Visitor Center, Roycroft campus, East Aurora, N.Y. (Photo: Peter K Burian)
In the late 19th century, increasing industrialization in England sparked anxieties that prized handcrafting traditions would be lost to impersonal mechanical production methods. In response, the British Arts and Crafts movement prompted a resurgence in high-quality, handmade objects, grounded in a philosophy of finding beauty and inspiration in the simplicity of nature.
A visit to William Morris’s Kelmscott Press where ornate, handcrafted books were created, sent Elbert Hubbard, a salesman for Buffalo’s Larkin Soap Company, home to America determined to follow in Morris’s footsteps.
Fusing the ideals of the English movement with his strong business sense, Hubbard established the beginnings of the American Arts and Crafts movement at his artistic and philosophical community called Roycroft in East Aurora, New York. He would grow Roycroft from a single shop in 1897 to a bustling campus for like-minded individuals and artisans, producing a variety of handcrafted furniture, copperwork, and stained glass. Much of the financial backing was thanks to the success and profits of Hubbard’s 1899 book A Message to Garcia.
Despite its flourishing, the Roycroft campus was not immune to the tragedies of the 20th century. After Hubbard’s death and the Great Depression, Roycroft closed its doors in 1938. Throughout the late 20th century, a movement surfaced to restore the Roycroft legacy and campus to its former glory. Today the campus hosts a vibrant museum, an inn, restaurant, and shops.
Join Alan Nowicki, program director at the Roycroft campus, as he traces the history of the Arts and Crafts movement in America through Hubbard’s influential community that came to personify it.
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