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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Roycroft
Source: Google News
All Rights Reservedkentonbee, January 27th
AK Teens: Future Curators Call for Artwork — Students in grades 9 through 12 interested in submitting their artwork to be considered for the AK Teens: Future Curators 2015 exhibition should follow directions listed on the AK Teens: Future Curators...Read more
Reporters' NotebookBuffalo News, January 26th
THE PLOT THICKENS – The East Aurora Middle School Parent Teacher Organization will present its second annual Murder Mystery Event, “Revenge at the Roycroft – A Reunion to Die For,” from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday in the Roycroft Inn, 40 S. Grove St., East...Read more
Paul Evans, Wendell Castle, George Nakashima, Harry Bertoia, Robert Arneson ...ArtfixDaily, January 21st
Lambertville, NJ: On Friday, February 13th, Saturday February 14th, and Sunday February 15th, the Rago Arts and Auction Center will hold its auction of Early 20th Century Decorative Arts and Modern Design. ... Elkan, James Bearden, Harvey Probber...Read more
Special Eventskentonbee, January 13th
LANFest MLP'015 Winter Games — MassiveLAN is a group of gamers that have been putting on LAN parties since 2004, doors open at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, with continuous play through Saturday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Lower Grandstand of ...Read more
Home Tour: Brent Coleman's West Price Hill Tudor revival full of antiques, storiesWCPO, January 2nd
There's a framed poster of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh painting I bought at the Glasgow School of Art when in Scotland 25 years ago, an-artist signed poster released the weekend we got married in 1999 that promotes the Roycroft Inn's summer festival in ...Read more
Notable deaths in WNY in 2014Buffalo News, December 30th
3, preservationist saved the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora. Her name was Edythe, but everyone called her Kitty. She is credited with saving one of the area's artistic and historical gems: East Aurora's Roycroft Campus. She had a passion for the Arts...Read more
Roycroft looks to raise funds through peeks at the campus' pastBuffalo News, June 7th
The “Chapel” wasn't a church but rather the Roycroft headquarters with offices, art gallery and a meeting room, complete with pews. A stone well, set to be rebuilt this summer, didn't draw water but was instead intended as gathering place for workers...Read more
Oliver Art Center: Roland Roycroft WatercolorsMyNorth.com, July 10th
In the mid-1900s, Roland Roycroft earned his living in the illustration houses of Chicago, creating art for the likes of Saturday Evening Post, Better Homes & Gardens, Life and Look magazines and covers for 11 reissues of Wizard of Oz books. But in the...Read more