The firm was founded in 1839 in Seesen, Germany by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who emigrated to America in 1851 and changed his surname to Steinway. By the 1860s they were the leading piano manufacturer in America. The innovations introduced by Steinway, including the cast-iron frame and overstringing, became a model for other piano manufacturers worldwide.
In 1866, Henry Steinway built Steinway Hall on 14th Street in New York City. It housed the firm's offices and showrooms on the first floor, and a large auditorium on the second floor which became a center of culture and music.
In 1880, Henry Steinway's son William Steinway established a company town, Steinway, Queens Co., New York, which later became part of Long Island City, and built piano factories and worker housing there.
Their success is reflected by their presence on the largest concert stages in the world. Steinway was for a time nearly the exclusive provider of high-end pianos. Their production now has been outnumbered by other firms such as Yamaha and Bösendorfer, with each brand having its loyalists. At the top of their success in the 1920s they sold more than 6,000 pianos a year. Steinway's long established reputation and hand-crafting set them apart from Yamaha, which uses mechanised production methods.
After long financial woes the firm was finally sold to CBS in 1972. CBS sold Steinway to Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. which finally sold it to Selmer in 1995. Only one member of the Steinway family currently still works for Steinway.