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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

Early Artisans

Dard Hunter

Dard Hunter Dard Hunter
Courtesy of Dard Hunter III

Dard Hunter (American, 1883 – 1966)

Born: Steubenville, Ohio
Died: Chillicothe, Ohio

Dard Hunter I, born William Joseph Hunter, was an American authority on printing, paper, and papermaking. Active in the Arts and Crafts movement, he created and championed many other types of handmade arts and crafts, publishing guides such as Things You Can Make and founding a correspondence school called the Dard Hunter School of Handicrafts.

The son of a newspaper publisher, Hunter was from an early age immersed in the art of printing. In 1900, the Hunter family moved to Chillicothe, Ohio where his father, mother, and brother wrote for the News-Advertiser and the young Hunter became a staff artist.

From 1900 to 1903, Hunter attended Ohio State University. He then accompanied his brother Philip - a professional magician known as "Phil the Wizard," on a cross-country tour. When they reached Riverside, California, they stayed at the New Glenwood Hotel which was built and decorated in the Arts and Crafts style. The designs captured Hunter’s imagination and altered his life course.

In June of 1904, Hunter applied for a summer position at Roycroft which was then a flourishing business venture and a thriving community. Undeterred by the initial rejection he received, he simply packed his bags and went to East Aurora to prove his worth.

Shortly after his arrival, Hunter began applying his talents to designs of stained glass for the then newly constructed Roycroft Inn and title pages for Hubbard's press. In time, his designs for books, glass, leather and metal would help to unify the Roycroft product line and distinguish it from other Arts and Crafts enterprises.

Dard Hunter Electrolier with Printer Imagery Dard Hunter Electrolier with Printer Imagery
From An American Original

In 1908, Hunter married Roycroft pianist Edith Cornell. By that time, he had become captivated by the work of architect Josef Hoffman and the Viennese Workshops (The Wiener Werkstätte was a production company of artists whose aim it was "to make all facets of human life into one unified work of art."), and the couple decided to honeymoon in Vienna.

Having become disillusioned with the commercialism of Roycroft and eager to pursue his own interests, Hunter and Edith Cornell returned to Vienna in 1910. Hunter took courses in lithography, book decoration, and letter design at the Royal-Imperial Graphic Teaching and Experimental Institute (K. K. Graphische Lehr und Versuchsanstalt). They then moved to London where Hunter found work designing books and advertising literature for the Norfolk Studios.

In 1912, Hunter and his wife moved to Marlborough, New York. With his visit to the London Science Museum and its exhibit of hand papermaking moulds and watermarks in mind, Hunter began to study more about the art of papermaking. By 1913, he had built a paper mill on a creek across the road from his house. The mill was fashioned after a 17th century Devonshire cottage, complete with a thatched roof made from rye that Hunter grew himself. He relied entirely upon the wooden water wheel for power.

Hunter became adept at papermaking, and he experimented with watermarking techniques. Orders began coming in faster than they could be filled. Because paper could only be made in the summer months when there was ample water to turn the wheel, he decided to begin work on a font type during the winter. It was during his time at Marlborough that Hunter produced the world’s first one-man books. He printed on paper made by him using a typeface he designed, cut and cast.

Dard Hunter Glass Rose Dard Hunter Stained Glass Rose
From An American Original

In 1919, the Hunter family returned to Chillicothe, Ohio and purchased a home. Hunter utilized a wing of the house for his letterpress printing studio which he named Mountain House Press.

Hunter produced eight handmade books, authored twenty books on the topic of papermaking, and was an active publisher between 1922 and 1956. In 1958 he published his autobiography, My Life with Paper.

Hunter felt that his greatest accomplishment in life was the establishment of the Dard Hunter Paper Museum in 1939. Originally housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it now comprises the majority of the collection of the American Museum of Papermaking located within the Institute of Paper Science and Technology on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Dard Hunter died in 1966 at age 82.

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Funding for Elbert Hubbard: An American Original provided by The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original is a production of WNED-TV