Elbert Hubbard Letters, 1894-1961; bulk 1894-1915
SC21932

Quantity:  1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Collation of materials that formerly accessioned and cataloged separately, May 1998; the original accession number is noted in parenthesis following the description of each item; details regarding the source of a particular item is available upon request
Processed By: Fred Bassett, New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections. June 1998; revised 2010

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Biographical Note

Elbert Hubbard was born in Bloomington, Illinois, June 19, 1856.  Early in his career, he was a salesman for the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, Erie County, New York. Finding little satisfaction in the work, he quit in 1892 to pursue his interest in writing. By 1895 he had written a series of biographical sketches of artists called Little Journeys. Not being able to find anyone to publish his work, he decided to set up his own publishing house and printing shop in East Aurora, Erie County, New York. The printing shop itself was distinctive in that it operated as a fraternal community that endeavored to combine the communal ideals of socialism with the free enterprise and marketing techniques of capitalism. The books proved to be popular and fame and fortune for Hubbard soon followed.

The print shop expanded and visitors began coming to East Aurora to see this extraordinary man. Initially, visitors were housed in the living quarters of the workers, but this arrangement soon proved inadequate. A hotel, known as the Roycroft Inn, was built. To furnish the inn, Hubbard employed local craftsmen to design and construct simple, straight-lined furniture. The furniture, known as “Mission style,” became popular with visitors who wished to buy pieces for their homes. Thus, the Roycroft furniture shop was born. Other shops – making an array of hand-crafted goods out of wood, metal, and leather – soon followed.  Skilled bookbinders also were employed to enhance works coming off the Roycroft Press. 

The Roycroft 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. Roycroft products reflected the growth of the Arts and Crafts movement in America at the time, which was, in turn, promoted by Hubbard through his publications.

Hubbard continued to write and publish. One pamphlet, A Message to Garcia, proved to be quite successful; it’s estimated that 40 million copies were printed. In addition, he published two monthly magazines: The Fra and The Philistine. The business and publishing activities were supplemented by a constant nationwide lecture series.

It all began to change when Elbert Hubbard and his wife, Alice, traveling to England to begin a lecture tour, lost their lives when the Lusitania went down on May 7, 1915. Their son, Elbert (Bert) Hubbard II, continued his father’s work but, by the 1920s, the Arts and Crafts movement had begun to wane in America, leading to a decline in sale of Roycroft products. The Great Depression was the final death knell and all operations ceased in 1938.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains both hand-written and type-written letters of Elbert Hubbard related to his literary endeavors as well his business interests. Most of the letters are brief, concise, and to the point, concerning such matters as the sale of publications and the renewal of subscriptions to Hubbard’s periodicals. However, a few of the letters offer a glimpse of Hubbard’s character. For example, he opens his letter of November 3, 1906, to E.H. Smith, by saying: “I am not Elijah but I am something just as good. I am Pericles – with a Socratic bias.”  In his letter to Mr. Mac Larnie, dated January 28, 1904, Hubbard says that taking up life membership in the Roycroft Fraternity “…makes you a Life Member of the Academy of American Immortals.”  The stationery features a variety of the decorative Roycroft letterhead designs.

The collection also includes two letters of Elbert (Bert) Hubbard II that are somewhat related to Roycroft endeavors, and two letters addressed to Elbert Hubbard from noted naturalist John Burroughs, concerning Hubbard’s writings.

Related Resources

Frederick Wallace Putnam Scrapbooks (SC10257, Box 2) – This collection includes two bound volumes containing manuscript letters of Elbert Hubbard and a variety of printed materials from the Roycroft Press.

The book collection of the New York State Library also contains many of the works of Elbert Hubbard and numerous publications from the Roycroft Press.

Box and Folder List

Box Folder Description

1

1

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [Nixon] Waterman, September 11, 1896; 1(4)p. 22 cm. (16373-1)

1

2

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [Nixon] Waterman, March 31, 1898;  hand-written note on last page; 2(4)p. 22 cm. (16373-2)

1

3

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [E.P.] Strickland, December 16, 1898; 1p. 18 cm. (15828)

1

4

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Nixon [Waterman], May 16, 1900; 2(4)p. 19 cm. (16373-3)

1

5

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Nixon Waterman, Arlington Heights, Mass., June 1, 1901; 1(4)p. 19 cm.; with postal cover (16373-3, 16373-4)

1

6

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Jamsey [?], May 31, 1902; 1(4)p. 22 cm. (15827)

1

7

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [E.H.] Smith, November 18, 1902; 1(4)p. 18 cm. (15521)

1

8

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], Mr. Mac Larnie, January 28, 1904; 2(4)p. 19 cm.; Roycrofters publication order form enclosed (15521)

1

9

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [E.H.] Smith, November 3, 1906; 1p. 28 cm. (15660)

1

10

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to [E.H.] Smith, November 16, 1908; 2(4)p. 19 cm. (15521)

1

11

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Periton Maxwell, Cosmopolitan Magazine, New York, N.Y., November 20, 1909; 1p. 28 cm. (15675)

1

12

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to J.L. Pittinger, St. Joseph, Mo., May 6, 1910; 1p. 29 cm. (15521)

1

13

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Merritt A. Farren, Concord Junction, Mass., June 25, 1910; 1p. 28 cm. (15661)

1

14

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Mr. Brown, July 26, 1910; 1p. 19 cm. (15221)

1

15

A.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Mrs. Hale, July 27, 1910; 1p. 19 cm. (15829)

1

16

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Dana S. Ayer, Worcester, Mass., January 14, 1911; 1p. 27 cm. (15418)

1

17

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Frank J. Wilstach, Minneapolis, Minn., March 16, 1912; 1p. 28 cm. (15704)

1

18

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to E.H. Smith, Toledo, Ohio, May 10, 1911; 1p. 27 cm. (15521)

1

19

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to E.S. Niles, Bridgeport, Conn., June 3, 1912; 1p. 26 cm. (15521)

1

20

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to James T. Styles, Brooklyn, N.Y., July 18, 1912; 1p. 27 cm. (15521)

1

21

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to E.P. Strickland, New York, N.Y., June 20, 1913; 1p. 28 cm.; hand-written reply by Strickland on verso; attached is Strickland’s letter to Hubbard dated June 16, 1913 (15676)

1

22

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Mr. Dormitter, [n.p.], March 15, 1915; 1p. 25 cm. (15561)

1

23

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Mr. Martin, [n.p.], March 26, 1915; 1p. 25 cm. (15521)

1

24

A.D.S.  Elbert Hubbard and Fred Maurer, Marilla, N.Y., December 17, 1894; 1p. 27 cm.; agreement between the two gentlemen re: their joint ownership of a horse. (13672)

1

25

T.L.S. Elbert Hubbard II, [East Aurora, N.Y.], to Gail Davis, South Bend, Ind., January 14, 1925; 1p. 28 cm. (21932)

1

25

L. (copy), Elbert Hubbard II, East Aurora, N.Y., to Don [?], March 7, 1961 (16374)

1

26

A.L.S. John Burroughs, West Park, N.Y., to Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], March 14, 1911; 2 (4)p. 20 cm. (16371)

1

26

A.L.S. John Burroughs, West Park, N.Y., to Elbert Hubbard, [East Aurora, N.Y.], December 18, 1911; 2p. 20 cm. (17371)

Last Updated: October 16, 2019