William Jerome Pierce

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William Jerome Pierce, son of William Clarence Pierce and Margaret Anita Carder, was born at Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., Minnesota, 4 February 1896.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 He died at Costa Mesa, Orange Co., California, 21 June 1986.8 Both he and his wife were buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, Los Angeles Co., California.8,9

William married Harriet Hanson Robinson, daughter of Edward Warrington Robinson and Mary Elizabeth Robinson, at Los Angeles, California, 13 September 1915.10,11,12

Bill, as he was known, was not what you would call a well-behaved child. He recalled that when he and his brothers visited the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, they took the opportunity to carve their initials in it! Another time around the eighth grade, he locked the school janitor in the closet and was expelled. He never went back. He was in trouble a lot, and frequently lied about his age. Eventually, the lies became the "truth" and his true birth year was "lost" until it came time to apply for Social Security in the 1950's.

At one time, he tried to join a circus. He really wanted to get in to show business, but it was not to be, at least not as a performer. He snooped around Houdini's show at Eliches Garden in Denver, was caught, and tossed out on his ear. He met Harriet while roller skating in Denver, but soon had to leave for the West Coast to look for work. She later followed him where they eloped.

He returned to Denver where on 5 June 1917, he registered for the draft at the local board for Division 4 and was later classified IV-a: A married registrant with dependent spouse and insufficient family income if drafted. At the time he was living at 289 So. Grant along with his two brothers and was employed at Mammoth Roller Rink. When he registered, he gave his birth date as 4 February 1895.13

He held several jobs throughout his career including work in a fish factory, hardwood flooring, at Lake Isabella working on poles and flumes for Southern California Edison Co., and as office manager with Lindy Air Products in Denver and Seattle. He also worked for a dairy, and drove a milk truck down Hollywood Blvd. He had learned painting as an apprentice in Denver and finally latched onto a steady career, that of a painter in the Hollywood studios. He worked on many famous pictures, including My Fair Lady. In one scene some "old" trash cans are tripped over. Actually, they were very new, and bright, shiny metal kept showing up every time they were banged around, and Bill had to keep repainting them until they got the scene "in the can."

In 1942, he was a painter and resided with wife Harriet at 2728 Harcourt Ave. in Los Angeles.14 That year, Congress extended the age limits for selective service registration, requiring men between 45 and 65 to register. Commonly referred to as the "Old Man's Draft," none of these registrants were drafted. Bill registered at Local Board 256, 4652 W. Washington Blvd., April 26, 1942, and indicated he was employed at Paramount Studios. This time, he got his birthdate correct: 4 February 1896. Oddly, he gave "W. C. Pierce" at 412 W. 90th St. as the person who would always know his address. His father having been dead since 1926, the clerk probably didn't hear "Mrs." when she took down his information.15

In and around the family, he was always the clown, never failing to try to be the center of attention, and never failing to embarrass the rest of us either. He was also a capable juggler, and liked to fool his grandkids with easy coin tricks.

He was a jack of all trades, but master of one, his painting. He often did work on the side for friends and family. And although he said he hated it it, his work with wallpaper was outstanding.

He was known throughout the Hollywood studios and Los Angeles Times columnist, Hedda Hopper noted their 50th wedding Anniversary:
Bill Pierce has been a painter in the movie business since 1923--his last pictures were "My Fair Lady" and " Ship of Fools." Everybody knows him and likes him. Sunday he and his wife Harriet will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Quite a record in our town.11

His daughter Dorothy composed the following that was read at his funeral:
While going through my father's personal things, a paper was found with the following words written, "When you see a man without a smile, give him one of yours."

We, who are here today, know how much he lived by those words. His only desire was to bring cheer to anyone that he met. Friends or strangers, it mattered not! It was his way of giving love to others.

May we leave here today, not saddened, but glad for having known him. And in return, give to others the smiles he gave to you.


Harriet Hanson Robinson b. 26 May 1895, d. 19 Dec 1974
This person was last edited on19 Sep 2020


  1. [S1026] William Jerome Pierce, Birth Certificates, File No. Vol 11, Register 23, p. 198 (1896), Minneapolis Division of Public Health--Vital Statistics, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  2. [S247] Minneapolis, Minnesota, Birth Records, 1866-1914, FHL microfilm 1498837, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Originally filed without a name. Amended in 1939., further cited as Mineapolis, MN Births.
  3. [S1877] United States, Selective Service System, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Denver, Colorado, No 4, Serial #938, FHL microfilm 1561841, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, original data: NARA micropublication M1509, 4,582 rolls, further cited as WW I Draft Registration.
  4. [S461] United States Census for 1900 Twelfth Census of the United States, Hyde Park Township, Chicago Ward 34, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 1106, sheet 351, dwelling 91, family 93, William C. Pierce household, age 4, born in Minnesota, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); original data: NARA micropublication T623, 1854 rolls, roll #290.
  5. [S462] United States Census for 1910 Thirteenth Census of the United States, Englewood City, Ward 2, precinct 5, Arapahoe County, Colorado, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 15, sheet 12B, dwelling 269, family 271, William C. Pierce household, age 15, born in Minnesota, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); original data: NARA micropublication T624, 1784 rolls, roll #221.
  6. [S463] United States Census for 1920 Fourteenth Census of the United States, Cahuenga Township, Crescent Precinct No. 2, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 34, sheet 26A, dwelling 228, family 231, William J. Pierce household, age 24, born in Minnesota, renting his home at 7922 Norton Ave, and was a decorator with a paint company, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); original data: NARA micropublication T625, 2076 rolls, roll #102.
  7. [S464] United States Census for 1930 Fifteenth Census of the United States, Los Angeles City, Assembly District 57, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 142, sheet 24B, dwelling 631, family 591, William J. Pierce household, age 35, born in Minnesota, renting his home at 5943 Homeside Ave for $22.50 per month, and was a painter with a movie studio, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); original data: NARA micropublication T626, 2668 rolls, roll #138.
  8. [S190] William Jerome Pierce, Death Certificates, File No. 3-86-30-006617 (1986), Orange County Public Health and Medical Services, Santa Ana, California.
  9. [S2323] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed Aug 2020), memorial page for William Jerome "Bill" Pierce, Find a Grave memorial #182773611, maintained by Cookie, further cited as Find A Grave.
  10. [S260] William J. Pierce-Harriett Robinson marriage, 13 Sep 1915, Compiler's genealogy files, Clarkdale, Arizona. James D. Myers, Minister, 323 N. Broadway in Los Angeles.
  11. [S204] Heda Hopper. "Polly Perks L.A. Night Life Scene," Los Angeles Times, 11 Sep 1965, Part II, p. 11.
  12. [S1673] Gregory Don Cooke, "Historic Ancestors: Major Stede Bonnet, Pirate of the Caribbean," The Genealogist 25 (Spring 2011): 31-33, at 33, further cited as Cooke, "Major Stede Bonnet."
  13. [S1877] WW I Draft Registration, Denver, Colorado, No 4, FHL Film #1564841.
  14. [S1821] Los Angeles Directory Co., Los Angeles City Directory (Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Directory Co., 1942), 1909, further cited as Los Angeles Directory Co., Los Angeles City Directory.
  15. [S1878] United States, Selective Service System, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Los Angeles Co., California, Local Board 235, Serial # U1285, FHL Film #2428782, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, further cited as WW II Draft Registration.
  16. [S464] US Census for 1930, Los Angeles City, Assembly District 57, Los Angeles County, California, pop. sch., ED 142, sheet 24B, dwelling 631, family 591, William J. Pierce hshld.
  17. [S1027] Dorothy Harriet Pierce, Birth Certificates, File No. 2037 (1927), Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, Los Angeles, California.