Roger W. Moss, Jr.

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Roger W. Moss (born January 31, 1940) is an historian, educator, administrator and author in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout a long career he has also been an aggressive and entrepreneurial advocate for the preservation and authentic restoration of historic buildings. For forty years Moss directed the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, a special collections library near Independence Hall, and for 25 of those years he also taught in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Early Years[edit]

Roger William Moss was born and raised in Zanesville, Ohio, the only child of Roger William and Dorothy Elizabeth Martin Moss. He received his B.S.Ed and M.A. degrees from Ohio University.[1] During the summer of 1962 he was an assistant to the director of the Peace Corps staff preparing the first team destined for the Cameroon.[2] While pursuing his Master of Arts degree he was curator of rare books at Ohio University Library which resulted in his first publications.[3] In 1964 Moss accepted a teaching fellowship from The University of Delaware leading to his Ph.D. with a major in early American history and a minor in American Material Culture at Winterthur Museum. During the summer of 1966 he studied English country houses and collections as an Attingham Trust Fellow.[4] and during the academic year 1967-68 he was an adjunct lecturer in history for the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland extension programs.[5]

Move to Philadelphia[edit]

In 1968 Moss became the Executive Director of The Athenæum of Philadelphia, a member-supported library founded in 1814 and housed in a National Historic Landmark building near Independence Hall. During his four-decade tenure there he restored and expanded the building[6] and reorganized the nearly moribund institution as an independent research library specializing in American architecture prior to 1930 and nineteenth-century material culture.[7] Under his direction the research collections in architecture and Victorian-era design rapidly expanded, including the acquisition of the archives of numerous major American architects ranging from Thomas Ustick Walter (1804-1887) to Paul Philippe Cret (1876-1945).[8] In 1969 Moss became a trustee of the Christopher Ludwick Foundation, one of Philadelphia's oldest philanthropic institutions founded in 1799 to advance the education of the poor children of Philadelphia. He would serve the foundation as an officer or trustee for forty-six years.[9]

When The Victorian Society in America was founded in 1966, Moss became an early board member and officer. He also capitalized on the explosion of popular interest in Victorian architecture and design in the 1970s and 1980s.[10] One of his first steps was to invite the Victorian Society to establish its national office at the Athenæum which provided a base for the infant society and both national and international visibility for the Athenæum.[11] Moss also proved to be an aggressive collector with remarkable fund raising ability, particularly for the acquisition, conservation, proper housing, and exhibition of architectural records, securing major grants from national, state, and local foundations for those purposes. He also doubled the membership and raised substantial sums to endow the building, staff positions, and programs.[12] In 1976 Moss launched a publication series to reprint rare Victorian design sources from the Athenæum collection, beginning with Exterior Decoration: A Treatise on the Artistic Use of Colors in the Ornamentation of Buildings originally published in 1885 by the Devoe Paint Company complete with large color plates and authentic paint samples. This reprint became a seminal influence in the nationwide movement to preserve, restore, and authentically repaint Victorian-era buildings.[13] In 1973 Moss was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, London, England.

Moss has been well known in historic preservation in the U.S. for several decades. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the historic preservation program since 1981. His works at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia since 1968 include restoration of the institution's building, and amassing a significant collection of historic architectural drawings and photographs for its library. He has written numerous books and articles.

One of his most influential contributions to preservationists and architects working in the field may be his landmark books on historic American paints and colors. His investigations led to the creation of the first full line of historic paint colors produced by Sherwin-Williams Paints, the American paint manufacturer.


  1. ^ Ohio University Alumni Directory (Athens, Ohio, 2002), p. 821.
  2. ^ Roger W. Moss, Athenaeum Profiles: A Not-for-Profit Education (New Castle, DE, Oak Knoll, 2014), pp. 8-9.
  3. ^ <Roger W. Moss, The Morgan Collection in the History of Chemistry at Ohio University," Ohioiana (Winter, 1964), pp. 136-137. Roger W. Moss, Morgan Collection in the History of Chemistry: A Checklist, (Athens, Ohio, Ohio University Press, 1965.) Athenaeum Profiles, pp. 9-14. Aaron J. Ihde, The Morgan Collection, Journal of Chemical Education (August, 1967)
  4. ^ Geoffrey Beard, Attingham: The First Forty Years, 1952-1991"" London, Attingham Trust, 1991, p. 195.
  5. ^ Athenaeum Profiles", p. 19.
  6. ^ Roger W. Moss, Philadelphia Victorian: The Building of The Athenæum" (Philadelphia, PA: The Athenæum of Philadelphia, 1998) "The Athenæum of Philadelphia," "The Magazine Antiques" (December 1978), CXIV, 1264-1279.
  7. ^ Richard Wendorf (ed.), American Membership Libraries (Newark, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2007), pp. 131-155.
  8. ^ Nessa Forman, "The Grand Acquisitors," The Bulletin (Philadelphia, November 19, 1978). Roger W. Moss, "Collecting Architectural Drawings," Antiquarian Bookman (Clifton, NJ, AB Bookman, 1985), pp. 1637-1641. Architectural Collections: The Athenæum of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA: The Athenæum of Philadelphia, 1990. Roger W. Moss, Collecting Architecture: A Quarter Century of Collecting Architectural Graphics, 1975-2000 (Philadelphia Athenæum, 2000).
  9. ^
  10. ^ Thomas Hine, "Victoriana, Those Many Years of 'Ughs' Have Been Giving Way to 'Ahs!" Philadelphia Inquirer (May 22, 1986). Maryann Ondovcsiki, "A Passion for Victoriana: The Victorian Society in America," Traditional Homes (Spring, 1987), pp.61-64.
  11. ^ Ruth Seltzer, "Supersonic Note: Victorians Here," Philadelphia Inquirer (October 9, 1969). Ruth Seltzer, "Sideburns, Beards on Victorian Walk," Philadelphia Inquirer (November 11, 1969). Eileen P. Birk, "Current and Coming," The Magazine Antiques, (December, 1969) XCVI, p. 860.
  12. ^ The Athenæum of Philadelphia, Annual Reports, 1969-2007.
  13. ^ Keith N. Morgan, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 37:1 (March, 1978), pp. 52-53. Ron Avery, "A Classic Library's Legacy: Athenæum Revives the 19th Century, Philadelphia Daily News (September 6, 1988)
  • Moss, Roger W. (1981) Century of Color: Exterior Decoration for American Buildings, 1820-1920, American Life Foundation ISBN 0-89257-051-2
  • Tatman, Sandra L., and Roger W. Moss (1985) Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects, 1700-1930, G.K. Hall & Co. ISBN 0-8161-0437-9
  • Moss, Roger W. (1990) The American Country House, Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0-8050-1248-6
  • Moss, Roger W. (Ed.) (1994) Paint in America: The Color of Historic Buildings, National Trust for Historic Preservation ISBN 0-89133-263-4
  • Moss, Roger W. (1998) Historic Houses of Philadelphia: A Tour of the Region's Museum Homes University of Pennsylvania Press ISBN 0-8122-3438-3
  • Moss, Roger W. (2004) Historic Sacred Places Of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press ISBN 0-8122-3792-7

External links[edit]