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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities



Elbert Hubbard. A Message to Garcia. East Aurora: Roycroft, 1899.

While discussing the war with Spain on Washington’s Birthday, 1899, Hubbard’s son declared tat the real hero of the war was U.S. Army Lieutenant Andrew S. Rowan who had been told by President McKinley to make contact with the exiled General Calixto García in hiding to seek his cooperation and to obtain military and political assessment of Cuba. Hubbard retired to his study to compose his “Message to Garcia” for his magazine, The Philistine.

“The point I wish to make is this: Rowan took the letter & did not ask ‘Where is he at?’ By the eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning that young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies:” do the thing—‘Carry a message to Garcia!’”

The message so struck the American reader that, in various magazines and in reprints made by the New York Central Railroad,  it reached a circulation of over sixteen million copies in three years. Hubbard’s theme echoes throughout: the ideal worker takes responsibility and does his best.

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The Roycrofters are a small band of workers who make beautiful books and things—making them as good as they can. —Roycroft motto

The Roycroft community of East Aurora, New York, took William Morris and his Kelmscott press as its model in designing an Arts and Crafts workshop in 1894. Elbert Hubbard, the founder, had made money in the soap business but preferred to realize his dream as a writer and promoter of high quality goods beginning with a print shop and expanding to include leatherwork, copper wares, leaded glass lamps and a version of the popular Morris chair. His mission was to convince Americans that beauty belongs in the objects of everyday living, from books to table mats.

Of the people who joined Roycroft, Hubbard recalled the “boys who have been expelled from school, blind people, deaf people, old people, jail-birds and mental defectives” who all managed to do good work. He rejected the “remittance men” who were willing to do anything but work: “They offered to run things, to preach, to advise, to make love to the girls. We bought them tickets to Chicago and without violence conducted them to the Four-O‘Clock train.” Others, he said, look “for Utopia, when work is work, here as elsewhere.

Nonetheless, as Hubbard’s biographer says: “In the early years, Roycroft had much in common with the utopian communities that had dotted the country earlier in the century. Not economically, since the property was Hubbard’s. But Roycroft had common meals, meetings, sports, studies, and a library. Cash wages were small, but there wasn’t much need or opportunity to spend money. The work was still work, but there was an effort to make it humanly satisfying. There was a real—if informal and basically paternalistic—feeling of shared values, adventure, responsibility.”

Hubbard and his wife perished on the Lusitania but the community continued until 1938.