In 1893, at the age of 36, Elbert Hubbard sold his interest in the Buffalo-based Larkin Soap Company for $75,000 to pursue a career in literature. In 1895, after a chance meeting with Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris at Morris's Kelmscott Press, Hubbard sought to emulate him in the U.S. by producing books according to medieval tradition. Upon returning to his home in East Aurora, New York, Hubbard purchased the basic equipment to start a printing operation for the sole purpose of printing his own material.
When the first Roycroft building was erected in 1895, Hubbard instructed his men to build a church-like structure similar to one he had seen in England. Eventually including 16 buildings, the Roycroft Campus was built mostly of local stone obtained by the wagonload from local farmers. In much the same way that the Kelmscott Press was founded, furniture and metal works were first produced out of necessity for a growing campus and later retailed to consumers. The Print Shop (1895-1938) produced a wide range of publications under the authorship of Hubbard and others, including Hubbard's monthly magazines: Little Journeys, The Philistine, and The Fra. Custom volumes received the handiwork of leather modelers and hand-illuminators. Roycroft furniture (1901-1938) was designed in the Mission Style which emphasized geometry and lack of adornment. The Blacksmith Shop (1899-1901) produced elaborate wrought iron andirons, lamps, and hardware for furniture. It would succumb to a new material of choice - copper - due to its low cost and ease of malleability. The Copper Shop (1906- 1938) produced a wide range of objects that were, during its infancy, created by hand. Eventually, machines were added to boost production and reduce costs.
In May of 1915, Hubbard and his wife Alice were among those lost on the Lusitania. Ironically, in 1912 he had written a satirical account of the Titanic in which he stated: "One thing sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident.”
Exhibition overview from museum website