Date of Award
Master of Arts
John W. Monroe
The arts and crafts movement, a design style and reform movement in the late nineteenth century, formed as a reaction to the socio-economic inequities of industrialized labor in Britain before appearing in America at the turn of the century. The arts and crafts embraced simplicity and solid craftsmanship, however, the American marketplace forced the movement into a paradox when consumers demanded cheap, widely available goods. Wrapped in the ideology developed by John Ruskin and William Morris, arts and crafts goods present a unique opportunity to study the paradox between consumer dreams and realities. In the United States, Elbert Hubbard and Frank Stephens formed the arts and crafts utopian colonies of Roycroft, in East Aurora, New York, and Arden, Delaware, respectively. A comparative study of these communities is merited because the former focused on commercial endeavors while the latter preferred to follow political and educational pursuits over the production of goods. Furthermore, the managerial styles of Elbert Hubbard and Frank Stephens determined each community's subsequent relationship with middle-class consumers as they took their goods to market. Roycroft and Arden both used the discourse of the arts and crafts movement to financially support their goals; at the same time, they contributed to the discourse by modifying its language to meet consumer desires, and expanded it to include a greater body of adherents who used, accepted, or assimilated the movement as they so chose. The framework developed by Roycroft and Arden familiarized the public with the design style, while putting tools into place that would allow consumers to attempt a lifestyle of authenticity if they so wished it. The arts and crafts movement, as presented by the colonies, allowed consumers to embrace or discard the ideological tenets, and therefore claim or reject the sense of authenticity that perceivably accompanied the goods.
Rachael A. Beyer
Beyer, Rachael A., "`You must make it the fashion:' selling utopia in Roycroft and Arden, 1895-1915" (2013). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 13025.