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Gottlieb A. Steiner (1844-1916), a Civil War veteran of Swiss descent, grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He rose up and became a wealthy executive with the Scheonberger Steel Company. He retired in about 1900 to concentrate on a pursuit he loved – traveling the western United States and Canada with his wife Elizabeth and collecting Native-American woven baskets. At that time there was a “basket craze” among wealthy collectors and the more intricate baskets were well sought after. Full Size
Steiner purchased many of his valuable baskets from Abe and Amy Cohn of the Emporium Company in Carson City NV. The Cohn’s had discovered that their own housemaid Louisa Keyser or “Dat-so-la-lee” (c1844-1925), a Native American of the Washoe Tribe, was a skilled basket weaver and she went on to achieve national prominence. Her “Beacon Lights” basket, acquired by Steiner in about 1905, is considered one of the most well-known and valuable baskets of all time. (c1905) Full Size
In 1915 Steiner loaned a large portion of his collection for display in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. After Steiner passed away in February 1916 his youngest daughter Elsa Steiner Huff (1881-1988) continued to acquire baskets, until the collection numbered about 555 baskets and other associated items. In 1937 the Carnegie Museum returned the basket collection and the Steiner family subsequently stored them away in protective cases for the next three decades. In the late 1960’s Elsa Steiner Huff decided to build a museum (shown above) on her property to once again display her father’s unique basket collection. (c1980) Full Size
The museum was designed by Elsa’s son William S. Huff, an architect by trade. It was located on the remote and historic Kennedy-Steiner-Huff property located along the Slippery Rock Creek – where Frew Mill Road intersects Grant City Road. The property was acquired as a summer home by Gottlieb Steiner back in about 1910. The private museum was opened in 1972 and only available for visits upon special permission from the Steiner-Huff family. Before Mrs. Huff passed away in 1988 her children decided (with some dispute among themselves) to shutter the museum and sell off the valuable collection. The Kennedy Mill property was subsequently sold as well and the vacant museum building was razed in recent years. (1972) Full Size
A view of the inside of the G. A. Steiner museum. (c1980)
Another view inside of the unique museum. (1972)
In the mid-1980’s the children of Elsa Steiner Huff began somewhat bitter discussions to sale the basket collection. The bulk of the collection was sold to a dealer out west, who unfortunately turned around the resold the baskets individually at great profit to himself. Several other baskets went to a museum at Yosemite National Park and William S. Huff kept (acquired at great cost) the four most valuable baskets to honor his grandfather’s achievements. Eventually, two of those, including Dat-so-la-lee’s “Beacon Lights” (shown above), went to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown NY, while the other two went to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. (c2010) Full Size