Thanks to Tracey Goessel, a silent-film aficionado who lives in Los Angeles, and Leon Worden, vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, a trunk containing some of William S. Hart’s mementos has been brought back to Newhall.
William S. Hart married Winifred Westover in December 1921, and although their marriage only lasted about six months, they had one child, William Hart, Junior.
Bill Jr.’s estate, which included a collection of keepsakes Westover had saved, was put for sale following his death in 2004, and according to Worden, local historians found out too late and the collection was said to have “been gone for good.”
Through a series of acquisitions, many of the items were rediscovered, including this trunk that originally belonged to Westover.
Goessel, who was in search of other unrelated silent film memorabilia in New York, purchased the trunk with the intention of using it as a coffee table, completely unaware of its contents, according to Worden.
She later discovered the mementos when sending the trunk for restoration, and after finding out about the discovery, Worden reached out to her and asked if she would donate the contents, he said.
“It was a no brainer,” Goessel said. “The trunk’s contents belong in a museum.”
On Sunday, April 7, Goessel donated the contents of the trunk to the Historical Society, which included Bill and Winifred Hart’s wedding cake toppers, Westover’s baby clothes, a few items from Bill Jr.’s childhood and other timeless mementos.
Without written information in the trunk, Worden can’t be sure that the clothing was actually worn by Westover or Bill Jr., but as Bill Jr. was Westover’s only child, it can easily be inferred, Worden said.
The collection of items thought to have been Westover’s comprised of Victorian baby clothes, baby girl shoes, bonnets, bibs and feeding blankets, one even adorned with a “W” monogram.
The trunk also included a pair of baby booties, pacifier, moccasins and cowboy boots, which Worden believes to have been Bill Jr.’s, as well as several photographic negatives showing Bill Jr. as a young man dressed in cowboy attire like his father used to wear.
The next step for the Historical Society is to learn how to preserve the textiles they acquired, according to Worden.
For more information about the contents of the trunk, visit scvhistory.com/. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is at Heritage Junction Historic Park located at 24101 Newhall Avenue in Newhall. For more information, visit scvhs.org/wp/ or call 661-254-1275.