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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

Man Versus the Machine: The Beginning of the Arts and Crafts Movement


The Industrial Revolution quickly spread throughout Europe and America, having a profound effect on agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport and all aspects of daily life. Some saw the advent of industrialization as society being taken over by the "soulless machine." Inspired by Englishmen William Morris and John Ruskin who believed that a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers, Elbert Hubbard formed The Roycroft Community in East Aurora, New York. Hubbard, along with Gustav Stickley-the Craftsman; Frank Lloyd Wright-the Prairie School and Utopian communities like Byrdcliffe, brought these European Arts and Crafts ideals to America.

Students explore the effects that the Industrial Revolution had on society and how this gave birth to the Arts and Crafts movement.

Roycroft Metalsmiths
Roycroft Metalsmiths
Courtesy of the Roycroft Arts Museum


Students will:
  • Understand the effects that the Industrial Revolution had on Europe and America, and how the Arts and Crafts movement countered these effects
  • Convey the main themes, ideas and goals of the Arts and Crafts movement

Necessary Materials

  • Internet connectivity
  • Photo Analysis Worksheet - Download PDF File
  • Video "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original"

Relevant National Standards:
NSS-WH.5-12.7, NSS-USH.5-12.6

Teaching Procedure

  • Have students research both the Industrial Revolution and the Arts and Crafts movement. Working with a T-chart, compile a list comparing and contrasting the movements. Discuss what the positives and negatives are as they pertain to the individual and society.
  • Using the Photo Analysis Worksheet, have students study and analyze two photographs of people in the workplace at the turn of the 19th-20th century. Which photograph reflects the ideas of the Industrial Revolution and which the Arts and Crafts movement? Discuss how the photos support the comparison done in the T-chart activity.

    Possible discussion questions:
    - Ron VanOstrand, a Roycroft master artisan stated "The Japanese say that to be handcrafted is to have a bit of the human in there." What does he mean?
    - William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement once said, "I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few." What did he mean by this? Why did he compare art to education and freedom?
    - Thomas Pafk, another Roycroft master artisan stated that the movement was "trying to protest against the industrial revolution, where everyone was losing the handwork that was involved and the artistry that's involved in making things. The whole feeling, the whole philosophy was getting back to the artist-type work, getting back to doing things with your hand, being honest. Every piece that you're making, you're producing with your head, your heart, and your hands." What does it mean if you do something (create art, sing, do school work, work at your job, do athletics) with "your head, your heart, and your hands?" Why do you think this ideal was, and still is, important to the Arts and Crafts artisans? Is there anything in your life that you try and do with this same ideal, why or why not?


  • Students will write a comparison essay using the T-chart and information they learned from their research. A class discussion may follow.

Extension Activities:

  • The fear of the "soulless machine" and the industrial revolution was a catalyst for the Arts and Crafts movement as well as a concern throughout the 20th century. Many Science Fiction stories deal with this fear and question what will happen to the human race as machines become more prevalent in our society. Examine the way this idea of the "soulless machine" will affect our future through literature and film. Examples: Lang's "Metropolis," Orwell's "1984," Gilliam's "Brazil," Chaplin's "Modern Times," Pixar's "Wall-e".
  • Discuss how the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century may have caused or lead to the Green movement of the 21st century. Divide the class into groups to research these two movements. Have the class debate if these movements can work together or are in conflict with one another.

Online Resources: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America. Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Freedom a History of Us: Wake Up, America. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

The Industrial Arts. Engines of Our Ingenuity, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Industrial Revolution., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Inside an American Factory. Library of Congress, 15 Apr. 1999. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

The Next Green Revolution. Wired, May 2006. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Photo Analysis Worksheet. National Archives, n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2010.

Teaching with Documents: Photographs of Lewis Hines: Documentation of Child Labor. National Archives, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Twentieth Anniversary of the Green Movement. Green Party USA, Fall 2004. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Suggested Vocabulary: commodity, elitist, handcrafted, Industrial Revolution, "soulless machine"

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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