Steel family

David Steel, I (1734 – 1799), British chart publisher, engraver, instrument-seller, bookseller, bookbinder, and vendor or patent medicines, was the son of William Steel, bookbinder. He was apprenticed to James Davidson, later a partner in the firm founded by Richard Mount and Thomas Page, colloquially called Mount and Page, publishers inter-alia, of the English Pilot and Greenvile Collins’s Coasting Pilot.

He married Ann Beauchamp in 1776, and began publishing nautical charts in 1782. His business was founded on the publication of his own technical nautical works and the list of the Royal Navy. The firm owned a navigation warehouse and opened a navigation school in 1799. Steel published a number of very important charts of British coastal waters, mostly compiled by John Chandler and Stuart Amos Arnold, but he was unable to challenge the dominance of rival firm Robert Sayer, which became Laurie and Whittle in 1794.

Following his father’s death, David Steel, II (1763 – 1803) took over the family business until his own untimely death at the age of 39. David II first began working at the Navy Office, before leaving that position to study law. He worked as a practicing barrister for several years, until the death of his father. David II married Penelope Winde on May 1, 1786. They had five children together. An obituary for David II in the Steel publication Navy List states that “of his character it may be said, that his ideas were most enlarged, his mind capacious and richly cultivated; his principles generous and manly; his eloquence nervous and impressive”.

David II’s widow, Penelope, then took over the family business, and married William Mason in 1806, with whom she continued the business. She moved the firm to 70 Cornhill in 1809 from Union Row, Tower Hill. By 1810 the supply of new charts had ceased, and John Purdy, who had apprenticed with David Steel I, left the firm to work with Laurie and Whittle, the Steel’s competitors. By 1814, Penelope Steel had entered into a business partnership with Stanley Goddard, a younger man, who would become her third husband, and renamed the firm Steel and Goddard. By June 1819, Goddard and the firm were bankrupt, and J. W. Norie and Company acquired their “case fixtures, stock in trade and copper plates”.