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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Bridget O'Connor and Andrew Cho are wed in Letchworth State ParkBuffalo News, August 1st
Guests gathered for a reception at Roycroft Inn, East Aurora. Aaron Cho, the groom's ... He earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Florida and also earned a master's degree in fine arts from Georgia State University. He is an...Read more
Finding his place on the family farmBuffalo News, July 31st
He expanded his palate, grew a healthy appreciation for food and found his place in the world on a family farm started a century ago by his great-grandfather, Elbert Hubbard, founder of the Roycroft Community arts and crafts movement in East Aurora...Read more
Rago Announced Its Fall/Winter 2015 AuctionsArtfixDaily, July 30th
Early 20th c. design; fine art and Scandinavian furnishings. Including handsome examples of work by the Stickleys, Roycroft, Lalique and Loetz, Moorcroft, Grueby, George Ohr and Weller. Fine art includes prints by Ben Shahn, Wolf Kahn, Richard Kemble, ...Read more
Texas tourists enjoy exploring Buffalo & nearby regionWBFO, July 13th
We went to that place where they did that arts and crafts movement," said Stuart referring to the Roycroft in East Aurora. Both said they were enjoying tour Buffalo and Western New York. "I'm pleasantly surprised by the whole place," noted Stuart. The...Read more
Film Now PlayingArtvoice, July 8th
Roycroft Film Society, Parkdale School Auditorium, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora. Sun. 4. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)—Sports comedy about two sisters (Madonna, Geena Davis) who join the first female professional baseball league and, along with the ...Read more
Walking ToursClarencebee, July 7th
Roycroft Book Arts Tour — The Roycroft Book Arts Tour is a specialty tour highlighting the origins of the Campus, that being the making of handmade books, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at the Roycroft Campus Corporation, 31 S. Grove St., East...Read more
A Closer Look: New films on Roycroft artisansBuffalo.com, June 10th
East Aurora's Roycroft Campus, an important progenitor of the American Arts and Crafts movement founded by the visionary entrepreneur and thinker Elbert Hubbard in 1897, is a testament to the enduring appeal of the hand-hewn, hand-sculpted and ...Read more
The 2nd Annual Art Lottery BenefitBuffalo Rising, May 4th
Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) and the Roycroft Campus Corporation (RCC) are in the midst of collaborating on an event that aims to promote the arts in all corners of Western New York. Each year the art lottery is held at one of two...Read more