Elbert Green Hubbard
, American philosopher and writer
Elbert Hubbard illustrated in the frontispiece of The Mintage
Elbert Green Hubbard (June 19, 1856 – May 7, 1915) was an American writer and publisher. He is perhaps most famous for his essay A Message to Garcia.
He was born in Bloomington, Illinois and founded Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts movement community in East Aurora, New York in 1895. This grew from his private press, the Roycroft Press, which was inspired by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press. (Although called the "Roycroft Press" by latter-day collectors and print historians, the organization called itself "The Roycrofters" and "The Roycroft Shops.")
Hubbard edited and published two magazines, The Philistine and The Fra. The Philistine was bound in brown butcher paper and full of satire and whimsy. (Hubbard himself quipped that the cover was butcher paper because "There is meat inside.") The Roycrofters produced handsome, if sometimes eccentric, books printed on handmade paper, and operated a fine bindery, a furniture shop, and shops producing modeled leather and hammered copper goods. They were a leading producer of Mission Style products.
Hubbard's second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, was a graduate of the New Thought-oriented Emerson College of Oratory in Boston and a noted suffragist, and the Roycroft Shops became a site for meetings and conventions of radicals, freethinkers, reformers and suffragists. Hubbard became a popular lecturer, and his homespun philosophy evolved from a loose William Morris-inspired socialism to an ardent defense of free enterprise and American know-how. Hubbard was much mocked in the press for "selling out."
In 1912, the famed passenger liner the Titanic was sunk after hitting an iceberg. Hubbard subsequently wrote of the disaster, singling out the story of the wife of Isador Straus, who as a woman was supposed to be placed on a lifeboat in precedence to the men. She refused to board the boat: "Not I—I will not leave my husband. All these years we've traveled together, and shall we part now? No, our fate is one."
Hubbard then added his own stirring commentary: "Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty left to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your possession in death. You knew how to do three great things—you knew how to live, how to love and how to die.
"One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided."
Hubbard and his wife, though he knew it not then, were to have just such a privilege. Little more than three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the Hubbards boarded Lusitania in New York City on May 1, 1915. On May 7, 1915, while at sea, it was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine Unterseeboot 20.
In a letter to Elbert Hubbard II dated March 12, 1916, Ernest C. Cowper, a survivor of this devastating act of warfare against civilians, wrote:
"I can not say specifically where your father and Mrs. Hubbard were when the torpedoes hit, but I can tell you just what happened after that. They emerged from their room, which was on the port side of the vessel, and came on to the boat-deck.
"Neither appeared perturbed in the least. Your father and Mrs. Hubbard linked arms—the fashion in which they always walked the deck—and stood apparently wondering what to do. I passed him with a baby which I was taking to a lifeboat when he said, 'Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.'
"They did not move very far away from where they originally stood. As I moved to the other side of the ship, in preparation for a jump when the right moment came, I called to him, 'What are you going to do?' and he just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said, 'There does not seem to be anything to do.'
"The expression seemed to produce action on the part of your father, for then he did one of the most dramatic things I ever saw done. He simply turned with Mrs. Hubbard and entered a room on the top deck, the door of which was open, and closed it behind him.
"It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water."
Owing to his prolific publications, Hubbard was a renowned figure in his day. Contributors to a 360-page book published by Roycrofters and entitled In Memoriam: Elbert and Alice Hubbard included such luminaries as meat-packing magnate J. Ogden Armour, business theorist and Babson College founder Roger Babson, botanist and horticulturalist Luther Burbank, seed-company founder W. Atlee Burpee, ketchup magnate Henry J. Heinz, National Park Service founder Franklin Knight Lane, success writer Orison Swett Marden, inventor of the modern comic strip Richard F. Outcault, poet James Whitcomb Riley, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elihu Root, evangelist Billy Sunday, African-American political leader Booker T. Washington, and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
The Roycroft Shops, run by Hubbard's son, Elbert Hubbard II, operated until 1938.
He is an ancestor of singer Brodie Foster Hubbard.
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
- "The Supernatural is the natural not yet understood."
- "An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness."
- "Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped."
- "Life is just one damned thing after another."
- "Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway."
- "To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
- "Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive."
- "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."
- “Health Must be Earned. Get it—you Lobster!”
- "One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."
- John H. Martin, Elbert G. Hubbard: Roycroft Arts and Crafts
- Upton Sinclair The Brass Check (1919), chapter "The Elbert Hubbard Worm"
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