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Roycroft Catalog

Elbert Hubbard. Some Books for Sale at Our Shop. East Aurora, New York: Roycroft, 1902.

Beautifully designed and produced books with uplifting content were Roycroft’s chief concern. Among the favored authors were Plato, Emerson, Thoreau, Ruskin, Robert Owen and George Bernard Shaw.

The Shop

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ROYCROFT
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.

 

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