Stanley Steyer came from an enterprising and educated family, on both his father’s side and his mother’s side.
Stanley’s father, Siegfried (known at home by the Yiddish name of Shulim), was born in 1885 or 1886. His family lived in the town of Będzin (pronounced Bendzhin), a town near the border of the Prussian and Russian empires, and a center of Silesian coal mining and metallurgy. In the late nineteenth century, the number of Jews in Będzin reached about 45% of the city’s overall population. Jews participated in the city’s metal and steel industry, as well as in other commercial enterprises. Siegfried’s family owned a candy factory that may have supplied ingredients to the well-known Polish chocolate company, Wedel.
The Steyer family was economically comfortable. Siegfried was an acculturated Jew who spoke Polish, German, and Russian fluently. He began his career in banking, working his way up from an apprentice to an extremely well-paid financial officer.
Stanley’s mother, Salomea (known affectionately as Salcia, or Sala), was born in 1889 or 1890. During Salomea’s youth, her hometown, Kielce (pronounced Kyeltse), was located in Russian Poland. It was a rapidly developing city, with Jews involved in the limestone, wood, and leather industries. Salomea’s father’s family, originally from a line of rabbis, became quite wealthy with a tannery and leather-goods business. Her mother’s family were hat manufacturers, and proud Polish patriots. Salomea grew up in a traditionally observant Jewish household, with 7 siblings. In addition to school, she learned piano, and also assisted with the family leather-goods business. Among her sisters, Salomea was unique in this regard: they were not as entrepreneurially inclined as she was.
When Salomea was about 20, she met her future husband Siegfried, probably through a matchmaker. (Arranged marriages were common in traditional Jewish communities at the time.) Salomea left her hometown of Kielce and went to live with her new husband in Będzin. For his part, Siegfried adopted aspects of traditional Jewish life and practice.
By this time, Siegfried had transitioned into the leather goods business. He was refined and elegant, and traveled as far as Italy and the Adriatic. His business sense was visionary. Though the period of the First World War was devastating for many Jews in Poland, Siegfried kept his family afloat. In 1918, he went into business with his father-in-law. Siegfried, Salomea, and their two children, Stanley and Helena, moved to Salomea’s hometown of Kielce.