Both previous Epigrams and Roycroft Dictionary Definitions of the Day are available.
What is Roycroft? It was a handicraft community founded in East Aurora, NY about 1895 by Elbert Hubbard. Hubbard had been a very successful soap salesman for J. D. Larkin and Co. in Buffalo, but wasn't satisfied with his life. So in 1892, he sold his interests in the company and briefly enrolled at Harvard. Disenchanted, he quickly dropped out and set off on a walking tour of England. He briefly met William Morris and became enamored of Morris' Arts-and-Crafts Kelmscott Press.
Upon his return to America, he tried to find a publisher for a series of biographical sketches he had written called "Little Journeys." When he was unsuccessful in his attempts to have someone else publish the works, he decided to print them himself. Thus the Roycroft Press was born. Hubbard proved to be such a prolific and popular writer that fame and fortune soon followed. The print shop expanded and then visitors began coming to East Aurora to see this extraordinary man. Initially, visitors were housed in the printworker's living quarters, but this arrangement soon proved inadequate. A hotel was built to house the ever increasing number of visitors. The inn had to be furnished so Hubbard had local craftsmen make a simple, straight lined style of furniture. The furniture became popular with visitors who wished to buy pieces for their homes. A furniture manufacturing industry was then born. In addition, Roycroft craftspeople were skilled metalsmiths, leathersmiths, and bookbinders.
The community flourished and was at its peak in 1910 with over 500 workers. By 1915, Hubbard and the Roycrofters (as the workers were known) had achieved great success. Not only had Elbert written the inspirational pamphlet, A Message to Garcia, with an estimated printing of 40 million copies, but he was also publishing monthly magazines, The Fra and The Philistine. This was all in addition to an almost constant nationwide lecture series and the monthly publication of additions to the original Little Journeys series that started it all.
It all changed when Elbert and his wife, Alice, were among the fatalities onboard the Lusitania. The Hubbards had been traveling to England to begin an lecture tour when they died. The Community's leadership then fell to Elbert's son, Bert. Though Bert took the Roycrofters to wider sales distribution, changing American tastes led to slowly declining sales figures. Finally, in 1938 the Roycrofters closed shop.
Today, items that were produced by the Roycrofters are highly sought after by collectors. In addition to the collectabilty of the items, examples of Roycroft bookbinding, metalsmithing, and furniture-making are sought simply because of their inherent beauty and craftsmanship.
So here then are thoughts and thoughts that are the ripe grain of well winnowed experience. But thoughts being in the air are the possession of whoever can seize them, so some of the thoughts herein writ have been expressed before - but not so well. And if the Gentle Reader is minded to smile as he reads he has a perfect right so to do, or to sneeze if he so feels called upon. Send smiles or sneezes to the Fra-in-Charge. Subscribers not fully understanding his jokes will be supplied laughing-gas at club-rates.
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