a legacy of love, loyalty, and calm courage

Many who recognize the name of Elbert Hubbard would rightly associate his name with the Roycrofters and the arts and crafts movement.

But a few years ago, my husband and I heard two stories about Elbert Hubbard’s writing which we will never forget.

Hubbard was a well-known writer and philosopher in his day, many of his articles appearing in publications by Roycroft Press. Perhaps one of his most famous was one written in 1899 in which he retold the tale of “A Message to Garcia.” The article was reprinted and translated many times over, with millions of copies widely distributed in booklet form. While some may argue that Hubbard didn’t get all the details of the original story correct, the remarkable principles of responsibility and initiative remained: “the hero is the man who does his work,” as Hubbard later wrote in summary.

In another article, Hubbard wrote of the sinking of the Titanic, memorializing Ida Straus who had refused to board a life boat and chosen instead to remain on board with her husband, reportedly saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”

Hubbard wrote:

“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 . . . to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided.”

On May 7, 1915, just three years after the sinking of the Titanic, Elbert Hubbard and his wife Alice died together on the Lusitania.

Their son Elbert Hubbard II later received a letter from Lusitania survivor Ernest C. Cowper, recalling some of their last moments:

“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.”

I don’t know if the Strauses or the Hubbards had placed their faith and eternal security in the Lord. But I know that the legacy of their words and commitment to each other can be an inspiration to the rest of us.

May we do whatever our hand finds to do as if we were carrying a message to Garcia. And may we know “how to live, how to love and how to die.”

For a dramatic reading of “A Message to Garcia” and more on the story of the Strauses and Hubbards, listen to Mike Rowe’s podcast “The Way I Heard It,” episode 216. The whole episode is available on Facebook, with the introduction starting at 7:57 and the dramatic reading at 12:30; or catch just the post-reading excerpt with the history about the Strauses and Hubbards on YouTube.

Photography: my husband Merritt

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