Born in Columbus. Ohio, Bill Steiff obtained his formal education in the Catholic schools of that state. His father, August, played an influential role in Bill's life. August was a manufacturer of fine and specialized German meat delicacies and young Bill learned the intricate and delicate blendings of spices and meat elements which eventually led to the establishment of his own large meat products plant in later years. August had been a Prussian cavalry officer and in his stables Bill acquired a deep and abiding knowledge of and love for fine horses. This extended into a career of breaking and training trotting, gaited, parade, and stock horses.
In 1912, Bill's expert knowledge of livestock in general won him a foreman job for the big Mac C. Bonne Cattle Company near Globe, Arizona. When the United States entered World War I, Bill quit this job to enlist in the Navy.
On being demobilized, he returned to Ohio. He opened his first retail meat markets in North Baltimore and later erected a modern meat-packing plant in the same area. A fire of mechanical origin completely razed the plant and the tremendous financial loss involved made rebuilding the plant impractical so he sold his retail stores and, in 1940, with his wife, Jane, left Ohio for California and a fresh start.
Bill bought a ranch near Lakeport and stocked it with cattle and a few horses. Jane encouraged an interest in purebred Corriedale sheep. With foundation stock from the Wes Wooden and Crane Ranches, he and Jane started a long-range breeding program with their initial flock. In 1950 they bought a ranch in Marysville, planted forty acres of permanent pasture, and enlarged their purebred flock to two hundred and fifty brood ewes. The offspring from these fine animals topped many a ram sale and some were bought by foreign breeders for shipment abroad.
Along with his profound love and respect for fine horseflesh, Bill Steiff had similar feelings for fine music. He was himself an accomplished accordionist.
On April 22, 1961, while attending his current consignment of Corriedales to the California Ram Sale, Bill died. It was a fitting setting for one whose career and emotions were so closely involved with livestock.