Samuel Warner, F.R.S.A. (American, 1871-1947) noted Roycrofter, book designer, illustrator, painter and art instructor primarily known for his involvement in the early Arts & Crafts movement in America. Warner was born in May, 1871 in Scranton, PA, and although early family records are scant, he was known to be the son of a man long-connected with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroads, and was also the step-son of Charles DeLong. A few sources state incorrectly that Warner was English, most likely because of his training in London and his F.R.S.A. distinction, but the artist was born and raised in Scranton, PA.
Warner studied art at the Scranton School of Art and later graduated in 1891 from the art, drawing and modeling department of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. He also studied in New York and in London, England where he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (F.R.S.A.). Warner was greatly influenced by the British Arts & Crafts movement and also studied the old missals of the monasteries and the hand-painted work of Florentine illuminators of the Early Renaissance.
By 1894, Warner was working as a commercial artist and resided at 526 E. Market St. in Scranton, PA, but later moved to Quincy, MA around 1897, where he worked as a commercial illustrator and maintained a studio, producing children’s book illustrations and cover designs. While in Quincy, Warner received recognition for a medallion woodcut portrait of our 2nd U.S. President John Adams for the 100 year anniversary of his inauguration held on March 4, 1897, which was hung above the door to the old Adams cottage in Quincy. Warner frequented Boston which is where it was said that he first met Elbert Hubbard of the newly formed Roycroft press and Arts & Crafts community located in East Aurora, NY. Warner was said to have been a protégé of Hubbard’s close friend William “Old Bill” B. Spear of Quincy, historian and curator of the Quincy Historical Society, who urged Warner to work for Hubbard.
As the story goes, from old newspaper articles and publications, Warner arrived in East Aurora on hard luck, “on his way to nowhere.” He had only a tomato can for baggage and only intended to stop over for a day or two, but soon found himself employed as the first art director of the Roycroft shops in 1898. Hubbard affectionately referred to Warner as “Sammy the Artist”, and an interesting backstory when he first arrived in East Aurora stated that, “…a ragged, nearly soleless pair of shoes were hung from the rafters at a level of the visitors’ eyes with the label, “These are the shoes that Sammy the Artist wore when he came to the Roycroft shops.” Elbert Hubbard, known by all as Fra Elbertus, elaborated, “Sammy didn’t like that and said they must come down. Sammy is Dutch and has occasional horrible lapses into seriousness. But the shoes stayed, because they tell a better story than any that has ever been bound in the shop, and now Sammy is proud of them.” From the old 1900 census record, Warner was a boarder at Hubbard’s family home called “The Alberta”, located on the east side of S. Grove St. of the Roycroft campus—which Hubbard allowed for certain early artisan workers and visitors for a small fee. By 1905, the “Hubbard House” was partially torn down, and parts of the home including the foundation were incorporated into the new three-story Grand Salon and peristyle, which were eventually joined with the Phalanstery to form the Roycroft Inn which officially opened in May of 1905.
Warner was instrumental in the development of the graphic arts department at the Roycroft. During this time, he worked with fellow Roycrofter William Wallace Denslow (American, 1856-1915), the famed illustrator and designer primarily known illustrating L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, who had been hired shortly before Warner’s arrival in 1896 as the Roycroft’s first professional artist. Other well-known Roycrofters that heavily influenced the book designs were master printers William Joseph “Dard” Hunter (American, 1883-1966) who joined in 1904 and Charles J. “Cy” Rosen (Swedish-American, 1870-1952 who followed in 1906.
Warner initially worked out of the first Roycroft print shop built in 1897 (now housing the lounge and bar at the Roycroft Inn) located just north of the “Hubbard House”. After the medieval-inspired Roycroft Chapel was built in 1899 to house the new printing office, Warner was given the premier second floor studio in the rounded turret of the Chapel, where he worked on designs for Roycroft books and publications. His duties as art director included: book designs, title pages, interior drop-capital letters, decorative borders, ornamental motifs & decorations, headbands, endplates & tailpieces, portrait paintings and illustrations for bookplates, zinc-plate engravings, hand-printed letterpress work, setting the typeface and color schemes. He also trained a number of artists & designers (including Elbert’s first wife Bertha) in the book and bindery departments for hand-illumination (with watercolor) of the lettering, ornamental designs, and borders, importing hand-made and watermarked paper from Holland, as well as hand-folding & hand-stitching of the papers and cover finishing. Some of the well-known Roycroft books and publications his designs were featured in included: The Philistine and The Fra monthly periodicals, the Little Journeys series, and many more.
“Samuel Warner, esquire, good Roycroft artist and chief designer of things beautiful around the Roycroft shop, marshals his scores of building artists, leading them upward in the realms of art. Him must the tribe of Philistia thank for the Aurora Borealis of art that sends its rainbow-hued radiance to the four quarters of the globe.”
“In a miniature art world of his own, he sits enthroned, and encircled by a score of apt and industrious pupils some day destined to make the Roycroft work even better appreciated than it is today. We pick up sheet after sheet of freshly decorated work, and cannot but exclaim, Beautiful! Beautiful!”
Warner became a stockholder, owning four shares of Roycroft stock when they were incorporated in 1902, worth $25- each at that time (which equals $746- in today’s dollar for 2019). Stocks were distributed among workers and only Roycrofters could hold stock. It was agreed upon by all that if anyone should leave the Roycroft, they would sell back their shares to the corporation. That co-operative plan was meant to, “beget a high-degree of personal diligence, a loyalty to the institution, a sentiment of fraternity and a feeling of permanency among the workers that is very beneficial to all concerned.”
In addition, Warner taught evening art classes for his fellow Roycrofters and also conducted summer watercolor and charcoal sketch classes as part of the Roycroft School of Applied Art. He even found time to exhibit his own watercolors and charcoal drawings during his time there, and was known for doing landscapes and portraits in oils, as well as drawings in pencil, woodcuts, and stage scenery. His paintings typically feature his printed (non-cursive) signature of ‘S. Warner’ sometimes followed by a date.
Warner worked for Hubbard as art director for five years from 1898-1902, when he was replaced by the well-known Barbizon painter, Alexis Jean Fournier (American, 1865-1948) in 1902. Warner moved back to Massachusetts around 1903 where he taught art and developed art programs for the local public schools of Scituate, Kingston, Pembroke and Duxbury, MA. He continued to teach and paint for the remainder of his life, but never returned to the Roycroft. Warner died on July 22, 1947 in Duxbury, MA, and is buried in Mayflower Cemetery in Duxbury.
1871- May, Scranton, PA, and was connected with several well-known families. Early family records are scant, but he was known to be the son of a man long-connected with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroads, and was also the step-son of Charles DeLong.
Circa late 1880’s- Studied art at the Scranton School of Art, Scranton, PA.
1891- Graduated from the art, drawing and modeling department of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA.
Circa 1891-Circa 1894- Furthered his art studies in New York and in London, England where he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (F.R.S.A.).
By 1894- Was working as an artist and residing at 526 E. Market St. in Scranton, PA.
By 1897- Warner worked as an artist and maintained a studio in Quincy, MA.
1898- Moved to East Aurora, NY and began working for Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft press and Arts & Crafts community, becoming their first art director. He also boarded with the Hubbard’s for a few years at their family home “The Alberta” located on S. Grove St. on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, NY.
From 1898-1902- Warner worked as the art director at the Roycroft and was replaced by the well known Barbizon painter, Alexis Jean Fournier (American, 1865-1948) in 1902.
1900- Exhibited, group show, “Some Specimens of Art & Handicraft Done by Roycroft Workers”, with studies of children as well as original designs for Roycroft publications, East Aurora, NY.
1902- Warner became a shareholder, owning four shares of Roycroft stock when they were incorporated in 1902, worth $25- each at that time (which equals $746- in today’s dollar for 2019), East Aurora, NY.
Circa 1903- Moved back to Massachusetts.
Circa 1903-Circa Early 1940’s- Taught as an art instructor and became the drawing supervisor in the local public schools in Scituate, Kingston, Pembroke and Duxbury, MA, and also developed their art programs.
1906- Exhibited, group show, Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Marshfield, MA.
1912- Exhibited, group show (Prize Premium of $1.25), Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society at the Fair, for B&W drawings, Marshfield, MA.
1947- July 22, Warner died and was buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA.
1983- March 24-April 7, exhibition, “The Art of Samuel Warner 1872-1947”, Soenen/Wilmoth Booksellers, Clearwater, FL.
Memberships/Associations: Roycrofter at Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Arts & Crafts Community in East Aurora, NY, 1898-1902; and the Boston Art Club, Boston, MA.
Prizes, Awards & Honors: $1.25 Prize Premium for his B&W drawings at the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society at the Fair, for B&W drawings, Marshfield, MA, 1912.
For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link.
(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., meibohmfinearts.com, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)