Arts & Crafts -Table of Contents
Elbert Hubbard Chronology
Silas Hubbard born in Chautauqua County, the youngest of nine surviving children, when his mother was 49 years of age. The Hubbards had come to Massachusetts from England early in the 17th century. His father died when Silas was two years of age. Silas attended a Methodist boarding school in Lima, N.Y., and The Academy at East Aurora. In 1838 he went to Allegheny College at Meadville, PA. He received his medical diploma from Castleton, Vermont.
Juliana Frances Reed was born in N.Y.C. and came to Buffalo by canal boat when three years of age. Her father was of Irish ancestry and came from Pennsylvania. Juliana, according to Mary Hubbard Heath, "was a creature of moods which varied from profound melancholy to exalted gaiety all of her life - both Irish and Puritan.
Juliana and Silas were married in Buffalo where Dr. Silas was practicing medicine. He was 28 and she 20. They had known one another for quite a few years.
Charles Hubbard was born. He was a sickly child who died at the age of nine causing Juliana lifelong grief.
Elbert Green Hubbard was born in Bloomington, Illinois. The family had moved there that same year. No one quite understood why Dr. Silas would give up a promising medical career in a city like Buffalo to move to a farming community near Bloomington.
Charles was then five and older sister Hannah two. Juliana was baptized by Rev. Elbert Clark and Dr. Silas by Rev. H. K. Green, hence Elbert Green Hubbard.
The family moved to a farm in the village of Hudson, near Bloomington. They lived there for 43 years.
Anna Mirenda, named Daisy by Elbert because she looked like a daisy.
Mary Born. (Married name Heath who wrote the informative and personal book: The Elbert Hubbard I Knew).
Honor was born. Elbert now had one older sister and three younger ones, a crotchety, absorbed father and a mother whose favorite child was dead, Charlie.
The children attended a two-room school, used McGuffey Readers, and led a rural life of those times. Daisy, younger than Elbert, recalls spelling him down . . "Speaking pieces" were demanded which were agonizing for Bert (Little Journey to Home of Daniel Webster).
All had strict Baptist upbringing. Father Silas more liberal but attended church. Bert refused "salvation" season after season.
Elbert helped his father in "doctoring," hunted with him and knew all about nature. Villagers considered Father Silas an eccentric. In later years Elbert would ridicule the medical profession 2nd only to the clergy. Young Elbert was not interested in medical books despite his gift of "Gray's Anatomy" by his father who probably hoped that his only son would follow in his footsteps.
Bert wanted to be a farmer! At age 13 he made "Clutina" from a mail order kit which turned out disastrously but was a harbinger of a future soap salesman. Young Bert loved to work, hired as a farm hand, did all kinds of chores, helped his father deliver babies -- he had, according to The Elbert Hubbard I Knew, "abounding health, unlimited energy and an enormous appetite."
The Hubbard family was visited by Justus Weller, a nephew of Silas. His wife was Mary Larkin of the Larkin Soap Co. of Chicago. (John Larkin later married Elbert's sister Hannah Frances or "Frank," as she was called.). Justus made an impression on Elbert and accepted his offer to try soap salesmanship. So at age 16, Elbert had left the farm and was traveling to Peoria and other cities and rural route selling soap. At first Elbert sold soap by wagon. He was very successful and eventually traveled by train, gradually widening his selling area.
When he would come home for a visit his adoring sisters admired his stylish city clothes and his many stories of his adventures . . He preferred to be called a "commercial traveler" rather than a traveling salesman. He was young, handsome and knew that his smile and personality were charismatic. "He had a sweetheart in every town" (M.M H.)
He eschewed alcohol, tobacco, card playing and dancing probably as a result of his strict Baptist background. Because of time between traveling he began his lifelong habit of reading. He devoured the classics and especially Emerson and Dickens. He later admired Darwin, Spencer, and Husley. He also at this time became interested in local and national politics and attended meetings in the different towns he visited.
At 19 years of age, Elbert went to Buffalo to work for the Larkin Co. there. He wrote home -- and later in one of his periodicals, "I was 19 -- in my own mind I was considerable of a man -- I wore spring bottom pants, a dinky derby, a warm vest and a fairly good opinion of myself." He enjoyed sporty clothes and was always dressed in the latest fashion. His height was 5' 9 1/2". His carriage was upright and he had an easy graceful walk. The face was handsome and open, the forehead broad, the nose strong and the eyes darkly luminous. In later years he was often mistaken for William Jennings Bryan. He liked ladies and they flirted boldly with him to the shock of sister Mary. She and they must have liked his stylish clothes, brocade cravats and shined shoes. (One has to comment on the abrupt change of clothing of later years.)
Elbert married Bertha Crawford. Little is mentioned of their meeting or courtship but she was pretty and feminine, talented in water coloring and languages. They had a fashionable and elegant wedding according to the Normal newspaper and after a few days in Chicago settled in Buffalo. Elbert was 25 years old at this time.
Elbert Hubbard II was born in Buffalo. Elbert I continued to work at the Larkin Co. He was becoming more valuable to the company specializing in advertising work. He continued to read and educate himself. They lived in Buffalo for three years.
Hubbard bought a large house in East Aurora with an acre of land. Horses were always a part of Elbert's life so he enjoyed the racing and breeding of the Hamlin and Jewett farm country.
Ralph Hubbard was born. Hubbard was now 30 years old.
Sanford Hubbard was born. The Larkin Co. continued to expand.
Hubbard met Alice Moore from Wales, a small village near East Aurora. She was an English teacher at the Aurora school, educated at the Normal School. Bertha Hubbard was a member of the board of trustees of the East Aurora School. As was the custom of the day teachers often lived at the homes of trustees. She (Alice) and Hubbard shared a love of literature.
Hubbard wrote, "The Man: A Story of Today." He used the pseudonym: Aspasia Hobbs. He was 35 at this time and this was his first venture in novel writing. He had written articles for newspapers and was a prolific letter writer. The novel was not a success.
Hubbard sold his business interest ($65,000) in the Larkin Co. He had saved enough money at this time to become independent. He also wrote the first book to carry his name: One Day: A Tale of the Prairie.
A momentous decision was made to go to Harvard: In January he went to Harvard as a special student. He was home in March but went back to Harvard in September. One can only speculate on what he expected to find. He did not continue as a student but in Concord he did find the germ of an idea for The Little Journeys. (He later wrote 120 of them). He also forever after disdained higher education. Forbes of Harvard was written by him at this time.
Hubbard took his first voyage to England and Ireland. He was much impressed by the work of William Morris, the publisher and craftsman. Hubbard borrowed Morris' idea of benevolent paternalism in industry. He also enjoyed following in the footsteps of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Ruskin, Turner, Gladston, Carlyle, G. Eliot, Dickens, etc.
When he returned to East Aurora, he wrote the first Little Journeys of G. Eliot and J.
Ruskin, and also a novel No Enemy (but himself). There was a new ease and fluency in Hubbard's writing.
The Little Journeys formula was accepted by Putman publishers.
Volume I of the Philistine, a monthly magazine lampooning big business, medicine, etc. was published in June. It was a success surpassing the Chap Book on which it was based. Its circulation was 52,000.
Pendennis press offered Hubbard their print shop for $ 1,000. This enabled them to increase production. The Roycroft shop took shape in Hubbard's barn.
The name "Roycroft" came from Samuel and Thomas Roycroft, 17th century bookbinders. Roycroft also means "royal craft." Song of Songs was the first book that was hand printed and bound. It was rough and arty. Bertha hand illumined the title page. Hubbard brought the book as an art object into the American consciousness. "Ecclesiastes," "Job," the "Rubaiyat," Shakespeare's sonnets and an essay by G.B. Shaw, among others, were printed.
An amazing change in personality took place in Hubbard at this time. He ended his devotion to fashion. The mustache was gone, replaced by flowing hair and tie, cape overcoat, flannel shirts, baggy pants, heavy shoes topped by a wide western Stetson. All seemed to be a symbol of rebellion or an assertiveness of his individuality.
Stephen Crane, at that time relatively unknown, was "discovered"by Hubbard. He later wrote the classic Red Badge of Courage.
Walter Blackburn formed a partnership with Hubbard that was short lived. There were many business liaisons and experimentations.
Another trip to Europe accompanied by son Bert to gather more Little Journeys material. Bert now 13. They did much hiking in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Antwerp and Brussels. Hubbard turned 40 at this time.
Copper and brass and silver were being wrought into beautiful and useful objects. Leather, furniture, maple syrup candies, stained glass, leaded glass, rugs and more.
The printing and binding, the largest production, moved into a handsome Romanesque building -- now the Farm and Home Center.
There was a large number of employees. Craftsmen and artists were brought to East Aurora in large numbers. College students worked there during the summer.
The Inn was improvised from earlier buildings. The guest rooms were named after famous persons -- Socrates, G. Eliot, Beethoven, Morris, et al.
A communal nature was taking shape at the Roycroft. The early years were a time of greatest liveliness. Visitors came from all comers. There was a fine library, good but plain food, lectures, musical sports. It was an enjoyable place to visit.
Ali Baba was really a hired hand named Anson Blackman. Hubbard made him an earthy, cracker barrel philosopher in the Philistine. Visitors were always seeking him in hopes of finding salty philosophy.
During the winters work continued as usual. There were Sunday evening meetings in the chapel with Hubbard as the usual speaker. He often tried out his "material" before a lecture or new publication. There were also musical programs, debates, and recitation of original poems.
Elbert Hubbard was boss !!, a paternal and fraternal one, but he was the owner with no partners and no competitors. He was a self made man and a unique man.
1899 - The "Message to Garcia" tossed off (15,000 words) and put in the March issue of the Philistine without a heading set off a tidal wave. He will probably be more remembered for this short piece than for all of his other work. It has been published in almost every language. Businessmen used it then and are still extolling its value and moral. It enlarged the circulation of the Philistine and made Hubbard more famous than ever. Hubbard, himself was surprised at the success of "Message." It was supposed to have been a moral lesson to son Bert at dinnertime. In 10 months "Message" was reprinted 9 million times. This was an excessive amount for these times.
Little Journeys was now published by the Roycroft press; formerly it was published by Putnam. Hubbard was popular, prosperous and filled his periodicals with irreverent, amusing and provocative items. He had a "rollicking vernacular style which startled and delighted." The Philistine and Little Journeys doubled in circulation. The demand for his lectures skyrocketed. It is a pity that none of his oratory can be appreciated today. There were no tape recorders or good sound reproduction methods in his day. He was supposed to have been superb as an orator and perhaps better known and appreciated for it than his writing at the time. He was not as brash as a speaker as he was in his writings. His traveling as a lecturer took him all over the country and greatly expanded his income.
Dr. Silas Hubbard and Juliana were married for 50 years and moved to East Aurora to be near Elbert and family. They lived on Oakwood Avenue. (House later divided, part on S. Grove St. It also became a Larkin summer home and later owned by Sweets and then Cederquists.)
The Roycroft shops expanded.
The bomb dropped: Bertha Hubbard left Elbert taking Ralph and Catherine with her. Knowledge of Elbert's and Alice's love affair and the birth of Miriam made the scandal sheets. East Aurora was shocked. Hubbard was unprepared for the storm of abuse heaped upon him. Many old friends deserted him. Hubbard suffered deeply. When Bertha sued for divorce, Hubbard issued this statement: We had "temperaments essentially antipathetic to each other." (Charles Hamilton has written a warm and sympathetic book about Alice and Hubbard titled As Bees in Honey Drown. Recommended reading.)
Hubbard was 46 years old at this time. His enterprises suffered somewhat at this time but he buried himself in his work.
In January Hubbard and Alice Moore were married in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Elbert II (Bert) and Sanford stayed with their father and Alice and they successfully managed the Roycroft. Alice made an excellent manager of the Inn.
Hubbard made 81 lectures that year and earned $10,000. He was his own manager. A quote of his at the time was, "Never explain, your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway."
Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Scientists were published. Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Huxley were "visited" among others.
During that winter 15 lectures were given between December 7-February 4. Hubbard seemed to enjoy this phase of his work more and more.
The Philistine and Little Journeys reached subscription rate of more than 200,000 per month. "How I Found My Brother" was written by Hubbard.
The flow of visitors to the Roycroft increased. Alice had a steady hand on controls. It was a solid going concern. Elbert Hubbard wrote, "te Hyacinths," a tribute to Alice. Many came from near and far to seek work. Others came to participate in activities of Roycroft and attend lectures.
Felix Shay came to Roycroft. He was a natural ad man and expedited sales and subscriptions. He was a great help to Hubbard. (His book Elbert Hubbard of East Aurora is recommended reading.)
Little Journeys covered great teachers among who were Moses, Confucius, Pythagoras, and Plato.
Great businessmen were covered by the Little Journeys. Robert Owens was a favorite of Hubbard. He was included as well as Peter Cooper, Carnegie, Edison, etc. These were "gold men who blazed trails." This was the last of the Little Journeys series as such. The title and form continued.
The magazine "Fra" was launched (not for mummies).
During these years Alice conducted the Roycroft Sunday School lessons, which were concerned with great men and women, health and exercise.
Hubbard continued as the benevolent Fra, though he was a hard taskmaster. He thought for himself. Hard work was his credo. He was a good business man (Roycroft had its own bank.) as well as writer and lecturer. He had a large sized ego but rightly so considering that he made a modest fortune without the help of formal schooling, inherited wealth or social position. His self-education was truly amazing.
Hubbard did a 20-week tour with the "Orpheum Circuit Vaudeville Co." With his format he gave a shorter lecture. It was probably similar to Will Rogers' mixture of humor and philosophy.
Alice carried on her feminism campaign.
Felix Shay left the Roycroft.
Hubbard became preoccupied with "Big Business."
The Philistine carried an article by Hubbard titled "I Believe in Big Business and More of It." He became involved with men of power and wealth in business circles. He knew Rockefeller, Knox of 5 & 10 (later Woolworth) companies, Kellogg, Henry Ford, and many other tycoons. While Hubbard became involved in political disputes the Roycroft community was stable and productive.
The summer Chautauquas were attended by a least 500 persons. It was like one great family back for a reunion. The guests thought that the menial chores assigned to them were great fun.
The next few years continued in much the same manner. Hubbard became more involved in politics and big business. Many of his earlier tenants were changing or contradicting. Both he and Alice were ardent prohibitionists and expected their employees to be the same.
Hubbard became involved in the national antitrust suits. Many of his business loyalties wavered. He was against child labor and yet was openly accused of employing children himself, which he did but he considered his employment of them to be paternal and instructive and the children worked for very few hours.
War with Germany seemed imminent. This distressed Hubbard and he wrote an article in the Philistine entitled "Who Lifted the Lid off Hell." This incensed so many readers that 10,000 Philistine subscriptions were canceled! He had blamed big business.
One of the last projects of Hubbard was a year-round Roycroft school. Inadequacies of conventional schooling was one of his pet peeves. His students would "work with hands as well as heads." His would be a school with progressive education in a country setting.
One Sunday evening in late April, Elbert Hubbard gave his last talk to the Roycrofters. He announced that Elbert II would be in charge while he and Alice were in England. .
On May 7th Alice and Elbert perished when their ship, the Lusitania, was torpedoed by the Germans off the Irish coast.
Photo courtesy of the Elbert Hubbard Museum