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Theodore Steinway: Virtuoso Philatelist
Steinway name is well known to most Americans. This distinguished American
family is famed for their manufacture of quality pianos, and in
world, the name "Steinway" is synonymous with excellence. The
Steinway pianos were crafted by hand; quality was always the primary
concern. Few American manufacturers any longer place such an emphasis
on quality as the Steinways did with their pianos.
Theodore E. Steinway was born in 1883.
He joined the Collectors Club of New York in 1912. In 1922, he
provided the funds for the Collectors Club to purchase the extensive
philatelic library assembled by Chief Justice Suppantschitsch This
was a momentous step for the Collectors Club, and from that time
their philatelic library became and has remained one of the most
extensive in the world. Fittingly, after his death, the Theodore
E. Steinway Memorial Publications Fund was established by the Collectors
Club in his memory.
Theodore E. Steinway saw the importance of careful
scholarship and philatelic literature for the future of the hobby.
He also saw the importance of establishing and maintaining standards
of integrity. In 1945, he joined with the other prominent American
philatelists and became an original incorporator of The Philatelic
Foundation. PF co-founder Alfred F. Lichtenstein, who was the first
Chairman of the Foundation's Expert Committee, was a close personal
friend. From 1950-52, succeeding Admiral Frederick R Harris, Steinway
became the third Chairman of the PF's Expert Committee.
his tenure, the PF's headquarters was located on the fourth floor of
the Collectors Club, one of the places nearest and dearest to his
older philatelists might still remember the "Theodore E. Steinway
Nights" there, an annual event that insured a "standing room
only" crowd. Steinway had a flair for theatrics and was an accomplished
amateur actor. These skills were put to good use when he spoke on any
topic relating to philately.
Mr. Steinway in one of his favorite spots, the library
floor of the Collectors Club
As Chairman of the Expert Committee, Mr. Steinway
demanded attention to detail and perfection. Just as his family's
pianos had become the most respected in the world, he insisted
on the highest level of professionalism and quality for The Philatelic
Foundation. He was a "take charge" Chairman, and inspired
others to work with the same dedication that he exemplified in
his own life. He continued to bolster the standards of excellence
that have remained the cornerstone of the PF, was a genuine ambassador
of goodwill for the PF and for philately.
No matter how busy he was, he was always willing
to give of his time to help others. He participated as a judge
and an executive in numerous international philatelic exhibitions.
He and Alfred F. Lichtenstein were the galvanizing forces behind
the 1947 Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition (CIPEX).
Following Mr. Lichtenstein's untimely death in 1947, Theodore E.
Steinway served as Chairman of the jury at CIPEX.
As for his collecting habits, Linn's World Stamp
Almanac describes him as the "Renaissance Man" of American
philately because of the scope of his collecting interests. Henry
M. Goodkind called him "the true old-time collector, always
enjoying to assemble as many stamps as possible." His most
famous collection was his specialized study of the "Sydney
Views" of New South Wales. Of German descent, he also prided
himself on his major collections of Hamburg and old German States.
Mr. Steinway also built a significant collection of stamps with "socked-on-the-nose" cancellations.
He did not seek to follow the herd, but sought his own directions
in his philatelic pursuits.
Interestingly, some of his collections became harbingers
of future developments in the hobby. Mr. Steinway was perhaps the
first prominent philatelist to embrace topical or "thematic" collecting.
Perhaps his most favorite collection was the one that merged his
vocation with his avocation, a large and important collection of
stamps and covers relating to his family business — music on stamps.
In all reports and reminiscences of Mr. Steinway,
several things stand out. He reached a level of competence, if
not excellence, in all traditional and scholarly aspects of philately.
He blazed paths that future generations of philatelists would follow.
But, Mr. Steinway's most unique and extraordinary qualities were
those of his personality. Theodore E. Steinway was a kind, caring
and generous human being. He did not enter and rise in the world
of philately in order to gratify personal ambition or to show off
his own superiority or to seek financial gain.
He exemplified the spirit that has made philately
the greatest hobby in history. He saw philately as a means of sharing
experiences with his fellow man and enriching the quality of life.
For all his tireless devotion to the hobby and its betterment,
he never lost perspective. He was a devoted family man, and took
great joy in his familial roles as husband, father and later grandfather.
The well-being of his family and the education of his six children
took priority over new acquisitions for his stamp collections.
Also, in a hobby too often dominated by elitism and
cliques, Steinway went out of his way to embrace the newcomer.
He always found time to be helpful and encouraging to younger philatelists.
He saw that the great philatelists of tomorrow are the beginning
collectors of today. On April 8, 1957, philately mourned the passing
of Theodore E. Steinway at the age of 73. After his death, most
people learned of the true level of his self-sacrifice and generosity
for the first time. On numerous occasions he had helped collectors
who were having financial difficulties; he had quietly made the
financial arrangements for promising philatelists to attend important
international exhibitions and gain international judging experience
when they were not otherwise financially able.
His son, John H. Steinway, carried on the Steinway
philatelic tradition, and he too served on the Board of Trustees
of The Philatelic Foundation. John H. Steinway passed away on August
29, 1989 at the age of 72.