“Elbert Hubbard was almost as picturesque as was Father [Frank Lloyd Wright]—they talked arts, crafts and philosophy by the hour. Said Elbert the Hubbard to Papa one night, ‘Modesty being egotism turned wrong side out, let me say here that I am an orator, a great orator! I have health, gesture, imagination, voice, vocabulary, taste, ideas—I acknowledge it myself. What I lack in shape I make up in nerve…’ Said Dad the Papa to the Hubbard, ‘Not only do I intend to be the greatest architect who has yet lived, but the greatest who will ever live. Yes, I intend to be the greatest architect of all time, and I do hereunto affix “the red square” and sign my name to this warning.’”

               —John Lloyd Wright
                         My Father Who Is On Earth
IN 1903, a twenty-year-old chalk talk artist named William J. Hunter (later known as Dard Hunter) was touring the US on the Chautauqua lecture circuit. The son of an Ohio newspaper publisher, he was the stage assistant for a troupe of touring magicians headed by his brother Phil, who performed as “The Buckeye Wizard.” 
	On a hot summer day in California, the chalk talk and the magic show had been scheduled to follow a lecture by politician William Jennings Bryan—the “Silver-Tongued Orator”—who had recently lost a bid for the US Presidency. To prepare the stage for the magic show required considerable effort, so all the props had been installed when Bryan arrived for his lecture. Backstage, as he groped for the curtain, he became entangled in the magic paraphernalia, and ripped out wires, strings, and threads.
   Upset by Bryan’s clumsiness and his unwillingness to apologize, Hunter noticed that the orator’s hat had been left backstage. During the lecture, he dumped red chalk inside the hat, so that later, when Bryan placed it on his perspiring bald head and sauntered out into the blazing sun, he became literally red-faced.
   It was on that California tour that Hunter stayed briefly at the Glenwood Mission Inn (now called Riverside Inn) in Riverside. There, for the second time, he witnessed a new trend in architectural and interior design known as Craftsman or Mission style. He had seen furnishings of this kind two years earlier at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, but never before had he felt so engulfed by it: “You can’t imagine how it makes me feel to look at it,” he wrote to his brother, “It is the grandest thing I’ve seen since I have been in existence.” He couldn’t wait to return to Ohio, to build his own Mission furniture and to redesign the entrance hall to his parents’ home.
	Mission-style furniture was first marketed in the US in 1894. Inspired by William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement, it was called “Mission” because, like the furnishings in monasteries and missions, it was nondecorative, sturdy, and simple. It was, as someone noted then, “a furniture with a mission, and that mission is to teach that the first laws of furniture making should be good material, true proportion and honest workmanship.” In addition, it may have been influenced by the austerity of Shaker furniture, which was well-known and had been exhibited at the U.S. Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.
	Morris had also spearheaded the Private Press Movement by setting up the Kelmscott Press in 1890. Between 1895 and 1910, more than 50 derivative presses were launched in the U.S. alone. So it is no surprise that, at the same time that Dard Hunter became interested in Mission-style furniture, his father had acquired a book that had been designed and printed by William Morris. “I became so fascinated by the book,” Hunter recalled, “and by father’s description of the Kelmscott Press that I was eager to visit England, where such books had been made.” But he could not afford to travel then.
	In the meantime, Hunter’s brother had shown him an issue of The Philistine, “a periodical of protest” that was edited by a former soap company executive named Elbert Hubbard. Published by an artists’ colony called Roycroft in East Aurora, New York, it was, as one author describes it today, a flamboyant literary magazine full of “ranting, ‘new’ poetry, distilled aphorisms, and self-promotion.” However pretentious, it must have struck a common chord, because its circulation grew from 2,000 in 1895 to 52,000 in 1900, then soared to an astonishing total of 110,000 by 1902. 
	This phenomenal rise in the magazine’s circulation was triggered in part by an essay, titled “A Message to Garcia,” that first appeared in The Philistine in March 1899, and was then reissued in scores of editions as a slim but elegant leather-bound book. A defender of benevolent capitalism, Hubbard compared a worker’s obligation to his corporate employer to a soldier’s unwavering loyalty to his patriotic duty. According to Eileen Boris (in Art and Labor), it was Hubbard’s belief that “the ordinary worker was incompetent and lazy, but those who loyally fulfill orders would be rewarded. Such men need never fear layoff, and need never strike.”

	It is odd to recall that this essay, which was widely distributed to workers by American corporations, was written by an “artiste” who, in nearly all his photographs, is groomed and costumed in the garb of a nonconformist. Wearing shoulder-length hair (which tended to be thought of then, as it still is, as effeminate), a wide-brimmed hat, and a flashy bow-like Windsor tie, he dressed like a resolute advocate of the Aesthetic Movement, decked out to resemble a “dandy” (or Aesthete) like James A.M. Whistler and the discredited Oscar Wilde. Perhaps, as scholars now contend, Hubbard was simply a capitalist wolf in sheep’s clothing. “Part dandy, part artist, part adman,” continues Boris, “Hubbard appropriated the craftsman ideal but distorted its spirit.” He made dishonest, duplicitous use of antiestablishment symbols to support the corporate status quo.
	Despite such intrigues, Dard Hunter wrote to Hubbard from Ohio in 1904, to ask if he might be employed as a furniture craftsman at the Roycroft Shop. When Hubbard declined, Hunter enrolled as a student instead at the Roycroft Summer School. Once there, he quickly gained the trust of Hubbard and his wife Alice, who asked him to remain, then offered to fund his apprenticeship to a stained-glass window company in New York. In return, he agreed to design and construct a set of leaded-glass windows for the dining room of the Roycroft Inn, which was then under construction.
	Six months after his apprenticeship, Hunter completed the windows, which everyone admired, replete with a colorful tulip design. But the artist increasingly hated his work, so much so, as he recalls in his autobiography, that whenever anyone mentioned the windows’ “prettiness,” he would immediately be inclined “to slide under the table.” Finally, on a brisk November morning, he carried a hammer unannounced into the Roycroft Inn dining room and hastily smashed all the windows. “I could endure the windows no longer,” he confessed to the Hubbards, who were, to say the least, surprised, “something had to be done.” Smiling faintly, his employer Fra Elbertus (Hubbard) said, “Evidently the windows did not please you. Better try again and make a design you will like.” Then, as the autumn chill filled up the room, he added, “Dard, if you feel inclined to smash your next set of windows, please wait until summertime.”
    Elbert Hubbard and Alice Moore had first met at a Chautauqua Literary Circle in the late 1880s. Born and raised on a nearby farm, she had recently moved back to East Aurora, to teach high school, from Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she had taught primary school since 1883. 
	At the time that she and Hubbard met, he was a married, middle-aged executive, with several children. He had grown up near Bloomington, Illinois, where, at age 15, he took a job as a “soap slinger,” peddling soap from door to door for Larkin and Weller, a Chicago-based company owned jointly by John D. Larkin, who would become Hubbard’s brother-in-law, and Justus Weller, Hubbard’s uncle. 
	Hubbard quickly proved to be an extraordinary salesman, largely because of his personal charm. His salesman’s smile, he later claimed, “was contagious, also infectious, as well as fetching. When I arrived in a town everybody smiled, and invited others to smile. The man who dealt out White Rock splits smiled, the ‘bus driver glowed, the babies cooed, the dogs barked, and the dining-room girls giggled, when I came to town. I scattered smiles, lilac-tinted stories, patchouli persiflage, good cheer and small silver change all over the route… and I sold the goods.”
	As a result, when the partnership broke up in 1875, Larkin invited Hubbard to become a junior partner in a new soap manufacturing firm, called the Larkin Company, in Buffalo. (This is the same Larkin Company for which Frank Lloyd Wright, who was well-acquainted with Hubbard, would later design an important, innovative office building.) Over the next dozen or so years, Hubbard’s instincts for marketing again proved extraordinary as he invented new, effective means of selling soap, including direct-mail sales, the use of attractive premiums, and various club and pyramid plans by which Larkin customers were persuaded, in exchange for gifts, to become salesmen themselves and to recruit their friends and relatives as new customers.
	The Larkin Company flourished, with the result that, by the early 1890s, Hubbard had become wealthy, while also bored and unfulfilled. He was still an executive when he began to write books and to participate actively in literary circles. In 1892 (by which time he and Alice were a clandestine extramarital pair), he resigned from the Larkin Company, and sold his share of the partnership for $75,000, the equivalent today of about one and a half million dollars. He then studied writing at Harvard, very briefly and unhappily, as a special student.
	In 1894, Hubbard inadvertently became the father of two children by two different women, his wife Bertha and his covert lover Alice Moore. Perhaps in a vain effort to forget his responsibility for the coincident pregnancies, he sailed to the British Isles, where he hiked on “little journeys” to the homes of heroes from the past, among them Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, J.W.N. Turner, Sir Walter Scott, and so on. 
	He also went to Hammersmith, to see first-hand the Kelmscott Press. Later, he claimed (untruthfully, apparently) to have spoken with William Morris personally, and to have been given the master’s blessing to set up an American parallel to the Kelmscott Press. The truth of what actually happened (although no one knows for sure) may be in a diary entry by Wilfred Blunt, who frequented Kelmscott, and who wrote in 1894 that  Morris felt “very scornful of an American imitation of his Kelmscott Press, though it was good enough to have taken Mrs. Morris in.” When Hubbard returned to England in 1896, this time accompanied by his son, he was unable to visit Hammersmith, because Morris was on his death bed. A decade later, when Morris’ daughter May lectured in Buffalo, she refused Hubbard’s invitation to visit Roycroft: “I most certainly will not go to East Aurora,” she said, “nor do I have any desire to see that obnoxious imitator of my dear father.”   	
	Whatever happened at Hammersmith, these trips to England were undoubtedly inspiring for the besieged Hubbard. In the rich, productive years ahead, he launched the Roycroft Printing Shop, along with comparable workshops for Mission-style furniture, metalwork, and leather; published a series of booklets about Little Journeys to the homes and lives of exemplary people; took over publication of The Philistine; and started a cluster of other magazines, among them Fra (“a journal of affirmation”), The Bibelot, and The Roycrofter. He also toured the country giving public lectures—in the process of which he was sometimes mistaken for William Jennings Bryan. 
	In addition, Hubbard published books, as many as thirty, on the widest range of subjects, the majority of which were written by either him or Alice, who had in time become his wife. His endearing nickname for her was “White Hyacinths,” which was also the title of one of his books, published in 1907. It was “a book of the heart,” he explained, in which he declared his affection for Alice, his “comrade, companion, chum, and business partner” (who was herself a tireless, articulate advocate of women’s rights), and for all great women. 
	The Art Nouveau title page for White Hyacinths (and was adapted later for Pig-Pen Pete or Some Chums of Mine, as seen above) was designed by Dard Hunter, who had meanwhile fallen in love with Edith Cornell, the official Roycroft pianist. They married in 1908 and sailed to Europe on their honeymoon, where he was then able to visit the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna, the Purkersdorf Sanatorium, and other architectural sites in Munich and Darmstadt. Returning to the US a few months later, he continued to work for the Hubbards for less than two years, resigning in 1910 to return to Vienna to study. In the remaining 56 years of his life, Dard Hunter went far beyond his association with Roycroft and ended up being primarily known as one of the leading authorities on the craft of papermaking.
	In 1915, although the Great War was on-going, Elbert and Alice Hubbard decided that the two of them should get away from East Aurora momentarily, and instead spend several months in the British Isles. Unfortunately, they were told that the Fra’s passport had been invalidated, because he was considered to be a convicted felon.

   Two years earlier, he had been charged and found guilty of publishing and distributing through the mail a joke described in federal court as “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy and indecent.” It seems that a double entendre about a fictitious legal secretary named “Mary Merryseat” had appeared in the November 1912 issue of The Philistine, in which it was said that a senior member of the law firm, whose memory was failing, instead could only remember her name as Gladys (or “GladAss”). At the time, to send such smutty stuff through the US postal service was, technically, a violation of federal law.
    The good news is that Hubbard’s passport was restored promptly when, after an appeal to the Justice Department, he was granted a full and unconditional pardon by US President Woodrow Wilson. 
    The bad news is that this then enabled Elbert and Alice Hubbard to depart for England—on the Lusitania. On May 7, 1915, the now-famous British passenger liner was struck by a German torpedo. Only 18 minutes later, when the huge ship took its fatal plunge, the Hubbards were among 1,195 passengers and crew who perished with it.

Among the sources for this essay were Cathleen Baker, By His Own Labor: The Biography of Dard Hunter (New Castle DE: 2000); Eileen Boris, Art and Labor (Philadelphia PA: Temple University Press, 1986); Charles Hamilton, As Bees in Honey Drown (NY: A.S. Barnes, 1973); Dard Hunter, My Life with Paper: An Autobiography (NY: Knopf, 1958); Wendy Kaplan, The Art that is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920 (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1998); Marie Via and Marjorie Searl, Head, Heart and Hand: Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters (Rochester NY: University of Rochester Press, 1994); and others. 

The author is also appreciative of the contributions of the late David Delafield (his teacher, who grew up in East Aurora), Marianna Delafield, and Gerald Peterson (Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist at the University of Northern Iowa). For other information, see the websites <www.roycrofter.com> and <www.dardhunter.com>. 

•     •     •

Elbert Hubbard, Dard Hunter
and the Roycroft Workshops
American contributors to 
the Arts and Crafts Movement

an essay by Roy R. Behrens
This essay was published initially in Ballast Quarterly Review, 
Vol 17 No 1 (Fall 2001). Copyright © by Roy R. Behrens. 
All rights reserved.

“[Elbert Hubbard was] a sort of licensed eccentric: his everyday outfit included a large Buster Brown cravat, baggy corduroys, flannel shirt, farmer’s brogans, and a western Stetson. His hair was naturally curly, and he let it grow to his shoulders, giving a pageboy effect. During the vaudeville tour, Harry Lauder said, ‘Elbert is the only one of us who wears his makeup on the street.’”

                                                      —Freeman Champney
                                                                   Art and Glory
Above (top) The cover of one of the booklets produced by the Roycrofts called Little Journeys. In these letterpress booklets (which Hubbard wrote the text for, while his workers printed and produced them), he described sometimes fictitious trips “to the homes of eminent artists.” (top right) William Jennings Bryan, who would later become infamous for his battle with Clarence Darrow in the famous Scopes “monkey trial.” (bottom) Elbert Hubbard (aka Fra Elbertus) seated with a child on the grounds of the Roycroft Workshops in East Aurora, New York, not far from Buffalo.
author’s collection Above and right The cover (bound in suede leather), title spread and a characteristic interior spread from Elbert Hubbard’s famous book, A Message to Garcia (pronounced Gar-sha). Above (top) Fra Elbertus chatting with some friends. (bottom) A portrait of Hubbard, dressed in his Buster Brown cravat. Above Two photographs of the setting and activities at the Roycroft artists colony in East Aurora, New York. Above Photographs of Elbert Hubbard, soap salesman extraordinaire. Here and above right  Drawings of Elbert and Alice Hubbard. Above The Lusitania in dock, prior to its tragic end. “[Art Nouveau] was born in Munich. Its parent on the male side was Japanese, on the female side a bastard descendant of William Morris via Maple. It was brought up in Germany, fostered by what are called decadent artists. These are artists whose works are a mixture of beer and sausage and Aubrey Beardsley.”
               —Maurice Baring
“Elbert Hubbard was 
  a mother.”
               —Walter Hamady author’s collection author’s collection author’s collection click here
for a guide to our websites Roy R. Behrens is a Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar at the University of Northern Iowa, where he teaches graphic design, illustration and design history. His most recent books include FALSE COLORS: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (2002); COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier (2005); CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009); and SHIP SHAPE: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook (2012). FALSE COLORS: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (2002) CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009) COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier (2005) Right The title spread from Pig-Pen Pete or Some Chums of Mine, one of Elbert Hubbard’s many books, published by the Roycroft Press. Hubbard’s books are typically discredited by book designers as inept and as shameless rip-offs of the books of William Morris. This particular spread (more admired than the others) was designed not by Hubbard but by Dard Hunter. 
now SHIP SHAPE: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook (an anthology of writings about ship camouflage during WWI) (2012) camouflage blog poetry
of sight
A documentary titled Elbert Hubbard: An American Original premiered on public television in 2011.http://www.pbs.org/wned/elbert-hubbard/video.phphttp://www.bobolinkbooks.com/BobolinkBookshop/ShipShape.htmlshapeimage_33_link_0