Charles G. Steinway (b. January 4, 1829, in Seesen, Germany; d. March 31, 1865, in Braunschweig, Germany) was the third child of Henry Steinway and Julianne Thiemer. On June 5, 1855, in New York City he married Helene Sophie Millinet (b. September 9, 1834, in Lippstadt, Germany; d. December 12, 1919, in Berlin, Germany). The couple had four children all born in New York: Henry William Theodore (1856), Charles Herman (1857), Frederick Theodore (1860), and a stillborn infant (1861).
Charles and his younger brother William were very close. They shared a house with their parents near the factory (8) and again with their families (including William's new wife) on Second Avenue.(7) They shared meals, the sadness of still born children to both families (18861, 1862), and the joy of singing and leadership in the Liederkranz, of which Charles was Vice President in 1860 and 1861.(1) They also shared involvement in creating the new Steinway & Sons pianos and the family partnership, the building of the new factory on Fourth Avenue (Charles represented the family at the opening welcome to the press in September 1860 and in the 1863 Draft Riot crisis) and political views, as they both voted the Democratic ticket.(Diary, 1862-11-04) After the establishment of Steinway & Sons in 1853, Charles worked as a regulator, and later as chief of operations, before moving into management and sales alongside his brother William. The illnesses of Charles, starting even in the 1850's and worsening from 1863 on, created a great loss to William not only in companionship but also in the running of Steinway & Sons.
Partly to escape the political upheavals in Germany in 1848, Charles was sent to the United States by his father in 1849 to investigate the business conditions there prior to committing the family to emigration. The rest of the family followed him to New York City the next year,(2) where they worked for various piano manufacturer's for the next several years.(6) Charles’s health was delicate, a result of respiratory problems; and sometime during the early part of 1853, Charles made a trip to Germany hoping to regain his health. He returned to New York with his brother Henry in October of that year.(5)
With the start of the Civil War in May of 1861, Charles enlisted in the New York State Militia. His unit, the New York 5th Infantry, was dispatched to Washington during the crisis of early May 1861 and took part in the occupation of Arlington Heights, Virginia after Virginia passed its secession ordinance later that month. Later in the war, just before Gettysburg, his unit also saw service near Harrisburg, PA.(9)
Charles G. Steinway, Fifth Regiment, New York State Militia, early 1860s
The war and its related events touched Charles and the rest of his family quite directly during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863, when mobs roamed the streets in New York and threatened to torch the Steinway factory building. William, Charles, and their father acted to protect the family's interests. On the first night of rioting, a mob appeared before the Steinway factory. Charles spoke to them, gave the ringleaders some money, and with the help of a Rev. Father Mahon persuaded the mob to go elsewhere. (Diary, 1863-07-13)
Charles's health, never very robust, seems to have begun to deteriorate in the fall of 1863, when he suffered from a series of illness and problems that started during September when he was confined to his home for over a week (Diary, 1863-09-24). About a month later, Charles had a rupture.(Diary, 1863-10-29). He became ill again around Christmas time (Diary, 1863-12-26), and this bout lingered on through the New Year.(Diary, 1864-01-08) Then he experienced a series of inter-related symptoms, beginning with a very sore throat in April of 1864.(Diary, 1864-04-01) By early in May his ear was involved, growing greatly enlarged and painful.(Diary, 1864-05-06, 1864-05-07) These problems seemed to drag on through the month of May, and on May 28th he was finally operated on by Dr. [Francis] Simrock, an aural surgeon affiliated with the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.(4)(Diary, 1864-05-28) Then in July of 1864, Charles and his family left for Europe, hoping once more to find a cure for his health problems.(Diary, 1864-07-02)
In February of 1865, William pleaded with Charles to return because their brother Henry's health had taken a very serious turn, but Charles evidently still was not feeling well enough to travel to New York.(Diary, 1865-02-24) In mid-April, William reported in his diary that “all at the Liederkranz” are “very nervous” about Charles’s well-being.(Diary, 1865-04-11) Finally on the 25th of April word reporting Charles’s death from typhoid fever on March 31 in Braunschweig arrived in a letter from Theodore.(Diary, 1865-04-25) Nearly one year later, Charles’s body was brought back to New York from Germany, and he was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery.(Diary, 1866-03-29)
William acted as the executor of Charles's estate, filing his will for probate and taking inventory of his house in New York City.(Diary, 1865-04-27, 1865-07-07) All was not finally settled until five years later, when the lawyers involved were paid for their services.(Diary, 1870-11-10) in a suit between Henry Steinway Sr and William Steinway against Sophie Steinway and her sons Henry William Theodore (H.W.T.), Charles Herman Steinway and Frederick Theodore Steinway. This court document of June 1870 contains the only legal description of the Steinway & Sons partnership up to1870. According to a note from Henry Ziegler Steinway (February 19, 1996), “Without this partnership agreement, Steinway & Sons would never have survived the 1865 deaths of Charles and Henry, Jr.” The surviving sons of Charles G. were important within the family: H.W.T. would become infamous within the family for the series of lawsuits he instigated against Steinway & Sons during the 1890's, and both Charles H. and Frederick would go on to become presidents of Steinway & Sons.(3)
1. History of the Liederkranz of the City of New York, 1847 to 1947, and of the Arion, New York. New York: The Drechsel Printing Co., 1948, p. 91.
2. Lieberman, Richard K. Steinway & Sons. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, pp.13-15.
3. Maniha,Ken, Steinway Family Genealogy
4. The Medical Register of New York and New Jersey
5. Passenger List of the ship “Western Empire”, arrived New York October 1853
6. Steinway, Charles and Henry Steinway, Jr., letter to C. F. Theodore in Seesen, undated, Steinway & Sons Collection, La Guardia and Wagner Archives, Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, Long Island City, Queens, New York.
7. Steinway, Henry, Charles and William, letter to C. F. Theodore, March, 30,1861, Steinway & Sons Collection, La Guardia and Wagner Archives, Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, Long Island City, Queens, New York.
8. U S Census 1860, County of New York, State of New York, 4th District, 6th Ward, p.145.
9. U S Park Services Soldiers and Sailors Database, http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-regiments-detail.htm