Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> WILLIAM S. HART
William S. Hart
Liberty Loan Series 4 Promo

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William S. Hart. It's difficult to be certain, but Hart appears to be costumed for "A Bullet for Berlin," a half-reel short film (approx. 5 minutes) he made to promote the fourth Liberty Loan program (war bonds) in 1918. Hart didn't wear the same combination of clothing from one picture to the next, and his costume matches what he's wearing in a known image from "A Bullet for Berlin" (see Koszarski (1980:97). One problem with this idea is the printed number of this publicity photo, A47-54. The "A" in A47 probably stands for Artcraft (the distributor), and the number A47 appears on photographs from "Riddle Gawne," the picture Hart made immediately prior to "A Bullet for Berlin" (in which he wore a very different costume and different hat).

Original publicity still No. A47-54, 8x10 inches, linen backed, from the (Vincent) Mercaldo Archives in New York (see below).

The fourth (of five) series of Liberty Loan bonds went on sale Sept. 28, 1918. The fourth series involved $7 billion in tax-free bonds that earned the bearer an interest rate of 4.25 percent.

Or at least they were supposed to. Holders of Series 4 bonds were in for a bit of bad luck. Series 1-3 bonds were retired in the 1920s but Series 4 had a maturity date of Oct. 15, 1938. The U.S. Treasury called them on April 15, 1934 and refused to honor their terms, which required payment in gold. The private ownership of gold had been banned by act of Congress nearly a year earlier, in June 1933. At the same time, the government had devalued the dollar from where it stood in 1918 — $20.67 per troy ounce of gold — to $35 an ounce. Thus, Series 4 bond holders lost 41 percent of their principal, or $2.866 billion in 1918 dollars.


About 'A Bullet for Berlin.'

From Koszarski (1980:97):

Produced by William S. Hart Productions for the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry; distributed by Paramount; released September 1918; approximately one-half reel.

Written and directed by William S. Hart; photographed by Joe August.

CAST: William S. Hart and Fritz (as themselves).

REVIEW: [In this short film created for the Fourth Liberty Loan] Bill Hart, asleep by his pinto pony, Fritz, dreamed of a visit to Berlin, where he busted through a window and shot up the Kaiser and court in sure-enuff Western dance hall fashion, and then after comparing the Kaiser to a rattlesnake which Bill permitted to live, we saw him going "hell-bent for election" to buy bonds. [Wid's, September 22, 1918]


BILL HART AND THE WARS

By Bill Crowl, President, Friends of William S. Hart Park & Museum (1999)

Wm. S. Hart was born at the end of the American Civil War. His childhood mentors were still afire with patriotism and the need to rebuild a nation once divided. Bill's early teens were lived on the American Frontier where western freedom abounded. Throughout his life, he was visibly proud to be an American.

Bill was in his early 50s when the United States entered the (First) World War. Though physically fit, he was too old to be accepted into the Military. But, as the leading Western movie star of the period, Bill found other ways to support his nation. He raised money for the Liberty Loan drives and for the Red Cross Records show that Hart's tours for the Third Liberty Loan Drive were responsible for over $2 million in contributions. A little earlier, in 1917, Bill co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in a one-half reel Liberty Bond sales promotional film. Hart fired the first gun in the Second Liberty Loan.

For the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive, Bill wrote, directed and starred in a another sales promotion film. While asleep, by his pinto pony, Bill dreamed of a visit to Berlin, where he busted through a window into the Royal Palace. There, he shot it out with the Kaiser and his Huns, in Western saloon-hall fashion. After comparing the German leader to a rattlesnake, but letting him live, Bill rode off, hell-bent for leather, to buy Liberty Bonds. Hart really did purchase a substantial amount of Bonds.

Bill also enlisted his pinto pony "Fritz" in the post-war effort. They paraded the streets of Los Angeles to secure funds for the American Red Star Animal Relief which provided hospitals and veterinaries for the thousands of horses, mules and dogs that were wounded while fighting with the American troops on the western battlefront.

The 159th California Infantry showed their appreciation of Bill Hart by choosing the western film star as their godfather. They took on the name of "Bill Hart Two-gun Men." Practically every other unit, among the 30,000 troops at Camp Kearny (near San Diego), vied for this sobriquet, but the 159th landed Bill.

Within seven months of Hart's donation of the American Theater to American Legion Post 507, our nation entered the Second World War. Bill was much older now, retired and living in Newhall. However his patriotism still burned brightly, and he was still respected as an early Western movie star. To this end, Bill donated many of his personal artifacts, including boots and Stetsons, to be auctioned at War Bond sales rallies.


About the Mercaldo Archives.

119-04 Liberty Avenue, Richmond Hill 19, New York
104-42 104th Street, Ozone Park 16, New York


Click to enlarge.

Vicent Mercaldo, an Italian immigrant, was an early-20th-century Western historian and painter who collected a large number of documents, photographs and other memorabilia, especially concerning William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. His paintings and documents are featured in several Cody biographies, and his collected photographs reside in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and other museums. His original publicity photos of William S. Hart were acquired for SCVHistory.com in 2018.

Brooks Brothers Hobbyist

The New Yorker | August 20, 1955.

Did you know that the largest collection of Buffalo Billiana in private hands is in the private hands of Vincent Mercaldo, Brooks Brothers' head necktie cutter and patternmaker? We journeyed up to Mr. Mercaldo's apartment in Queens the other evening and found ourself in a living room containing a painting of William F. Cody on horseback, and another of Custer's last fight. Custer's hands were gloved, and each was holding a Colt revolver.

"I made a mistake there," said our host, who had painted both pictures. "A man can't shoot a revolver with gloves on. At least, Custer never did."

Mr. Mercaldo, a dark, intense man of 53 who was wearing tortoise-shell glasses and a blue and white polka-dot bow tie, began to collect memorabilia of Buffalo Bill and other Indian fighters long before he took to painting them.

"I was born in Marseille, of Italian parents," he said. "My father was a builder and architect. When I was 3, my mother became very sick, my father's fortune started shrinking, and my mother and I went to live with my grandfather in Naples while my father emigrated to the United States. One of my earliest recollections is Vesuvius in action in 1906, when I was 4."

Mr. Mercaldo and his mother came here to join his father three years later, and one of his earliest recollections of the United States is a poster in a store on Park Row advertising Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

"It made a tremendous impression on me," he said, "and this was strengthened by my father's saying he had seen Buffalo Bill in Rome. I began to collect Buffalo Bill dime novels — 'Buffalo Bill's Boy Pard,' 'Buffalo Bill's Cannon Cache,' 'Buffalo Bill's Sioux Foes,' and so on — and cut the pictures out. Later, I collected Wild West Show cigarette cards, and by the time I was in grammar school in Brooklyn, I was collecting photographs of Buffalo Bill and woodcuts of him, many torn out of books. For a while, I had an after-school job weighing the contents of pushcarts for a junk dealer. The carts contained a lot of books, and my pay was permission to tear pictures out of them. I must have over 500 pictures of Buffalo Bill. 1 never met him, but when I was 18, three years after he died, I went to see the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show in Coney Island and met Pawnee Bill, an old Cody associate. He gave me some photos of himself and Bill. Fifty-one of my pictures were used in Jim Horan and Paul Sann's 'Pictorial History of the Wild West,' and 38 are being used in 'Buffalo Bill and the Wild West,' a pictorial biography by Henry Sell and Victor Weybright that the Oxford University Press is bringing out this fall."

Buffalo Bill's admirer took us to his study, which is full of Wild West Show posters photographs of dance-hall girls — Big Nose Kate, Crazy Horse Lil, Big Minnie Bignon — and boxes and boxes of B.B. pictures and Wild West programs.

"Here's Buffalo Bill signing a contract with Pawnee Bill to become partners," he said. "Here's Bill and Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in Munich in 1890. Here's the original of the only photograph showing Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack, and Cody together."

"How about the tie business?" we asked.

"Oh, I went to work for a tie manufacturer in Brooklyn when I was 14," he said, "and eventually became head cutter. The firm folded in 1948 and I went over to Brooks. We make ties to order for Alfred Vanderbilt and Clark Gable and so on, but I don't really like ties. What I like is Buffalo Bill. I believe that in the field of Buffalo Bill there's no individual that can top me. In some things I'm better than the Smithsonian or the Library of Congress."

Mr. Mercaldo, who has a son of 15, three married daughters and eight grandchildren, seven of them little girls, introduced us to his wife, who handed us a drink.

"I don't really like Buffalo Bill," she said.


LW3422: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.
HART CATEGORIES:
• Stage Career
• Hart Films
• Publicity Photos
• Hart as Author
• WWI War Bonds
• Hart Mansion
• Hart in Retirement
• Personal Life
• Hart in Artwork

WILLIAM S. HART & THE LIBERTY LOAN PROGRAM

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1917

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"A Bullet for Berlin" 1918 (4th Series)

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4th Series 1918/19

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5th Series 1919

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