How did he record his daily entries?

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William wrote his diary in nine ledger books

The books were of varying sizes and sources on 2,525 pages. Stickers on the inside front covers indicate that he seems to have bought whatever was available from various nearby stationers when he needed a new volume. He evidently wrote several entries at a time, possibly from notes he had taken, as can be deduced from entries about his sister Anna’s decline and ultimate death on November 21, 1861. Describing a visit to his sick sister, he wrote on November 12, “Did not think it was serious This was the last time I saw my beloved sister alive.” Other times, he inadvertently wrote the entry for one day on that of another, and came back later to amend the entry, as on June 29, 1872. He also sometimes skipped an entry and added it later out of order, as on March 22, 1863. On the few occasions William was too sick to write, gaps appear in the Diary, as that between January 5 and 25, 1875.

We speculate that one source of notes used by William in writing the Diary was his business diary, most of which was unfortunately destroyed. (The remaining 40 pages reside in the Museum’s Archives Center. A look at these somewhat miscellaneous pages dated between 1882 and 1896 show notes on what William had done and whom he had seen, including relationships with Steinway dealers. Some of these notes relate closely to the Diary and supplement it with relevant newspaper clippings. On April 29–May 3, 1888, for example, William attached German and English newspaper accounts detailing the United Pianomakers Union’s demand for an eight-hour day at Steinway & Sons, negotiations also described in his personal diary. The week of December 13–17, clippings from the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung (December 15, 1890) and the New York Sun (December 18, 1890) are attached to a short entry about a dinner at Delmonico’s organized by Ashbel P. Fitch, an influential New York politician. The Sun article included details of an impromptu speech William was asked to make about New York Governor Hill, reporting, “These remarks of Mr. Steinway’s caused a great sensation at the dinner.” William must have been a dynamic speaker whose applause-generating public presentations clearly differed from the brevity of his personal diary entries. (See December 17 and 18, 1890 of the Diary).

Throughout all nine Diary volumes the handwriting is recognizably William’s own. His jagged style derived from the old German script, sometimes referred to as Gothic or Fraktur, and became smoother over time. In later years, his script became more hurried, crabbed, and difficult to read, as serious gout attacks made writing painful at times (see May 23–24, 1895).

Markings in hands other than William’s also appear in the Diary, including Henry Ziegler Steinway’s notation of William’s death date at the bottom of the Diary’s last page. Theodore E. Steinway, William’s son and Steinway & Sons third president, was responsible for the blue and red pencil notations and underlines that appear. He highlighted passages that would be of interest to someone in his position: family and historic events, medical history, and business developments. On Aug. 20, 1894, for example, when Charles and Marie Steinway had a daughter, he underlined the words “a little daughter” in the text in blue pencil and wrote “Marie Louise” in the margin. The Museum’s Archives Center also has Theodore’s handwritten notes on the Diary, perhaps written in preparation for his book on the history of Steinway & Sons, People and Pianos: A Century of Service to Music (Steinway & Sons, 1953), which also included a Diary page illustration. A 1917 Music Trades article about the Steinway family’s military service gives a sense of Theodore’s familiarity with the volumes. Writer Henry Chapin Plummer describes visiting Theodore, “who, with loving care, turned the yellowing pages” of the diary to show entries that  revealed “the electrifying spirit of war that dominated New York life in the ‘60s, the breaking storm clouds of the draft riot disturbances of ’63, and the many and manifold incidents of the splendid personal career of William Steinway” (December 8, 1917).