William C. Steigers, who has passed the seventy-fiftb milestone on life’s journey, has through an extended period been closely identified not only with the business development but with the civic progress of St. Louis and has the distinction of being the oldest living past exalted ruler of St. Louis Lodge, No. 9, B. P. O. E., his identification therewith dating from 1882. St. Louis numbers him among her native sons, his birth having here occurred September 15, 1845, on Market street between Third and Fourth streets and the house is still standing, his parents being Francis I. and Sarah (Price) Steigers. The father was engaged in the wholesale and retail grocery business and spending his youthful days under the parental roof William C. Steigers attended the Wyman school and afterward the Christian Brothers College, the, Laclede and Washington schools and other educational institutions of St. Louis, until September, 1862, when he enlisted in the Eighth Missouri Regiment at the age of seventeen years, or one year before the youth of the country is regarded as of military age. The south was conscripting, the north drafting and every volunteer, regardless of age, was welcomed as a hero if he could carry a gun. The war was being fiercely waged and the air was surcharged with patriotic excitement. No boy born for a life of strenuous action as was young Steigers could breathe such atmosphere and put aside his yearning to begin the doing of manly things. His elder brother, Dr. A. F. Steigers, was a surgeon in the United States regular army and continued in that service for thirty years, or from 1861 until his death in 1891, at which time as a surgeon he was connected with the Medical Corps of the army at Washington, D. C.
William C. Steigers left the schoolroom to join the army and was with his regiment in many hotly contested engagements, including Arkansas Post and the siege of Vicksburg, resulting finally in the opening up of the Mississippi river. Before the capitulation of Vicksburg, however, positions in the field signal service had been offered to the candidates of the various regiments who could pass the best scholarship examination. Being just out of school Mr. Steigers was an easy winner as the candidate of the Eighth Missouri. Signal work brought him into close communication with Grant and other famous commanders, but it involved extremely arduous and dangerous service at times. One hot day, late in the summer of 1863, an amount of hard riding that wore out two horses sent him prostrated to the hospital. A serious illness followed and when he left the hospital in October, 1863, it was with an honorable discharge from the army on account of physical disability.
Immediately after reaching home Mr. Steigers secured a position in the Eagle Foundry as bookkeeper and on the 12th of April, 1868, made his initial step in the newspaper field as collector for the Evening Dispatch. He was soon advanced to the position of advertising manager and continued to act in that capacity until he resigned and became the advertising manager of the St. Louis Morning Times, published by Stilson Hutchins, in January, 1872. After filling this position on the Times for several years he resigned and became the advertising manager of the Evening Post in July, 1878. He was retained in the same position by the Post-Dispatch after the consolidation of the two papers on the 12th of December, 1878, continuing thus to serve until October, 1895, when Mr. Pulitzer employed him as advertising manager on the New York World, pending a suit for the recovery of the Post-Dispatch from the control of Charles H. Jones. Upon the latter’s surrender of his interest in June, 1897, Mr. Steigers resumed his old position on the Post-Dispatch and his contribution to the phenomenal prosperity since attained by that paper has been recognized by his promotion to the positions he now fills as business manager, director and second vice president.
On the 4th of September, 1896, Mr. Steigers was married to Miss Helen Martha Wadsworth, daughter of Charles Chester Wadsworth, the latter a nephew of General James Wadsworth of New York. Mrs. Steigers’ mother was an own cousin of Sir Robert Peel, long the premier of the United Kingdom. The death of his father in 1863 left to Mr. Steigers’ care a widowed mother and a younger brother and sister, all now deceased.
It would hardly be possible to name any public welfare organization of St. Louis in which Mr. Steigers has not been actively interested. He has done important work in support of the plans and measures of the Business Men’s League, the Civic Improvement League and the Million Club of St. Louis and he was one of the early promoters and supporters of the World’s Fair movement, becoming a director of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company and acting as a member of its publicity committee. As stated, he is the oldest past exalted ruler of St. Louis Lodge, B. P. O. E., having been a faithful follower of the teachings of this organization since he became one of its members on the 2d of April, 1882. He has for some years been a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the New York Athletic Club, also the Missouri Athletic Club, the Glen Echo Club, the St. Louis Club, the Sunset Hill Country Club, the Midland Valley Club, the Century Boat Club, the City Club and the Million Population Club.
Born a child of her business life when St. Louis was only a big river village on the outer verge of civilization and remote from railways, Mr. Steigers has been, through his adult life, a strong and earnest factor in the evolutionary activities that have converted his native town into the great St. Louis of today. Advertising her business interests has been his chosen personal occupation for fifty-three years and how to promote them his constant study. This brought him into close daily relations with men in every commercial or industrial line of enterprise. His alert and forceful personality impressed itself upon all, while his fair-mindedness and fidelity to all obligations won and retained their confidence. In his own line of business, therefore, he has made a most enviable record of unrivaled success, and that, too, without allowing personal interest or ambition to dwarf his public spirit or activities. It is the record of a strenuous life-the record of a strong individuality, sure of itself, stable in purpose, quick in perception, swift in decision, energetic and persistent in action. His feelings have ever found expression in prompt action rather than in blank-cartridge professions. When war broke out between the north and south, he didn’t stay at home to sympathize with either, but pitched in with the first regiment that would accept a seventeen-year-old boy as a soldier.
It goes without saying that a man born with such a high-pressure momentum has never been a deadhead in his relations to the interests of his native city, but rather a wheel-horse in every public welfare movement of his time; that, too, without seeking official favors or desiring any preferment outside of the private calling to which he had devoted his life. It is enough for him that his early business friends are still his friends; that relations established long ago with business concerns in old St. Louis shops have remained unbroken, while those same concerns were growing into gigantic department stores, occupying acres on acres of floors in enormous modern structures. Finally, if he seeks further proof that his life and labors were not in vain he finds it in the magnificent prosperity of his native city and of the newspaper which had less than two thousand circulation when be began to work for it fifty-three years ago, and now circulates an average of over one hundred and seventy-five thousand copies daily and three hundred and sixty thousand Sundays while he presides over its business management and is the second vice president, and a member of the board of directors of the Pulitzer Publishing Company, publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.