• Steven Heller

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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