Louis von Bernuth

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Louis Hugo Johannes von Bernuth, (b. West Prussia, Germany, on April 5, 1856; d. Koblenz, Germany, on November 30, 1907) married William Steinway's daughter Paula. He was a son of Friedrich Emil von Bernuth and Margaretha (Meta ) Oktavia Groeneveld. Paula and Louis had two children, Meta Elizabeth von Bernuth (1890-1980) and William Steinway von Bernuth (1892-1951). (6) Louis died in Koblenz, Germany on November 30, 1907. (1)(2)(6)

Louis von Bernuth was the husband of William Steinway's eldest daughter, Paula. He came to the United States at the age of 17, working for Hardt and Company, a New York textile firm that also appeared to employ other von Bernuth family members. (1)(7) His cousin Friedrich became a partner in the firm some time after Louis' arrival, and the company name was changed to Hardt, von Bernuth. (William's diary cites Friedrich –also known as Fritz – as Louis' uncle, but another source indicates they were cousins.) (7) (Diary, 1888-3-23) There is no mention of Louis in the diary until he and Paula became engaged, but other von Bernuths are mentioned: Louis's brother Oscar, who had also emigrated from Germany, called on Paula in 1886. However, when he invited Paula to attend a ball, William forbade her attendance. (Diary, 1886-1-21, 2-9) Oscar does not seem to have pursued a relationship with Paula, but there are several diary references to Elsa von Bernuth, a cousin of the brothers; and in September 1887, Paula visited Elsa at her home in Staten Island. (Diary, 1887 3-3, 9-17, 12-10) (Elsa's father, Carl, also worked at Hardt, von Bernuth.) (7) Louis proposed to Paula on March 22, 1888, and William wrote in his diary that he gave his assent to the marriage the next day. They were married on November 12, 1888 at the Church of the Divine Paternity, at Fifth Avenue and 45th Street in New York City. (5)

William obviously thought highly of his son-in-law's business acumen, and put him to work on the management of several non-Steinway & Sons enterprises. Space was found in the basement at Steinway Hall for Louis' office, and he often accompanied William on field trips to see construction on the street railways and other projects. (Diary, 1890-12-1) He was elected president of the Steinway and Hunters Point Railroad in 1891, and became treasurer of Daimler Motor Co. when William was president. In later years he was made president of the College Point Ferry. (Diary, 1891-1-8) Louis and Paula frequently accompanied William and Ellie to concerts, plays and other events (interestingly, William often notes their presence with the phrase "Louis v. Bernuth + wife"), and William and Louis often lunched together at Luchow's and other Manhattan restaurants. (Diary, 1889-3-16, 3-31) Louis and Paula had two children: Meta Elizabeth von Bernuth (1890-1980) and William Steinway von Bernuth (1892-1951). (6)

After Ellie Steinway, William's wife, died suddenly on March 4, 1893, Paula and Louis moved with their children into William's home at 26 Gramercy Park to "assume the conducting and management of the house."(Diary, 1893-3-9) During the next three-and-a-half years, until William's death, William continued his close relationship with Paula and Louis, going with them on drives, playing skat with Louis, and joining them at theater and concerts. Paula and Louis, for their part, assumed responsibility not just for the household but also for the children of William and Ellie. Paula and Louis continued to care for Willie, Maud, and Theo after William's death. (4)

Louis and Paula were co-executors of William's estate, and Louis was also executor for the estate of Paula's brother, George. George's children sued to have Louis removed, claiming they were kept from their inheritance by these dual executor duties. The judge decided Louis had done nothing wrong, but that it was improper for him to be an executor for both estates and said he should resign as George's executor. (3)

Louis fell ill and died at the age of 52, on a trip to Germany to visit his parents and two other brothers. At the time of his death, he was the president or director of several enterprise, including: the New York & College Point Ferry Co.; the Astoria Homestead Co.; the Bowery Bay Beach Building & Improvement Co.; the Bowery Bay Beach Electric Light & Power Co.; and the Yorkville Bank. (3)

Louis von Bernuth, date unknown

Louis von Bernuth, date unknown



  1. "The Day's Deaths" New-Yorker  Staats-Zeitung, December 1, 1907, P. 38.
  2. "Died,"The New York Times, December 1, 1907, p.11.
  3. "For Two Steinway Executors," The New York Times, May 13, 1902, p.10.
  4. Fostle, D.W. The Steinway Saga, New York: Scribner, 1995, p. 416.
  5. "Late Fall Weddings," The New York Times, November 13, 1888, p.8.
  6. Maniha, Ken and Richard Riley, Descendants of Henry Englehard Steinway.
  7. Schlegel, Carl "Schlegel's American Families of German Ancestry" Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD 2003 pp 49-51 (originally published between 1916 and 1926, in 4 volumes). Available from Google Books.