Elbert Hubbard and his Roycrofters are a cornerstone of the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Arts & Crafts, as the name states, sought to reunite the artisan with his craft. It was a reaction to the machine-made work of the industrial revolution in Victorian England, where factories would crank out dozens of a product and slap some grillwork on it as a ‘design’ aesthetic. John Ruskin (in theory) and William Morris (in practice) were its leaders. Hubbard, a successful soap salesman in Buffalo, may have met Morris when he traveled to England in 1894 and toured Morris’ Kelmscott Press. He eventually made enough money from selling soap that he was able to give up his daily train commute to Buffalo and found the Roycroft Printing Shop in his hometown of East Aurora in 1895. The shop experienced great success and published over 100 titles and periodicals in its time.
Hubbard had so many visitors that he built an inn to accommodate their presence. To self-furnish the inn, the shop began producing metalwork, lighting fixtures, picture frames, rugs and furniture.