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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

Elbert Hubbard: Rebel and Reformer

Elbert Hubbard
Courtesy of the Roycroft Arts Museum
Elbert Hubbard
Courtesy of the Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Museum
Elbert Hubbard
Courtesy of the Roycroft Arts Museum


Elbert Hubbard was often referred to as the "original hippie" and a "rebel within the rebellious cause." Through his life he became a unique individual through his appearance, work and actions. Students will investigate the life of Hubbard and other historical rebels. They will debate about societal rules, peer pressure and stereotypes, and analyze how being a unique individual can have a positive effect on society.


Students will:
  • Develop opinions on what a rebel is, exemplified by Elbert Hubbard
  • Explore stereotypes and peer pressure effects on personal views and actions
  • Research historical figures, emphasizing the positive outcome of their "rebel" and "reform" stances
  • Gain appreciation for being a unique individual and the positive effect on society

Necessary Materials

  • Video "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original"
  • TV or computer to view video
  • Photographs of Elbert Hubbard
  • Images of current figures

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

Teaching Procedure

  • Show the introduction to the film "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original" (up to the opening credits).

    Possible discussion questions:
    - Hubbard "needed to be an original, which meant some people are going to dislike what you do, what you say, who you are, your ego, the way you look, the way you talk, and that was okay with him." What does "original" mean? Why do you think he needed to be like this, and why was it okay with him? Can you relate to this statement at all?
    -A rebel is usually someone who goes against the "rules of society." What are some types of societal rules or laws? (Ex. classroom, traffic, religious, criminal, fashion, social.) Why do we have them? Is it ever alright to break some of these rules?
  • Handout or display images of Hubbard

    Possible discussion questions:
    - Hubbard says, "To wear a hat that is long out of fashion is to throw down the gauntlet to the bourgeoisie and say: Behold! As I now cover my thinkery with a hat different than one you prescribe, so do I think thoughts that to you are impossible." What does this mean?
    - In the program, it was said that Hubbard "was part bohemian and part cowboy and marketing himself as a champion of freedom and artistic expression. But underneath it all he was a businessman." What does this mean and how might this describe anyone from present day?
  • Show a random sampling of images from current figures. (Ex. the president, actors, musician, athletes, etc.)

    Possible discussion questions:
    - How does their appearance effect how we view them?
    - Do we expect certain people to look a certain way (stereotype)?
    - Is this who they truly are or could these be "costumes" for how they want us to see them?
    - How does our appearance affect the way people view us?
    - What is a stereotype? Can you describe some? What is the problem with stereotypes?
  • Have students choose a person to do a research project on that was a "rebel" in his or her field or challenged a stereotype. (Teachers may want to create a list of names for students to choose from depending on their subject area or current unit of study.) Examples could include: Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Owens, Walt Disney, Picasso, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi and Einstein.


  • Students may create their own or a group project depicting what they've learned and present it to their class. They should include both images and words from these individuals and how they persevered through challenges and difficulties. The final product can be an oral report, PowerPoint or movie.

Extension Activities:

  • Once the class has viewed the entire program or learned more about Hubbard's life and the Roycroft, it might be appropriate to return to these questions and ask how Elbert, Alice and the Roycroft Artisans may fit the role of a rebel.
  • Investigate the role that "rebels" play in other works of art including literature and film. Examples: "The Outsiders," "Hamlet," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Tom Sawyer," "The Catcher in the Rye," "Rebel Without A Cause," the "Star Wars" films.
  • Research the Reform Movements of the United States from 1840s through the 1930s, including educational reform, women's rights movement, American labor movement and unions, child labor reform, family planning, Abolition movement, and Prohibition.

Online Resources:

The African Mosaic. Library of Congress, 5 July 2005. Web. 8 Jan 2010.

Child Labor. American Treasures of the Library of Congress, 26 Feb. 2007. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

People & Events: Prohibition. PBS, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

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

Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

Stand Up for Your Rights. PBS, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

Women's Suffrage. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

Suggested Vocabulary: Bohemian, bourgeoisie, conformist, cult, essence, gauntlet, heretic, hippie, peer pressure, persevere, rebel, Reform movement, stereotype
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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