Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise

Sept. 7, 2021 - Jan. 9, 2022

Like many reform-minded Americans in the late-nineteenth century, Elbert Hubbard fell under the spell of the British Arts and Crafts movement, specifically the activist ideas of designer William Morris and art critic John Ruskin. Setting out to create handmade books in the style of Morris’s Kelmscott Press, Hubbard opened a printing shop in 1895. This was the start of the first and most successful Arts and Crafts community in the United States, Roycroft, which would grow substantially over the next four decades.

Like their British predecessors, Roycroft created a wide range of objects that were simple, beautiful, durable, and honest in construction. Love, Labor, and Art includes more than 75 examples of the wide variety of work produced by the Roycrofters – from printed books and ephemera to furniture, electric lighting, metalwork, and stained glass – including many rare objects. Works on display are drawn from the extensive holdings of the Two Red Roses Foundation and private loans.

The work of Roycroft reflected and promoted the highest values of the American Arts and Crafts movement. At the heart of Roycroft was the charismatic Elbert Hubbard, whose wide interests, business knowledge, and marketing skills helped the utopian community thrive culturally and financially. He combined the British movement’s ideals with American business sense, creating a profitable Arts and Crafts enterprise where the British could not – in Hubbard’s words, “making fact of a theory.” Although Roycroft closed during the Great Depression, their work had profound influence on design, architecture, and reformist thought in the United States that endures today.