pixel.gif America and The Utopian Dream Previous Image Next Page
Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities


The City of Tagaste

Fra Elbertus [Elbert Hubbard]. The City of Tagaste; A Dream and a Prophecy. East Aurora, New York: Roycroft, 1908.

In the guise of Brother Elbert, Hubbard published his fable about the city of Tagaste where machine-made books were so cheap that they could be used to throw at the cat. Photographic processes had rendered engravers obsolete; machines bound books in imitation leather. Eventually, the city died “because she sacrificed her brightest and best in the mad rush to gain wealth by making cheap things that catered to the whims, depraved taste, and foolish tendencies of the worst.” The people who worked with their heads prevailed.

The prophecy of the second story brings us to today:


And so it came about, that about the year 2001 men began to think, and they saw that to work all day with your head, and never with your hands, failed to bring content. . . . The thought came to them that life is expression, and art is the voice of joy that the workman finds in his work. So they worked with their hands.

Hubbard’s prophecy seems to have found expression about 1968.


Ruskin pixel.gif Hubbard pixel.gif  
Catalog pixel.gif Hubbard pixel.gif  

Click on images to enlarge



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.