Utopian Communities and Decorative Arts - Roycroft

The Roycroft Campus, established by Elbert Hubbard in 1897, was the birthplace of the American Arts and Crafts movement as a rebuff to the Industrial Revolution. After visiting England and meeting William Morris, the singular most important figure to decorative arts during the Victorian era, Hubbard returned to his East Aurora, NY home inspired. Unable to find others to publish his works, Hubbard started his own printing company called the Roycroft Press. Using traditional (i.e. pre-industrial) methods, his company soon printed A Message to Garcia, the third most popular book of the time - right after the Bible and the dictionary. 

Between the successful dissemination of his ideals and Hubbard's own charisma, the Roycroft was attracting like-minded individuals and, most importantly, skilled craftspeople. By 1910, it was a center of craftsmanship with its own farms and even its own Power House, which provided heat and electricity to the entire campus by means of underground pipes. It supported a vibrant community of metalsmiths, leathersmiths, furniture makers, and other artisans, all abiding with the community's creed:

"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."  

As their mission suggests, while hard work was certainly a tenet of Roycroft, pleasure was as well, and Hubbard was known to ring bells to ensure each member took a break or to mark the end of the day.

In 1915, Hubbard and his wife perished aboard the HMS Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat, on their way to tour and promote his writings in Europe. Hubbard's son Bert took over the running of the campus until its demise in 1929 as a result of the Depression. Despite the hardships, Roycroft was proof that quality, handmade goods were still desirable, able to be produced on a large scale, and that the best items were produced with "head, heart and hand." Today, the Roycrofters-at-Large Association strives to preserve the ideals and legacy of the original Roycroft, using strict guidelines to grant admission to artisans becoming Roycroft certified.


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