, near Buffalo. Hubbard is arguably the pioneer of American design entrepreneurial pursuit.  Influenced by William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement in England, Hubbard established a community that engaged in everything from architecture to candy production, book printing, typography and design (The Roycroft Press) to leather works to furniture manufacture. They ran The Roycrofters Inn and also had their own Roycroft School of Arts.

Hubbard espoused “A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness”.

He attracted around 500 followers by 1910. His writings were well distributed, and the inspirational pamphlet, A Message to Garcia, with an estimated printing of 40 million copies, rivals the Interweb today. Hubbard produced a popular series of pamphlets called Little Journeys and edited monthly magazines, The Fra (“The magazine that’s never thrown away. Even its ads are literature”) and The Philistine (“A periodical of protest,” pages from which are reproduced here). If you read his adverts you’ll see how extensive was his integration of business and design, prefiguring the current interest in “self-generated content.”

In 1915 Hubbard and his wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, died in the attack and sinking of Lusitania. Before their deaths, Roycroft’s furniture was sold by Sears & Roebuck (and are now collector’s items).

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7 thoughts on “Design Entrepreneur, 1895 – 1915

  1. April Shifflett

    I have 18 copies of the original Philistine Pamphlets and 3 partial or ripped ones. They are in really great condition. I have become bedridden disabled.  so I am selling these almost everything I own to get a caregiver and medication. Do you know what these are worth or someone who does or someone I could sell them too? Thanks in advance for your assistance regarding this matter. I can send a video or pics or webcam online to show them.
    April Shifflett
    717-479-5160
    TrulyIlluminated@gmail.com

  2. Keith McCord

    I visited the Roycroft Campus a few years back.  The work they are doing to restore the culture of the Arts & Crafts movement is really spectacular, but the essence of the man himself can be felt in the place.  His influence on the business of the Arts & his belief in the community of artists is one that is not often brought to light, as he is often overshadowed by folks like Morris.  Thanks for giving him the spotlight.  I am also a fan of Denslow & his little seahorse as mentioned above!

  3. Larry Launstein Jr

    I’m an admirer of Hubbard’s work and the whole Roycroft movement. And way it transitioned itself into the later Art Deco period – both periods were high-water marks for me as far as design goes. I can’t help but wonder how the Arts & Crafts movement and the later Art Deco period would have played out if Hubbard hadn’t gone down with the Lusitania. BTW, I’m a Lusitania buff. The sinking itself was controversial because of it being a passenger liner, the largest one afloat (after the Titanic sank, the Lusitania regained her title until her sinking and larger ships came into being during World War I). No doubt the Lusitania was carrying contraband for England.

  4. peacay

    Note the seahorse symbol in the first image. This is the watermark / seal for various Roycroft hand-crafted products and is an adaptation of the WW Denslow’s signature. Denslow, a Roycrofter for a time, is better known as the illustrator of the original Wizard of Oz series. Thanks Mr Heller.

  5. Anne Watkins

    TheUniversity of Heller informs each day.  How do you do it?  Many thanks for this and all of your fascinating entries.  Here is is the Gand daddy of Zines. Is there a name for the typeface used here? Thanks, Steve.

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