William Richard Steinway

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William Richard Steinway (b December 20, 1881 in New York City, d September 22, 1960 in New York City) was the first child born to William and his second wife Elizabeth Ranft. From 1909 to the start of World War II he was general manager of Steinway & Sons operations in Europe. He became vice president of the company in 1942 and chairman of the board in 1957.

42: An image

William Richard Steinway 1887 Photograph by Rockwood New York City
Courtesy Henry Z Steinway Archive

Upon graduation from the Cathedral School of St. Paul in Garden City, Long Island William R. Steinway began 10 years of apprenticeship in Steinway & Sons, serving for a while as assistant to the president.(12)(14) In 1909 William's "Uncle" Charlie, who was actually his cousin, son of his father's long-deceased brother Charles, and who had become president of Steinway & Sons following the death of William's father in 1896, sent William to Europe to become general manager of operations in Hamburg, Berlin & London.(5, p. 126)

He remained in Germany through World War I because of his attachment to Marie Kiesler, of whom the family disapproved. Despite family attempts to dissuade Marie, the pair married in 1921.(4, p. 462)(5, p.132) William returned to America in 1939 at the start of WW II when his brother Theodore was president of the firm. During 1940 he took a 10,000-mile tour of the United States, speaking at various locales, where several of his visits were noted in local newspapers.(3)(7)(13) In 1950 as vice president of Steinway & Sons, William was a speaker at a program organized by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) to assist music dealers to operate profitably.(9) Later he was named to the committee for the NAMM trade show in New York City in 1952.(8) Theodore resigned the presidency in 1955, and the board selected Theodore's son Henry to succeed him.(5, p. 247) William was elevated to chairman of the board in 1957.(12)

William was known for his personal magnetism, charm and oratorical talent.(2) He was personally acquainted with renowned musicians including Ignacy Paderewski, Arthur Rubenstein, and Vladimir Horowitz.(13) Henry Hadley, the American composer and conductor, dedicated his Tone Poem "Lucifer" to "my good friend, William R. Steinway."(10) William also was known to have a sense of humor. He built with his brother Theodore a car, named, humorously, SAJI, for Société Anonyme de Junk Shop Internationale, that he took with him to Europe.(4, p. 448) He was the only family member to be remembered (with gift of $10,000) in the will of Henry W. T. Steinway, who had given the company so much trouble in the 1890s.(4, p. 370)

In his diary William called his son Willie, often saying he was "splendid" or "lovely" as he was growing up.(Diary, 1882-07-03; 1883-04-26) When Willie was seven his father noted he made a "neat little speech" on the occasion of his [Willie's] birthday.(Diary, 1888-12-20) Willie began attending school in Garden City in 1893 at age 11.(Diary, 1893-09-21) Whenever Willie returned from school William noted it in his diary. In 1895 his father remarked that he arrived home "taller, stronger + handsomer than ever."(Diary, 1895-12-18) In the summers of 1894 and 1896 Willie and his brother were sent by their father to Europe in the company of a tutor.(Diary, 1894-06-20, 1896-06-17) Only 15years old when his father died in 1896, Willie was subsequently cared for by his half sister Paula and her husband, Louis von Bernuth.(11)

William held memberships in the New York National Guard, 7th regiment, company K, the Amateur Comedy Club, the Liederkranz and the New York Athletic Club. He also had been a director of the Harlem Market Co., Limited. He resided at 240 Central Park South.(1)(6)(12)



1. Directory of Directors in the City of New York, 1915-1916. New York: Directory of Directors Company, 1915, p.659.
2. Dolge, Alfred. Pianos and their Makers, v. II. Covina, CA: Covina Publishing Company, 1913, pp. 185-86.
3. "European Music Gets Attention," The Gallup Independent, December 5, 1940.
4. Fostle, D. W. The Steinway Saga. New York: Scribner, 1995.
5. Lieberman, Richard K. Steinway & Sons. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
6. Liederkranz of the City of New York (History Committee). 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. 134.
7. "Musical Folk are Honor Guests at Reception," Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 11, 1940, p. 22.
8. "NAMM Names Show Committee," The Billboard, May 10, 1952, p. 17.
9. "NAMM Parley To Help Boost $$," The Billboard, October 14, 1950, p. 51.
10. Programme, Volumes 1915-1916, By Boston Symphony Orchestra, p. 1228.
11. Steinway, Henry Z. "On the Family, the Business, and the Artists." appearing in: Steinway, Theodore E. People and Pianos: A Pictorial History of Steinway & Sons, 3rd edition. Pompton Plains, NJ: Amadeus Press, LLC, 1953; Classical Music Today, LLC, 2005, p.123.
12. "William R. Steinway, 79, Dies; Was Chairman of Piano Concern," The New York Times, September 23, 1960, p. 29.
13. "William R. Steinway Speaks Here Tonight," The Joplin Globe, March 18, 1941, p. 3.
14. The World Almanac and Encyclopedia, 1908. Press Publishing co., 1907, p. 813.