The Smithsonian’s William Steinway Diary Project

William E. SteinwayWilliam E. Steinway was born Wilhelm Steinweg in Seesen, Germany in 1835, the fourth son of Heinrich Englehard Steinweg (Henry E. Steinway). In 1850, the family immigrated to the United States, and in 1853, father Henry and sons Charles, Henry and William founded Steinway & Sons.

In addition to being an innovative marketer, establishing the Steinway & Sons showroom at the entrance to one of America’s leading music and cultural centers, Steinway Hall, William was a true modern day Renaissance man. A great industrialist and visionary, he was responsible for building the company town Steinway Village in 1870, founded the Daimler Motor Company on Long Island, and was head of the Subway Commission which planned the New York City subway system. William became the second president of Steinway & Sons when he took the company reins during America’s Centennial in 1876.

Beginning in 1861, just days before he was to be married, William began a diary, in which he would continue to make meticulous entries right up until within a few weeks of his death in 1896. Spanning 35 years, 2,500 pages and over 30,000 interlinked notations, the William Steinway Diary captures William's growth from witness to participant in history, painting a vivid portrait of life in the U.S. through the Civil War and a period of enormous growth towards becoming an industrial world power. 

The William Steinway Diary, on display at the Smithsonian Museum, has now been made publicly accessible to everyone, via an annotated online edition of the remarkable diary. This first installment of the web site includes Edwin M. Good's complete transcription of the entire Diary alongside high-resolution scans of each handwritten page, searchable by keyword or date.