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The William Steinway Diary, 1861-1896: A Unique Perspective on post-Civil War New York

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Civics +4 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

This teaching collection asks students to explore William Steinway’s Diary—which includes diary passages, Steinway family photographs, maps, and advertisements that bring alive the fear and chaos of the 1863 Civil War Draft Riots and his hands-on role in the creation of the New York City subway and the company town of Steinway in modern-day Astoria, Queens - as a jumping off point to understand the second half of the 19th century. Included are two Project Zero Thinking Routines and an Analysis Sheet to help students analyse these primary documents. Students can also expand the activity by researching other historical writings (newspapers, journals, city maps, etc.) from the time period, to gain a deeper understanding of this dynamic period in American history. 

The online exhibition describes: "Over 36 years, nine volumes, and more than 2,500 pages, entries record a newlywed’s exuberance, his observations of a country at war, and his emergence as a leader in the cultural, political, financial, and physical development of New York City. In near-daily entries until his death in 1896, William details the period’s financial panics and labor turmoil, rise of the German immigrant class, growing sophistication of transportation, and fierce piano manufacturing wars in which his family firm, Steinway & Sons, was a major player. A proud member of New York’s German American community, William was at once an immigrant success story and an ambitious industrialist whose development of the company town of Steinway left a lasting imprint on modern-day Queens."