A typically meticulous and revealing post by Michael Lorenz, on the subject of Beethoven's wills, sent me on an extended detour, the endpoint of which was the curious case of Beethoven's grand-nephew, Ludwig van Beethoven, otherwise known as Louis von Hoven. He was the son of Beethoven's beloved nephew, Karl, that unhappy figure who gave the composer no end of worry. Ludwig seems to have been a more energetic and determined character, though somewhat lacking in moral fibre. The most thorough account of his sketchy life can be found in Paul Nettl's article "Beethoven's Grand-Nephew in America," published in 1957 in Music & Letters.
Ludwig was born in Vienna in 1839. In his late teens and early twenties, he was in the employ of King Ludwig II, recommended by none other than Wagner. He perpetrated various frauds, including an escapade in which he passed himself off as the composer's grandson, under the name Baron von Beethoven. Facing a prison sentence, he fled to America in 1871. Stateside, he traveled widely with his wife, Marie, who seems to have been a pianist of considerable ability; for a time, he found work with the Michigan Central Railroad. Having taken the name von Hoven, in order to escape his misdeeds in Munich, he found temporary prosperity as an inventor and as an impresario of various enterprises. According to Nettl, his most successful venture was the Commissionaire Company, a red-cap messenger service on the European model; branches of this business opened in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia in 1874 and 1875. He also ran a scheme renting wheelchairs to elderly people at what Nettl identifies as the New York World Fair. I wonder whether he means the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where a "Roll-Chair Company" did business. Searching Internet archives, I found two more traces. One is a taxi-meter patent attributed to a Louis von Hoven of Philadelphia; it may be the same man, since von Hoven is known to have been living in Philadelphia at this time.
In the late 1870s, evidence of von Hoven becomes scarce, but he seems to have returned to Europe for several extended periods. Nettl last glimpses him in 1890, in Paris, where he was said to be ill and destitute. His time and place of death are unknown. He had a son named Karl, who died in a Viennese military hospital in 1917. Thus ended the Beethoven name.