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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Walking ToursLancaster Bee, June 30th
Roycroft Campus Basic Tour — Will give an introduction to the arts and crafts movement, Elbert Hubbard, and the Roycroft Campus during this one-hour tour, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 4; 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 5; and 12:30...Read more
7 Things To Do This WeekendWKBW-TV, June 26th
More info; Roycroft Summer Festival - from 10-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Parkdale Elementary School at 141 Girard Avenue in East Aurora. Featuring artists selected by Roycroft Master Artisans. More info; Lockport Arts & Crafts Festival - from 11-5p.m...Read more
WNY cleans up after severe storms overnightwivb.com, June 23rd
This weekend, the place is set to be filled with people for the annual Roycroft Arts and Antique Festival, and it's taking a good deal of team work to get it ready now. “I think we will be able to get the campus cleaned up so that we will have a...Read more
Reporters' NotebookBuffalo News, June 22nd
NEW ARTISAN GUILD – The newly formed Arts and Craftsmen Guild at the Roycroft Campus will be around to talk to potential new members at the Roycroft Art and Antique Show in East Aurora, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the lawn by the ...Read more
More funding would help tourism agency promote region's increasing catalog of ...Buffalo News, June 15th
Consider the oft-mentioned Canalside, HarborCenter and Outer Harbor, cultural draws such as the Richardson Olmsted Complex (soon to open its own hotel), Graycliff Estate, the Roycroft Campus, Darwin Martin House, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield ...Read more
'Capistrano Nights' offered in Redlands silent auctionRedlands Daily Facts, June 12th
“Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook” was published in 1923 by the Roycrofters, the artisan press for Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts community in East Aurora, N.Y. The Roycrofters produced handsome, if eccentric, books printed on handmade paper and often bound in ...Read more
Roycroft Summer Festival expands to offer demonstrations, new bookBee news.com, June 10th
Kirchmyer and many of the featured Roycroft master artisans will be on hand throughout the weekend to sign copies of the book. The Roycrofters-At-Large Association is made up of both artisans and individuals interested in the preservation of the Arts...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