It all began on the banks of the Megunticook River, a stream that flowed adjacently to Moss Tent works in Camden, Maine. It was here that Bill Moss, the resident “ genius,” designed the tent that inspired a modern day disciple in Bill Wesnousky.
Moss’ career as one of America’s foremost fabric structure designers began in 1955 with his invention of the pop tent. Bill and a friend enjoyed ice fishing and duck hunting but grew tired of the uncomfortable tents they were forced to use and decided to design one for themselves. The result was the “pop” tent so called because when you pushed down, it popped up! It was far more roomy, lightweight, easier to put up and take down and far more attractive than any other tents at that time. In July of 1955 Life Magazine published an article that launched the pop tent revolution.
Bill went on to revolutionize the tent industry until his passing away in 1994 at the age of 71. Moss considered his tents as art, fabric sculptures the people could not only look at but live in. He was continually frustrated because the purists stated his tents were not art as “true art” does not have a function whereas his tents did. Perhaps so, however his fabric creations were displayed at the Louvre, Smithsonian and Museum of Modern Art. Journalists referred to Moss’ fabric creations as “Life in a Picasso and “Tents from Cloud Nine.”
Moss along with Marilyn, his second wife, created the premier camping tent brand. They sold their tents to the likes of Jacque Cousteau, LL Bean, the Sheiks of Araby and James Taylor.
Bill Moss, with his omnipresent pipe, was an avant garde personality and a great story teller with a great sense of humor. One time an owner of a chain of mortuaries commissioned Moss to design a tent for his properties. He gave Moss explicit instructions for the design. Moss and his buddies began happily referring to the tent as the “Moss-oleum.” When the tent was finished Moss summoned the mortuary owner who took one look at it and decided he was not going to use it after all. “Great!” Moss responded, “let’s go inside for a drink.” He was referring to his drink of choice . . . a martini.
In addition to revolutionizing the tent industry, Moss transformed the corporate display market with his patented “fabric tension technology.” The National Endowment of the Arts awarded a 67-year old Moss a $20,000 grant as a first-place prize for design excellence.
In the summer of 1990, Fabric Architecture featured an article entitled “Tent Gospel” which told the story of how a church in San Francisco commissioned Moss to design a temporary church, which was never built. This was probably the last fabric structure Moss designed.
The last ten years of Moss’ life was spent mentoring and inspiring others. After divorcing Marilyn, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona to form a new company and worked with his students on a wide variety of designs. In May of 1993 Bill suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered. He passed away in October of 1994 at the tender age of 71, at his Scottsdale home.
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