A Message to Garcia
Book, pictures, and comments courtesy of Richard Blacher.
A Message to Garcia
by Elbert Hubbard, 1899
The following is taken from the (hopefully) forthcoming book about the Roycroft Press, "On A High Shelf" by David Ogle.
"Shortly after the March1899 issue of The Philistine had reached its 50,000 subscribers, requests for additional copies of the magazine began to strain the seam of the mailbags arriving daily in east Aurora. According to Hubbard’s own account of this phenomenon – which forms the innermost layer in a calculus of mythology that now encases the event – he was nonplussed by the unprecedented response. At first, he could identify nothing in the magazine that seemed to justify such intense interest. After a quick analysis of the inquiries, however, he realized that his readers were reacting to an untitled essay he had written about the obscure exploits of Lieutenant Andrew S. Rowan, a young Army officer who had served in Cuba during the recent war with Spain. In response to numerous requests, including a substantial order from the New York Central Railroad, he reprinted the article at once, calling it A Message to Garcia.
The gratifying success of Garcia came to the Roycrofters at a propitious time. They had relocated their printing in the new frame shop building adjacent to Hubbard’s home early in 1898. Even those new facilities, however, proved hopelessly inadequate for turning out the many thousand of Garcia reprints his audience soon required. George H. Daniels, General Passenger Agent of the New York Central Railroad, helped out by having some of the copies he had ordered produced by his printers in New York City. The presses in East Aurora were kept running around the clock to fill the orders that continued to flow in for many weeks. As the production crises eased, Hubbard then turned his attention to some new problems that grew out of his most dramatic publishing success.
Financed in part by income from the Rowan essay, more equipment improvements and staff additions were undertaken in East Aurora during 1899. By the end of the year, the circulation of The Philistine had nearly doubled, surpassing 90,000 copies. The monthly Little Journeys, which Roycroft took over from G. P. Putnam’s Sons after the series of 1899, were reaching more than 30,000 subscribers. These circulation increases soon produced higher revenues from advertising in the two publications and from sale of books and other Roycroft products to their readers.
The financial impact of Garcia came as a delightful surprise, but its less tangible benefits were more important than cash. In a span of only a few weeks, Hubbard and his enterprise had become the focus of immense interest. Business leaders, industrialists, educators, military figures, journalists, and politicians joined in the chorus of praise. Although he was unaccustomed to limelight of such intensity, Hubbard turned toward it like a heliotropic flower. His personal popularity blossomed, and he soon became a hot property on the lecture circuit. As he traveled around the nation on his frequent speaking tours, he rarely ignored an opportunity to describe the wondrous achievements he and his flock had wrought in East Aurora."
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