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Bill Thayer

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Melville Stone

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Jesse Fell
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a small two‑story wood frame house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 20° and two chimneys. The front door of the house is protected by a narrow pediment-type roof supported on four slender wooden columns; it is flanked by a window on either side, and the upper story has three windows. It is the Elbert Hubbard House in Hudson, Illinois.]

Elbert Hubbard House, Hudson, Built 1850's.

 p52  His Father Was Famous, Too

Walk a block north of the granite marker in Hudson which identifies the house where Melville E. Stone was born, and you will come to another small boulder bearing a bronze plaque with these words: "On this site for 43 years lived, labored, and loved Silas Hubbard, M. D., born May 9, 1821, died May 18, 1917, and Juliana Frances Read, his wife, born November 16, 1829, died December 28, 1924. The children of this home were: Frances Hubbard Larkin, Elbert Hubbard, Daisy Hubbard-Carlock Pollitt, Mary Hubbard Heath, Honor Hubbard Easton." (Punctuation added.)

Although the plaque pays most tribute to Dr. Hubbard, who was a beloved country doctor of the region, the name on it of greatest interest to the sight-seer is that of his son, Elbert. For this plain, gable-roofed dwelling, now painted a pale yellow, was the boyhood home of Elbert Hubbard, writer, editor, master craftsman, philosopher, and famous at the turn of the century as the Sage of East Aurora.

It was in this house that Hubbard grew up and absorbed the  p53 homely, salty thoughts of the Midwest frontier that were to form the foundation of his philosophy, a philosophy that found full expression in his widely read A Message to Garcia. Here, too, he first learned to write — a pursuit which became his chosen profession, which found an outlet in his magazine, The Philistine, and in his numerous Little Journeys books, and which made him one of the most widely read and widely quoted authors of the early 1900's.

In this house, also, Hubbard learned how to use his own hands in the making of things, a pursuit that led to his founding of the Roycroft Shops at East Aurora, New York. The products of these shops — finely printed books, art objects, articles of hammered brass and copper, embossed and hand-tooled leather novelties, ornamental wrought-iron work, heavy furniture — were familiar objects in homes throughout the country a generation ago.

Elbert Hubbard was born on June 19, 1856, in Bloomington. When "Bert," as the boys called him, was a year old his parents moved to the near-by village of Hudson. Here they occupied the frame house which remains as a memorial to the Sage of East Aurora.

In his biography, Elbert Hubbard: Genius of Roycroft, David Arnold Balch writes "The little gray house in Hudson, to which the Hubbards moved from Bloomington when Elbert was a year old, was so small Mother Hubbard despaired of lodging her growing brood in its cramped quarters. Coral-red honeysuckle and rambler roses overran the clapboards in summer, with lilacs and syringa and flowering almond blooming in profusion just outside the door. The house was situated on the outskirts of the town, and back of it in summer lay the flower-covered prairies and yellow cornfields of Illinois."

When Elbert was sixteen a visitor came to the house in Hudson. That visitor gave Elbert his first start in life. He was Justus Weller, cousin of Elbert, and was head of a soap company in Chicago. Weller gave his young kinsman a job selling soap in Hudson and Bloomington. Elbert was so successful at this that he enlarged his field. He sold Weller soap all over the Midwest. Then he went to Chicago and operated from the headquarters of the Weller firm.

This was followed by his removal to Buffalo, New York, where he became a partner in a soap firm. In a few years, however, he retired from the firm with a small fortune, went to England and met William Morris, returned to America and set up the Roycroft Shops at East Aurora, outside Buffalo, in 1895. There he began the work which brought him national and even international fame.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 07