Partner Philip Claflin
Williams College, 880 Main St, Williamstown, MA 01267
Northwestern University, 633 Clark St, Evanston, IL 60208
Beach Walk, Yaphank, NY 11980
Woodlawn Cemetery, 130 N Pearl St, Canandaigua, NY 14424
John Chapin Mosher (June 2, 1892 – September 3, 1942) was an American short story writer as well as the first regularly assigned film critic for The New Yorker, a position he held from 1928 to 1942. In the summer of 1935 or 1936, Natalia Danesi Murray set out from New York with Arthur Brill, an ebullient, very fat man with tremendous flair who was a decorator and a designer of home furniture, Allen Prescott, a radio talk show host, and several other people, looking for a beach near New York City. Driving out on the Motor Highway, the group wound up in Sayville and made the acquaintance of a local man named Sykes, to whom Stewart Perkinson had sold the hotel. In the hotel bar—“just like that,” Natalia said—they met John Mosher, at the time a film and drama critic for The New Yorker. Mosher and his companion, Philip Claflin, were likely visiting New Yorker drama critic Wolcott Gibbs, who was vacationing in Ocean Beach, when they ran into Natalia Murray and her party in the hotel bar. The first sharp awareness of the gay presence in Cherry Grove, NY, came amid the general hubbub of reconstruction in the early summer of 1939, when John Mosher’s house, across the walk from Pride House, was completed. It was not that the locals found Mosher particularly obnoxious. Catherine Richter remembered him as “a nice man—not obvious—not blatantly gay. We assumed he was because he had Philip, but he was discreet. Those men were very discreet.” But John Mosher was an owner; he was sinking roots into the hurricane-blasted sand—sand that the family people looked on as their turf. And, as Catherine Richter and others noticed, “friends of his did start coming.” Local woman Camilla Munkelwitz later attributed the change in the resort to “those big parties that John Mosher gave in his house on the bay. Artists and designers from New York would come out every week and then I guess the rush was on.” In 1940, John Mosher, too old for the draft and perhaps in poor health (he died two years later) invited Natalia Murray over to dinner for the Fourth of July. His special guest was his New Yorker colleague, the writer Janet Flanner, who was to became Murray's longtime partner.
Mosher was born in Ogdensburg, New York and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1914. Moving to New York City in 1915, he joined the editorial staff of the general interest magazine Every Week and became involved in the Greenwich Village theater community, writing the one-act comedy plays Sauce for the Emperor and Bored, which were staged by the Provincetown Players in 1916–17. During the First World War Mosher served in the shell shock ward of a U.S. Medical Corps hospital in Portsmouth, England.
After the war, Mosher traveled around Europe and wrote various freelance articles for magazines before becoming an English instructor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In 1926 he joined the staff of The New Yorker, initially contributing short stories. In the earliest historical chronicle of the magazine published in 1951, Mosher was credited as "a pioneer of the New Yorker short story." He became the magazine's resident film critic starting with the September 22, 1928 issue. According to The New York Times, Mosher's writings "had a personal note and were noteworthy for their humor and bristling style", while The New Yorker stated he "wrote with restraint and was never dull." In addition to writing, Mosher read the magazine's unsolicited manuscripts.
In 1940, a compilation of Mosher's New Yorker fiction was published in a book titled Celibate at Twilight and Other Stories. A number of these stories, featuring a wealthy, middle-aged bachelor named Mr. Opal, capture 1930s community life on Fire Island, where Mosher was among the earliest gay property owners in Cherry Grove. Mosher's final New Yorker column ran in the June 20, 1942 issue; he died less than three months later in New York City of heart disease at the age of 50. The magazine eulogized him as "witty, perceptive, and influenced by a deep and tolerant knowledge of the world" and "one of the most delightful companions we have ever known."
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE