Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915) was an influential American writer, philosopher, and artist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Best known as the founder of the Roycroft artisan community, Hubbard played a significant role in the American Arts and Crafts movement. His beliefs and teachings encouraged a hands-on approach to artistry and craftsmanship, and he promoted self-sufficiency, authenticity, and the value of labor.
Elbert Hubbard was a powerful force in the American Arts and Crafts movement, promoting the value of hand-crafted goods and the dignity of work. His unique blend of entrepreneurship, philosophy, and artistry has left an indelible mark on American cultural history. Even over a century after his death, his words and ideas continue to resonate, reminding us of the enduring importance of creativity, authenticity, and individualism.
Elbert Hubbard Quotes
“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
Early Life and Career
Elbert Green Hubbard, born on June 19, 1856, in the midwestern town of Bloomington, Illinois, displayed an innate entrepreneurial spirit from his early years. His education journey began in the public schools of Illinois, laying a foundation that would serve him well in his future endeavors.
In 1871, he relocated to Buffalo, New York, where he dove headfirst into the professional world as a door-to-door soap salesman for the Larkin Soap Company. His knack for sales and leadership did not go unnoticed. Over time, Hubbard climbed the ranks to become not just an executive but a partner in the company. However, despite his commercial success, Hubbard nurtured a growing fascination with fields beyond business, particularly philosophy, art, and literature.
Founding of the Roycroft Campus
A pivotal moment in Hubbard’s life came during a visit to the Kelmscott Press in England. Here, he found inspiration in the work of William Morris, a central figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. This encounter ignited in Hubbard a desire to create a similar environment on American soil.
In 1895, he established his community of artists and craftsmen in East Aurora, New York. Drawing from history, he christened this community “Roycroft,” after 17th-century printers Samuel and Thomas Roycroft. The Roycroft Campus quickly evolved into a hub of artistic and philosophical activity, upholding the merits of hand craftsmanship in an era increasingly dominated by mass production.
Philosophy and Impact
Central to Hubbard’s philosophy were the principles of self-reliance, authenticity, and the dignity of labor. His beliefs resonated with the core tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, which arose in response to the Industrial Revolution’s focus on mechanization and standardization. Hubbard was a vocal proponent of the notion that true satisfaction and fulfillment stem from seeing a product through from conception to completion.
In addition to his entrepreneurial and philosophical pursuits, Hubbard was a prolific writer. His literary works, notable for their moral and inspirational undertones, offered valuable life lessons to his readers. One of his most famous pieces, “A Message to Garcia,” is a concise, motivational essay published in 1899.
It tells the tale of a U.S. military officer who successfully delivers an important message to a Cuban rebel leader during the Spanish-American War. This narrative has been widely interpreted as a parable about the virtues of personal initiative and unwavering diligence.
Death and Legacy
Tragically, Hubbard and his second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, lost their lives on May 7, 1915, when the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine. This unfortunate event marked the conclusion of a significant chapter in the Arts and Crafts movement. Despite this loss, the Roycroft Campus lived on under the stewardship of their son, Elbert Hubbard II, until the mid-1930s.
The influence of Elbert Hubbard transcends his lifetime. His dedication to craftsmanship, his profound philosophical essays, and the work produced by the Roycroft community continue to resonate with artisans, entrepreneurs, and thinkers to this day. The Roycroft Campus is currently recognized as a National Historic Landmark, a testament to Hubbard’s enduring impact on American arts and culture.