Before many of Elbert’s extended travels, on the eve of his departure, he would give a speech to his employees. Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard were headed to Germany. He was very sure of his own persuasive powers, and hoped to meet with the Kaiser to bring an end to the war. Following is Felix Shay’s memory of Hubbard’s last speech to his employees as written in Shay’s book, “Elbert Hubbard of East Aurora”:
“Sunday evening, April the twenty-fifth, Nineteen Hundred Fifteen, Elbert Hubbard gave his last talk to the Roycrofters assembled in the Music Room of the Inn.
“Within a week’s time he was to sail away on the Lusitania. He spoke: ‘Elbert Hubbard II will be your chief while I am away. You know Bert is a man who will give you a square deal. His hands are clean, his head is clear, his heart is in the right place. He is your friend.’
“ ‘Mrs. Hubbard and I congratulate ourselves that during our absence the work will not in any way be retarded. We know that you will work together for the common weal and welfare of the Institution. And we also feel that should we not return to East Aurora, and the Roycroft, the little work we have done - the Ideals we have attempted to materialize - will be appreciated and carried forward.’
“Three hundred of us sat there and listened. Probably not one realized that we were hearing his Last Farewell.
“Days before, through some agency, he had been warned to “keep off the Lusitania.” But Hubbard was not the man to be bullied or bluffed or turned aside from his purpose, and that to see the War with his own eyes.
“Even when he said, “God be with you till we meet again” I could not feel finality - it simply seemed he was to be gone for a few weeks and then to be back among us twice as interesting as ever.
“Unlike most meetings of his, it ended in silence.
“There seemed to be very little to say when the men and women went up to shake his hand, and to bid him God speed and a safe return.” 1
Next week, in this series of blogs, the Lusitania departs from New York City.
East Aurora is observing the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania with lectures and events during the month of May. Please come and share the history with us.
1 Elbert Hubbard of East Aurora by Felix Shay, p. 548