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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

The Allure of Roycroft Past and Present: A Mecca for Original Thinkers


The Roycroft community created by Elbert Hubbard, embodied the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement - however, the allure of Roycroft drew more than just artists. It was, to the early 20th century, what communes and Woodstock were to 1960s America — a convergence of cultural and social ideals. In this lesson, students will analyze the "gravitational effect" that places such as the Roycroft have on individuals, and how these communities of original thinkers have come to represent "forces of change in this society." In particular, Hubbard's vision of an "enlightened community" will be examined for the nature of the enduring values that draw artisans and creative thinkers to continue to live and work in this environment today.


Students will:
  • Develop an understanding of the values that existed in Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft community, and why this became the perfect environment for artistic and intellectual growth during the turn of the century.
  • Research how communities of individuals with shared cultural and social ideals, such as the Roycroft community, can have the power to effect social change.
  • Understand the impact that the Roycroft community continues to have in contemporary society.
  • Gain an appreciation for the way in which their own unique talents and skills contribute to the prosperity and growth of communities.

Necessary Materials

  • Video: "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original"
  • Internet access for podcast of an interview with a contemporary Roycroft artisan
  • Variety of images, Web sites and resources to enhance understanding of the Roycroft community, as well as 1960s communes and Woodstock.

Relevant National Standards:
NSS-USH.5-12.7, NSS-USH.5-12.6, NA-VA.5-8.4, NA-VA.9-12.4, NA-VA.5-8.6, NA-VA 9-12.6, NL-ENG.K-12.4, NL-ENG.K-12.6, NL-ENG.K-12.5

Teaching Procedure

  • Have students watch the chapter titled "A Pilgrimage" from "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original" (
    Possible discussion questions:
    - Why was Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft community "a magnet for bohemians and artists from around the country?"
    - What were some of the terms used to describe the people who came to the Roycroft? How would you react if someone described you as such? Is it difficult to be considered different from others in society? Why or why not?
    - Other people besides artists came to the Roycroft on "a pilgrimage." What is a pilgrimage, who were these people and why were they coming?
    - One description of the campus spoke of a "Bohemian lifestyle." What does this mean and is there anything similar to this today?
    - What is a "utopia" and how might the Roycroft be considered as such?
  • Investigate several of the original Roycroft artisans to learn more about their lives (ie., Dard Hunter, Karl Kip, Frederick Kranz, Will Denslow, & Samuel Warner). What common values or ideals did these individuals share that brought them to the Roycroft in the early 1900s? Consider the role that coming together as a "community of artisans and original thinkers" had on the Arts and Crafts movement and how this had the power to effect social change in this country.
  • Have students watch the interview of Thomas Pafk, one of the contemporary Roycroft master artisans. (
    Possible discussion questions:
    - Does it appear that this artisan shares some of the same philosophical beliefs that existed in the original Roycroft community? If so, what are those beliefs or ideals? Does it appear that this artisan has different beliefs or ideals from those that existed in the original Roycroft community? If so, what might be the reasons for the differences?
    - Do you agree that there is a "Roycroft Renaissance—a rebirth, an enlightenment, of what was going on then?" Do you think the Roycroft community continues to effect social change? Why or why not?
  • The documentary stated that the Roycroft "was, to the early twentieth century, what communes and Woodstock were to 1960's America—a convergence of cultural and social ideals." Have students explore "Utopian" communities from three different time periods.
    • 1900s – The Roycroft campus and The Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony
    • 1960s – Woodstock and communes
    • Modern times – Present day communes, The Roycroft Renaissance, or other current "Utopian" communities
    Research the cultural and social history of these communities and discuss the ideals that brought these individuals together. Using a Venn Diagram, compare/contrast the aspects of these communities from the three different time periods. What common threads become apparent through this analysis? What differences? Which of these communities has had the greatest impact on American society and why?
  • Describe your findings in a well-constructed essay with evidence collected from your research.


  • Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting communities from three time periods
  • Research essay

Extension Activities:

  • In small groups, have students envision the cultural and social ideals that would serve as guiding principles for their own idyllic communities. What kinds of individuals would be attracted to their community to live and work? How would each member's unique talents and skills be used in helping this community grow and prosper? What similarities or differences do they see in their community from the other communities studied in this lesson— that is, the Roycroft, the 1960s communes and Woodstock? In what way(s) do they see their community as a potential "force of change in this society?" Using powerpoint, video, or other media, students will present their special communities to other members of their class.
  • Try and contact other Roycroft artisans via email to find out more about their participation in the Roycroft community today, and the reasons why they chose this particular environment to live and work.

Online Resources:

Artisans at the Coppershop. Roycroft Campus, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony. Woodstock Byrdcliffe, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

"Early Artisans." Elbert Hubbard: An American Original. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Roycrofters at Large Association Artisans. Roycrofters at Large, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Welcome to Woodstock New York. Woodstock NY Chamber of Commerce & Arts, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

Supplemental Material:

Hunter, Dard. My Life with Paper. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958. Print.
Rust, Robert & Turgeon, Kitty. Images of America—The Roycroft Campus. Chicago: Arcadia, 1999. Print.

Suggested Vocabulary: allure, avant garde, communes, enlightenment, ideals, idyllic, magnetism, mecca, status quo, utopia, values, Woodstock
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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