Tag Archives: Barry Moser

Barry Moser’s Theater Posters

Barry Moser at the press
Barry Moser in 1972, adjusting the second of Williston’s two printing presses. By 1969 the Castalia Press was producing broadsides and other fine printing from its home in the old Easthampton railroad depot.

Some of this is necessarily in the nature of a personal reminiscence.  Barry Moser spoke at Williston Northampton’s Commencement on May 25th.  (Listen here!)  Today he is recognized as an artist of international preeminence; in September 1967, for this writer and about 400 other once-young men, he was a rookie faculty member taking over a visual arts program that was, quite frankly, on life support.  Its transformation was swift and spectacular.  And those of us fortunate to have been in Barry’s classes were transformed as well.  Ever the iconoclast, he challenged every assumption any of us might have had about art, not to mention literature, music, psychology . . . all the while demanding that we see, not just look.  Any student from his 15 years on the faculty will tell you that his were lessons for a lifetime.

In the late sixties the Williston Theatre was entering one of its golden ages under the direction of Ellis Baker and Richard Gregory.  Barry was soon involved as a set designer.  He also began to produce handbills for the plays — visual miracles for which the word “poster” is possibly inadequate.  Often the central images were executed in the intricate and sometimes unforgiving media of woodcut or etching.  Here are a few examples.  (All items are by Barry Moser for Williston Academy or The Williston Northampton School; reproduced with the gracious permission of the artist.)

John Brown’s Body, Spring 1969.  “I tried for something that looked like a wanted poster.”  (Click all images to enlarge.)John Brown's Body Continue reading

The Depot

In 1854 Samuel Williston established the Hampshire and Hampden Railroad Company.  He and his longtime business partner, Joel Hayden of Williamsburg, Mass., initially hoped to extend the line as far as Troy, New York, but their realistic concern was to connect Easthampton and Williamsburg, both former villages that were now evolving into factory towns, with what they correctly saw as a rapidly developing national rail grid.

The H. & H.R.R. purchased the route of the defunct Northampton-New Haven Canal, an ill-conceived enterprise that had already lost Samuel a considerable sum.  The project took five years; competing railroads did their best to create obstacles.  Samuel ultimately spent $35,000 of his own money—about $820,000 in current dollars—to see the 24-mile rail spur’s completion.

His biographer, Frank Conant, points out that it was more “a matter of public service rather than for profit.”  But “the day would come when he could board the cars at Easthampton’s nearby depot and arrive in New York City a few hours later.”1

The Easthampton Rail Station in the mid-1950s, shortly before passenger service ceased.

Whether there was an elaborate rail station in the early years, or just a simple shed, has not been determined.  The present building apparently dates from 1871.  In its original state it contained a large waiting room, baggage room, and office for the station master.

The depot appears frequently in Williston Seminary lore: teams and spectators would board “the cars” for travel to away games as far away as Worcester.  The train provided quick access to the entertainment delights of Springfield.  Individual anecdotes describe torchlight processions of departing student “heroes”  down Union Street from the campus.2  Even freight service found its way into legend: witness the tale of William Peck’s double bass, retold in “Williston’s First Orchestra.”

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