From the tail end of the 19th century through the first few decades of the 20th, the Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York produced beautiful examples of Mission-style furniture, handmade books, and a variety of hand-hammered copper vases, lamps, candleholders, humidors, and bowls.
Founded by writer and soap entrepreneur Elbert Hubbard in 1897, the Roycroft community was inspired by the work of English Arts and Crafts proponents William Morris and John Ruskin.
According to Roycroft metalwork collector David Kornacki, the late 1800s were a time of artistic upheaval in the United States as artists rebelled against the social and aesthetic strictures of the waning Victorian Era. Artists were even less thrilled about a future in which objects once created by craftsmen and artisans were increasingly mass-produced.
Sharing these concerns, Elbert Hubbard decided to develop the Roycroft Campus in 1897. A blacksmith shop came first in 1899, and it was here that the earliest examples of Roycroft wrought-iron fixtures, andirons, and hinges were made.
A copper shop followed in 1902, constructed of local stone with a half-timbered and stucco exterior. Artisans at the copper shop produced the hardware for the doors, furniture, and light fixtures around the growing campus.
By 1906, Roycroft offered a limited inventory of copper items (pen trays, letter openers, etc.) for sale. Production increased slowly at first, which means there are relatively few Roycroft pieces from 1906 to 1911 available on the market today.
Concurrently, the Roycroft press started printing small, handmade books, with hand-tooled, gold-inlaid leather covers designed by Dard Hunter and binding by the master of his day, Lewis Kinder. They sold beyond anyone’s expectations and, along with the copper pieces, furniture, and leather items, put Roycroft on the Arts-and-Crafts map...
Hunter left Roycroft in 1910 to pursue a career in papermaking, but not before collaborating with fellow Roycrofter Karl Kipp on a number of copper designs influenced by the early Vienna Secessionist Movement. These pieces were less organic than the typical Arts and Crafts style, with geometric patterns, intricate cutouts, and silver overlays. These so-called “silver square” pieces remain some of the most collectible Roycrofts available.
Kipp, too, would leave Roycroft to found his own business in 1912. His Tookay Shop, also in East Aurora, produced copper pieces that are almost indistinguishable from Roycrofts, save the mark on their base. That same year, another prominent Roycroft designer, Walter U. Jennings, joined Kipp at Tookay. Roycroft may have lost Kipp and Jennings in 1912, but they gained Victor Toothaker, who, it is believed, designed the famous American Beauty vase.
Both men returned to the fold in 1915 after Elbert Hubbard and his wife, Alice, were killed when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat — that act of aggression prompted the U.S. entry into World War I. The Hubbard’s son, Bert, took over management of the Roycroft copper shop, while Kipp and Jennings designed Roycroft classics like the “bullet” vase. It all paved the way for Roycroft’s most glorious decade, the 1920s.
By now, Roycroft was using Steuben glass in its lamps. The copper shop produced vases, bowls, lamps, cigar boxes, and ashtrays, to name but a few of the items in its catalog. Almost every major department store in the country, including Lord and Taylor, sold Roycroft pieces to its well-heeled customers.
The Depression put an end to most of that, but it wasn’t just the economy that killed Roycroft. Hammered metalwork was beginning to appear tired and dated compared to up-and-coming movements of Bauhaus and Art Deco. Roycroft actually tried to change with the times, but customers were not completely convinced. Neither are collectors. As Kornacki puts it, “People collecting Roycroft copper today generally want brown metalwork with hammer marks on it, they don’t want smooth surfaces with bright shiny angles.”
Roycroft closed its doors in 1938, but the Roycroft Campus is now a National Historic Landmark that’s slowly being restored. It is open to the public.
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All packages include unlimited access to our websites & appsBuffalo News, April 20th
ART OPENING: The Roycroft Campus Power House, 39 South Grove St., East Aurora, will host an opening for a show of Lisa Schreiner's artwork from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call 655-0261 or visit ...Read more
All Rights ReservedLancaster Bee, April 19th
Rodney Taylor: Grey — An exhibition of the artist's most recent black and white paintings, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and continues through Sunday, May 29, at Eleven Twenty Projects, 1120 Main St., adjacent to the...Read more
Charlie Clough's artistic homecoming earns him a Guggenheim FellowshipBuffalo.com, April 9th
On a recent Sunday morning in Clough's small studio space on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, 7-year-old twins Samantha and Charlotte Parsons were pouring blobs of colorful paint onto a canvas in the center of the room while their parents, Bill and ...Read more
Special EventsAmherst Bee, April 5th
Roycroft Campus Art Lottery — Everyone is guaranteed to leave with a beautiful piece of art from this unique fundraising event, 6-9 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at the Roycroft Campus, 31 Grove St., East Aurora; $. 655-0261, www.roycroftcampuscorporation.com...Read more
TRANSPORTATION: Art projects are popping along freewaysPress-Enterprise, March 10th
first appearing in promotional material for the Mission Inn. Riverside Metropolitan Museum archivist Kevin Hallaran said the symbol closely resembles that of Nabisco and the Roycroft arts and crafts movement which was popular in the early 20th century...Read more
AC/DC singer Brian Johnson to stop touring to save his hearingThe Guardian, March 7th
The band – due to perform in the UK and Europe this summer – have postponed the remaining 10 dates of their US tour, though the band say they “will be made up later in the year, likely with a guest vocalist”. What happens after that is uncertain...Read more
Surveillance video shows Parma police arrest kids with guns at park pavilioncleveland.com, February 24th
PARMA, Ohio — Two Parma juveniles were arrested Sunday after police found them playing with "realistic looking" BB guns at a park pavilion on Roycroft Drive. Police responded to reports of two kids, possibly teens, in the pavilion with guns. The BB...Read more
Roycroft campus gives artists second chanceWKBW-TV, August 22nd
EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WKBW) - The weather during the annual June Roycroft Arts and Crafts Fair in East Aurora was so bad, many artists who paid to attend the show didn't show up. Torrential downpours made it impossible for artists to showcase fine art ...Read more