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The Roycrofters

Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard. Courtesy of Project Gutenberg eText 12933: Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great (1916) by Elbert Hubbard

Origins of the Roycroft Community

In 1895, Elbert Hubbard founded the Roycroft reformist community in East Aurora, New York, just outside of Buffalo. Members were called Roycrofters. Although the appellation derived from two printers from the group, Samuel and Thomas Roycroft, Hubbard chose it intentionally to connote “King’s Craft.” He wanted to recreate a modern-day version of the guilds of early modern Europe with skilled craftsmen of various types.

Arts and Crafts Idealism

Hubbard had originally come up with the idea for the Roycroft community on a visit to England, where he was influenced by Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris. Back in America, Hubbard followed Morris’ lead and set up his own Roycroft Press to put out his manuscript, Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great (1916), a compilation of imagined visits to the men and women who shaped society over time.

Working in Productive Harmony

Lured by Hubbard’s Arts and Crafts message, various workers gravitated to East Aurora, including not just printers and bookbinders, but furniture makers, leathersmiths, and metalsmiths. The Roycrofters sought to work with hands, head, and heart in harmony. They mixed play with work to make labor less taxing. By 1910, there were nearly 500 Roycroft members.

Aftermath and Influence

Elbert Hubbard and his wife Alice died when the RMS Lusitania sank in 1915. This also marked the beginning of the end of the Roycroft community. The Hubbards’ son Bert took over briefly, but despite brokering an agreement for Sears & Roebuck to carry Roycroft furniture, the community soon became insolvent. Fourteen of the original buildings from the Roycroft Campus still exist in East Aurora. Today the group continues to impact American design and craft techniques.

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The Roycrofters
The Roycrofters
The Roycrofters
The Roycrofters