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Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard was a writer, but it would be more effective to consider him as an activist whose writings emanated from his activism. He wrote, for example, that he was an anarchist, and that all good men were really anarchists—including Jesus. He also founded an artisan community in the state of New York known as Roycroft. Hubbard died as a result of the sinking of the ship Lusitania: he was onboard when it was hit by submarine fire. 

Hubbard's life, a tragedy in itself

Elbert Hubbard, born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1859, was an American artist, philosopher, publisher, and writer. He is most well known as the forefather of the Roycroft artisan community, which was located in East Aurora, New York, and quickly became a prominent advocate of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

At the age of 56, Hubbard and his second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, were aboard the RMA Lusitania, approximately eleven miles off the coast of Ireland. The ship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20. A survivor of the attack wrote to Hubbard’s son that when Hubbard and his wife heard that the ship was going down, they returned to their room and shut the door so that they could die together.

Essays and short stories

Elbert Hubbard’s most beloved and well-known work includes, but is not limited to, the following essays and short stories:

- A Message to Garcia

- A Message to Garcia and Thirteen Other Things

- Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book

- Forbes of Harvard

- Health and Wealth

- Jesus Was An Anarchist

- Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great

- Love, Life and Work

- No Enemy But Himself

- The Legacy

- The Mintage

- White Hyacinths

Honoring veterans in his work

While heading the Roycroft artisan community, a creative society that would rely on the elegance and functionality of craftsmanship and handmade goods, Elbert Hubbard began to publish more of his own writing. He used his writing for social commentary in his magazines The Philistine and The Fra. His most celebrated essay is A Message to Garcia, which centers on a soldier who is given a difficult and important mission and succeeds. The essay was published and copied before being distributed to members of the United States Navy and Marines during both World Wars in an effort to inspire and rally soldiers.

Elbert Hubbard's involvement in the artisan community

Elbert Hubbard is most famous for his involvement in Roycroft, a community that was part of the Arts and Crafts movement that relied on handmade goods and rejected mass-produced products. The project began as part of his private printing press, which he started with his first wife Barbara. The Roycroft Press published two magazines, The Philistine and The Fra. The Philistine was bound and printed in brown butcher paper and was a magazine written in satire and quirkiness. They also printed eccentric books full of whimsy, printed on handmade paper. The community also operated a binding shop, furniture shop, a leather smith, and a shop that produced hammered copper goods. 

Hubbard’s second wife, Alice, was an alumna of the New Thought-based Emerson College of Oratory and was a well-known suffragist. The Roycroft community became a popular meeting place for all free-thinkers, radicals, reformers, and suffragists. Hubbard began giving lectures on his own philosophy, which was loosely inspire by socialism and defending the ideas of free enterprise and American general know-how. Read more about the American women's suffrage movement.

His new ideas garnered a lot of criticism as the press accused Hubbard of ‘selling out’. He often said that prison was paradise for socialists, as everyone is equal, there is no competition, and everything is supplied. His writings also got him a lot of negative attention for the government, as he was tried and pleaded guilty to a count of circulating ‘obscene’ and ‘objectionable’ material. Hubbard was fined one hundred dollars and his publisher’s rights were revoked. However, he received a presidential pardon from President William Taft.

Elbert Hubbard and a highly regarded writer, but is most remembered for his philosophy and work in the Arts and Crafts movement. His work was greatly intertwined with the philosophy and mission of the Roycroft community. Hubbard’s idea of a craftsman’s utopia was an inspired and progressive movement of the times and he will be remembered for his work there for years to come.

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