William Steig was born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1907. His father was an Austrian immigrant house painter, who had a love for the fine arts, as did his mother. Steig was inspired by his creative family --- he was given his first lessons by his older brother, Irwin, a professional artist. As a young man, Steig found an outlet for his talent by creating cartoons for the high school newspaper. After high school graduation, Steig spent two years at City College, three years at the National Academy, and five days at the Yale School of Fine Arts before dropping out.
Steig's father went broke during the Depression and, as his older brothers were married and his younger brother only seventeen, Steig had to support the family. The only thing he could do well (and enjoy) was drawing. Steig began selling his pictures and cartoons around New York City, eventually becoming one of the main cartoonists for the magazine The New Yorker. He was not content with just being a cartoonist though; he also became famous for carving wood figurines, working in advertising and creating the idea of the contemporary greeting card. Writing children's books was never Steig's idea; instead he was asked to write one by a fellow cartoonist at The New Yorker. The result was Steig's letter-puzzle book entitled C D B!, published in 1968.
Steig passed his father's ideas about art and work on to his own children by encouraging them never to take nine-to-five jobs: his son Jeremy is a jazz flautist, daughter Lucy a painter, and Maggie an actress.
Steig died in 2003 at the age of 95.