Elbert Hubbard was born in Illinois in 1856. Originally, a successful partner and salesman in the soap business, he sold his share in the Larkin Soap Company in 1892. This enabled him to pursue a very different career.
After a visit to England, where he had been greatly impressed by the work of William Morris, the English Arts and Crafts designer, he founded the Roycroft (1895-1938) which was an American Arts and Crafts Community in 1895.
Having the desire to be a writer, Hubbard bought a printing press which became an immediate success and soon the Roycroft expanded and had a bindery, leather, metalwork and furniture shop. It also had a stained glass studio. The Roycroft became well known and was at the cutting edge of American Arts and Crafts design, a decorative arts style that emphasised “spare, clean lines and simplicity of design” (Roycroft Campus Corporation).
It was to this community that Jerome Connor the Irish/American sculptor came in 1899 and he worked and lived here for four years. The community had their own print house, power house and an inn called the Roycroft Inn for the many visitors to this popular hub of activity.
In 1899, Hubbard published a short story “ Message to Garcia” which brought him acclaim. He published and edited two magazines, ” Philistine” and “The Fra”.
1914 saw the outbreak of World War 1. In 1915 Elbert Hubbard decided to go to Europe in the hope of interviewing King Wilhelm ll of Germany. His wife Alice insisted on accompanying him.
On the 1st of May 1915, Elbert and his wife Alice were onboard the RMS Lusitania as it steamed out of New York Harbour. When a torpedo struck the ship off the Old Head of Kinsale, just outside Cork Harbour, both were lost in the disaster, choosing to spend their last moments together:
"It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water"
(Ernest C. Cowper)
Over 2,000 people attended the memorial procession for Elbert Hubbard in Aurora, New York.