The Furniture and Leather Shop, circa 1919. As published in The Book of the Roycrofters.
Elbert Hubbard, the charismatic entrepreneur and prodigious promoter who achieved his first extraordinary professional and financial success developing ingenious marketing strategies for the Buffalo, New York based J.D. Larkin and Co. soap manufactory and mail-order company, founded the Roycrofters in a neighboring town of East Aurora in 1895. Having left Larkin a few years earlier to pursue a new career as a writer, Hubbard originally established Roycroft as a small print shop essentially to insure the publication of his own work. Within time, his monthly magazine, The Philistine, and his Little Journeys journals were enthusiastically received by a wide audience, and the success of the Roycroft Press prompted Hubbard to expand his business.
Inspired by the ideals of the British Arts & Crafts movement, which called for a return to the spiritual values of the Middle Ages that embraced quality hand-craft, deep commitment to work, and fellowship of the guilds, Hubbard sought to promote this ideology by creating the Roycroft community. By the late 1890s the already prosperous Roycroft enterprise grew to encompass a bindery, a metalwork shop, a leather goods shop and a furniture shop. He described the evolution as follows, "The place got too small when we began to bind books, so we built a wing on one side; then a wing on the other side. To keep the three carpenters busy who had been building the wings, I set them to making furniture for the place. They made furniture as good as they could -- folks came along and bought it."
Some of the most well-crafted, beautifully proportioned and aesthetically pleasing pieces of American Arts & Crafts furniture were produced by Roycroft. While the creations are noted for their clean, rectilinear simplicity, enduring solidity, careful selection of either quartersawn red oak, mahogany, walnut, ash or bird's-eye-maple, high quality joinery, and exposed tenon construction, distinguishing characteristics include the tapered leg terminating in a bulbous foot (known as a Mackmurdo foot because of its reference to the English designs of Arthur Mackmurdo and C.F.A. Voysey), Gothic inspired glass inserts in the doors of the best examples of their china cabinets, sideboards and bookcases, the rich finish which is enhanced by the grain and color of the wood, and the boldly incised orb and cross or Roycroft signature which is prominently positioned on nearly every piece.
The Roycroft community flourished for many years but with the death of Elbert Hubbard aboard the Lusitania in 1915, and the shift of popular taste, the firm went bankrupt in 1938. The current offerings (lots 2-9) represent some of the most beautiful and well-constructed designs produced by the furniture shop. They were acquired by Mrs. Elizabeth Bar nearly one-hundred years ago and have remained in her family's care until the present.
PROPERTY OF A LADY