“Accept and Defend the Truth Wherever Found”: A Profile of Elwood Smith Moser
According to Montgomery County, PA: A History, Volume 2 by Clifton S. Hunsicker, Elwood Smith Moser (October 4, 1857-April 9, 1935) was born in Norriton Township, Montgomery County. After working the family farm and attending school, at the age of fifteen Elwood began to learn the printing trade in Norristown at The True Witness and - following two years of apprenticeships - founded the Providence Independent newspaper in Trappe (which soon moved to Collegeville). In 1923 Hunsicker wrote: “Its influence has become even more than town or county-wide, and Mr. Moser has made his name known throughout the State, especially as an editorial writer. As a citizen of Collegeville, he was a member of the first Town Council of that borough, was a charter member of the Collegeville Fire Company and one of the organizers of the Collegeville National Bank. He is a member of the County Weekly Newspapers’ Association, and was one of the founders of the Press League of Montgomery and Bucks counties. In politics, in which he has always been active, he is like his newspaper: independent.”
An avid reader, Elwood was a “self-educated man” who devoted years of study to the fields of science, philosophy and religion. He formed friendships with the learned of the community, including instructors at Ursinus College and especially James W. Sunderland, founder of Pennsylvania Female College. In 1919 he published a volume of essays, Evolution and Man: Natural Morality; the Church of the Future and Other Essays, dedicating the work to the memory of his son Frederick. Frederick L. Moser, who graduated from Ursinus College in 1910 and edited the Ursinus Weekly newspaper, followed in his father’s publishing footsteps - founding and editing the Inter-Borough Press of Spring City and Royersford. On active duty on the home front during World War I, he became a victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic.
Scientific essays in the volume include “Cause and Effect,” “The Solar System,” and “Matter and Mind.” Philosophical essays range from “Reason and Morals” to “Reflections Upon Human Existence,” while religious essays include “Why Belief?” and “Ideas of God.” Moser was highly critical of what he termed “supernaturalism” or the blind devotion to forces unverifiable through scientific inquiry. In one passage he wrote: “When mortals, in large numbers, cease to hug delusions resting upon human assumptions, relating to supernaturalism, more attention will be devoted to the book of Nature, with a corresponding advance in scientific investigation and rational enlightenment” (p. 18).
Moser concluded his book with two essays on the importance of education and civic-mindedness. He was keenly aware of the precarious nature of democracy and the dangers of a complacent population. He wrote: “A grave danger besetting the institutions of Democracy is the indifference of the people themselves to the vital importance of the liberties they are enjoying, and to the moral responsibilities associated therewith. Also, to the full and faithful discharge of the elective franchise” (p. 198). Whether in his volume of essays or in the many editorials found in the pages of his newspaper, Elwood Moser always expressed his opinion. According to one writer at the time of Moser’s death: “His readers respected his opinion, although they may not always have agreed with it - because they knew he was not trying to camouflage or deceive them.”