The Writings of Carl Schurz/William Steinway


Honored friends and mourners, mourners are we all. I can say but a few words to you, but they come from a troubled heart. It is a great sorrow that gathers us about this coffin. We stand here bowed by a sense of loss that touches this city, the Nation, the world, not in a general way, but one that goes straight to the heart of each individual personally. Whoever knew him cannot but have the feeling that in this dead man he has lost a brother. Certain it is that to many who watched his fruitful career from afar off, it has had a great meaning.

As a simple workman William Steinway began his life's activity. Through unwearying labor, honest, daring, many-sided, thoughtful, he climbed round by round till the name of the great master-manufacturer resounded through all the civilized nations of the earth, and the noblest societies of art and the mightiest princes of the world decorated him with their distinguished honors. But with all the greatness of his success he remained always the simple, honest, restless workman—the true, the ideal knight of labor in the broadest, noblest sense. As a patron of art and of the uplifting pleasures art satisfies, he was a power. Who can measure the gratitude our country owes to him for his furtherance of the true love of art and the ennobled æsthetic taste which it was his searching constant care to serve by securing the best of talent, by holding out help to struggling genius, and by exciting our living interest in such things? He was a pattern of American citizenship, the embodiment of unselfish, efficient public spirit. With what force of word and deed has he come forward when the life of the Republic needed a defense, or the honor of the Government or the credit of the Nation was to be maintained! How ready, disinterested, self-sacrificing and effective was he always in giving his service, so often called for by public interests.

He was a pattern of German-American citizenship—blending in himself the best traits of American character with the best of the German—a great American in enterprise and affection for this Republic, all a German in soul and true reverence for the old fatherland, the patriotic American with a German heart. He was a pattern of the master-manufacturer on whose heart the weal of his workmen lay as on a father's and who found in their contentment his happiness and pride.

And—what is in our day of special significance—he was a pattern as a rich man. I wish I could call the millionaires of the land to this bier and say to them, “Those among you who lament that at times poverty looks with mutterings on riches, learn from this dead man.” His millions were never begrudged him. The dark glance of envy never fell upon him. Covetousness itself passed him by disarmed and reconciled. Yes, every one would have rejoiced to see him still richer, for everyone knew that everything he got contributed to the welfare of all. No one fulfilled better than he the duties of wealth. There was no puffed-up pride of possession, no extravagant prank of display. Simple as ever remained his being, modest his mode of life. But he knew one luxury and he practiced it; that was the luxury of the liberal hand—a princely luxury, that few of the world's greatest have indulged in more richly than he.

I speak here not only of the gifts of large sums, of which the world knows, but of those much greater amounts that he spent quietly for his fellow-man and of which the world knows nothing. And it was not money alone that he gave. It was the hearty joy of the genuine benefactor, with which he bade the worthy welcome, and often anticipated their wants. It was the bright cheerfulness of the willing giver who could conceive no abuse of his generosity, who spared neither time nor pains, who let no business claims deter or disturb him, and who comforted and considered, thought and labored till the necessary aid was secured. How incredibly far that went, how great the number of those who looked upon Steinway as a kindly, never-failing support, how his labor of charity accumulated, sometimes till the whole capacity of an ordinary man would have been exhausted, that only his closest friends ever knew; and they hardly knew it at all. I have seen many men in my day, never a bigger heart. It is hard over this coffin so to speak the truth that it shall not seem exaggerated. Is it too much to say that in this man every human being has lost a brother?

He was the millionaire whom no one begrudged his riches. Nothing could reward more beautifully his good works than to have his noble example acknowledged by the rich of our day and to have the great lesson of his life understood and taken to heart in its full worth.

And what a friend and comrade he was. His inexhaustible sympathy, his loyal devotion, his childlike enthusiasm for the good and the beautiful, his joy in others' joy, his bubbling humor, his sunny cheerfulness—who that was near him has not been made happy and better by these qualities of his? He is a happy man who finds his happiness in the fortunes of others. So was he in truth one of the happiest of men.

And now, plucked away in the fulness of his energy, powers and strivings, he lies here before us dumb and still—in this hall in which he so loved to mingle with his friends, in which his voice so often rang out, in which he spent so many merry hours himself and made so merry for others. And here stand his children and relatives, bowed low by the blow of fate. Is it a comfort to them that their grief is shared? Truly, this consolation flows out to them in the richest streams, for hundreds and thousands are united in this common sorrow as one great family. The memory of this true nobleman will be green and blossoming in all our hearts, and his name will live in our imperishable reverence and affection.

  1. Remarks at his funeral in Liederkranz Hall, New York City, Dec. 2, 1896.