A Person Who Makes Beautiful Things, 2008 (excerpt)

David Blankenhorn


Subjects: Teaching thrift, Thrift Collection, Curricula, Visionaries/leaders, What is thrift?

More by: David Blankenhorn

Elbert Hubbard was born in Bloomington, Illinois, on June 19, 1856. As a young man he worked on a farm, in a printing office, in the West as a cowboy, and in a soap factory, of which he later became manager, and, several years later, partner. He sold his interest in the soap factory in order to attend Harvard College. On a trip to Europe in 1892, he met the artist, writer, printer, and socialist leader William Morris, whose ideas deeply influenced Hubbard.

In 1895, seeking to emulate Morris and inspired by the larger arts and crafts movement of the period, Hubbard founded the Roycrofters in East Aurora, New York-a residential community built around a cluster of cooperative businesses, including a printing press, a publishing house, a bookbinding business, a lecture program, blacksmithing, carpentry, and basket weaving. From this base in East Aurora, Hubbard wrote many books, pamphlets, articles, and “preachments” and in the early years of the twentieth century became one of the most popular lecturers in the United States.

He did not drink or smoke. He told everyone who would listen that at Roy-crofters, “fresh air is free, and outdoor exercise is not discouraged.” Most of the money he made as a lecturer and author, he gave to Roycrofters, which operated financially on share-and-share-alike, cooperative principles. Hubbard and his wife Alice died on May 7, 1915, in the Irish Sea when the ship on which they were passengers, the Lusitania, was sunk by German torpedoes.

Hubbard understood thrift and wrote about it eloquently. He also practiced thrift in multiple and interesting ways, both personally and in his conception and leadership of the Roycrofters.

Published in Blankenhorn, David. Thrift, A Cyclopedia. (Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2008): 150–152.


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