Ballad collector, educator, and historian Artus Monroe Moser was born 14 September 1894 in Hickory, N.C., to David Lafayette (Fayette) Moser and Cordelia Elizabeth King Moser. When Artus was two, the family moved to Buckeye Cove, N.C., located in Buncombe County near the Swannanoa Valley, where his mother had grown up and her family still lived. In 1904, Fayette Moser took a job as forester for the Biltmore Estate and moved the family there, where they remained until 1917 when Fayette became the North Carolina State Forest Warden on Mt. Mitchell. The family spent twelve years on Mt. Mitchell, then returned to Swannanoa after Fayette was hired as Warden for the Beacon Blanket Mill watershed. Growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina instilled in Artus a deep respect for the traditions of Appalachia, which continued to influence him throughout his life.
Artus was graduated from Biltmore High School in 1917, then spent a year of active military duty in France during World War I. Upon returning to North Carolina, he entered the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he studied under historian R. D. W. Connor and received his A.B degree in 1923. During his time in Chapel Hill, Moser began to develop his lifelong interest in North Carolina history and folklore. After serving as principal of Swannanoa High School for two years, he returned to Chapel Hill to pursue an M.A. degree, which he received in 1926. During this time, he also worked as a research assistant under Howard W. Odum in the Institute for Research in Social Science. In the years after leaving Chapel Hill, Artus pursued further graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Grand Central Art School in New York City. He also worked as a professor of English and speech at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In 1929, he married Mabel Eula Young, a graduate of the North Carolina College for Women in Greensboro, in her hometown of Spencer, N.C. The Mosers then moved to Middlesboro, Ky., near Harrogate, Tenn., where both Artus and Mabel served on the faculty of Lincoln Memorial University. The Mosers' three children--Dorothea Joan, Artus Monroe, Jr., and Janette Irene--were all born in Middlesboro. The family moved back to the Swannanoa area in 1943, where Artus taught in various schools until his retirement in 1964.
Artus began to collect ballads and folktales during his years in Tennessee, where he had encouraged his students to investigate their own heritage. He also contributed ballads to the collection of University of Tennessee folklorist Edwin C. Kirkland. Back in North Carolina, Artus avidly collected ballads and folktales in and around the western part of the state, recording local singer and storyteller Maud Gentry Long and musicians Jean Ritchie, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and Pleaz Mobley, among others. In 1945, after playing his recordings during a talk he gave at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Artus was encouraged to offer his collection to the Library of Congress. Duncan Emrich, Chief of the Archive of American Folksong at the Library of Congress, accepted Moser's collection and also loaned him a portable disc recorder to collect and record more material. During the summer and fall of 1946, Moser made hundreds of recordings which were later added to the archive, including many collected at the Renfro Valley Folk Festival in eastern Kentucky. Throughout the rest of his life, Artus continued to build his collection of folk material and also spoke and performed before student groups and at folk festivals. Moser's relationship with the Library of Congress led to a recording contract with Folkways Records, and, in 1955, he recorded the album North Carolina Ballads .
Artus enjoyed many artistic activities during his life, including painting, pottery, and acting. In 1974, he recorded another album of traditional music for Folkways Records called North Carolina Mountain Folksongs and Ballads . He also wrote several manuscripts, none of which was published, on such subjects as the English ballads, Western North Carolina history, the Vanderbilt family, and North Carolina educator and explorer Elisha Mitchell. Artus Moser died in Swannanoa on December 24, 1992.
From the guide to the Artus Moser Papers, 1921-1988, (Southern Folklife Collection)