Harry Garfield Steele was born to a relatively poor family in Harrisonburg, VA, in September of 1881. The family later moved to Pittsburgh. Harry worked for some time as a clerk for the H.J. Heinz Company, and later for the Pittsburgh Transformer Company, of which he became a minority stockholder. Around 1920, Steele sold his interest in the company and moved his family to Pasadena, CA, where he bought a small interest in the U.S. Electrical Manufacturing Company. Steele eventually became the majority stockholder in this motor manufacturing company, and built the company to one of the major manufacturers of the industry. Steele married in 1904 the former Grace Cecelia Messner, with whom he had five children: Virginia (d. 1975), Harry (d. 1961), Barbara, Audrey, and Richard. [As of 1984 the three surviving children were living in Orange County, CA.] Harry Steele was an avid collector of ancient coins as well as of Chinese porcelains. He became interested in the latter during an extended trip to China and the Far East in 1936. Subsequently the Steeles taught themselves about the subject of Chinese ceramics and began to build their collection. A room in their Pasadena home was set aside to display the collection. Harry Steele died in 1942; the Steele collection of Chinese porcelains was donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1972 by his widow.