The Roycroft Shop, Being a History, 1908 (excerpt)

Elbert Hubbard


Subjects: Thrift Collection, Teaching thrift, Curricula, What is thrift?

More by: Elbert Hubbard

The old tendency to make things cheaper, instead of better, in the book line is a fallacy, as shown in the fact that within ten years there have been a dozen failures of big publishing houses in the United States. The liabilities of these bankrupt concerns footed the fine total of fourteen million dollars. The man who made more books and cheaper books than any one concern ever made, had the felicity to fail very shortly, with liabilities of something over a million dollars. He overdid the thing in matter of cheapness—mistook his market. Our motto is, “Not How Cheap, But How Good.”

This is the richest country the world has ever known, far richer per capita than England—lending money to Europe. Once Americans were all shoddy—pioneers have to be, I’m told—but now only a part of us are shoddy. As men and women increase in culture and refinement, they want fewer things, and they want better things. The cheap article, I will admit, ministers to a certain grade of intellect; but if the man grows, there will come a time when, instead of a great many cheap and shoddy things, he will want a few good things. He will want things that symbol solidity, truth, genuineness and beauty. …

At the Roycroft Shop the workers are getting an education by doing things. Work should be the spontaneous expression of a man’s best impulses. We grow only through exercise, and every faculty that is exercised, becomes strong, and those not used atrophy and die. Thus how necessary it is that we should exercise our highest and best! To develop the brain we have to exercise the body. Every muscle, every organ, has its corresponding convolution in the brain. To develop the mind, we must use the body. Manual training is essentially moral training; and physical work is at its best mental, moral and spiritual—and these are truths so great and yet simple that until yesterday many wise men did not recognize them.

At the Roycroft Shop we are reaching out for an all-round development through work and right living. And we have found it a good expedient—a wise business policy. Sweat-shop methods can never succeed in producing beautiful things. And so the management of the Roycroft Shop surrounds the workers with beauty, allows many liberties, encourages cheerfulness and tries to promote kind thoughts, simply because it has been found that these things are transmuted into good, and come out again at the finger-tips of the workers in beautiful results. So we have pictures, statuary, flowers, ferns, palms, birds, and a piano in every room. We have the best sanitary appliances that money can buy; we have bathrooms, shower-baths, library, rest-rooms. Every week we have concerts, dances, lectures.

Beside being a workshop the Roycroft is a School. We are following out a dozen distinct lines of study, and every worker in the place is enrolled as a member of one or more classes. There are no fees to pupils, but each pupil purchases his own books—the care of his books and belongings being considered a part of one’s education.

Available online at: Source: Hubbard, Elbert. The Roycroft Shop, Being a History. (East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1908).


Institute for American Values, 420 Lexington Avenue, Room 1706, New York, NY 10170