Published: April 13, 2021
William C Ketchum Jr, historian, author, educator, died at home in Rye, N.Y., on April 9. He had been in poor health for some time.
Ketchum was born in Columbia, Mo., in 1931. His father, W.C. Ketchum, was an engineering technician for the General Electric Company, and his mother, Mildred Roberts Ketchum, a homemaker who had trained as an art teacher.
Ketchum spent his formative years in the Albany, N.Y., area. After graduating from Union College in 1953 and Columbia Law School in 1956, he spent four years in the US Navy. He was a lieutenant and navigator on the USS Bexar in the Pacific and visited Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Following his discharge, he returned to New York City where he practiced law for 20 years. During this period, he began to research and write about Americana, eventually producing some 40 books in the field, including Early Potters and Potteries of New York State, which remains the definitive work on early New York ceramics, and American Folk Art of the Twentieth Century, which received the Ambassador of Honor Award from the English Speaking Union in 1984.
Over time, his activities included a long association with the American Folk Art Museum, teaching at the Museum’s Folk Art Institute and lecturing around the country. He also taught at NYU, the New School and other institutions. He is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Westchester County Historical Society.
As a knowledgeable dealer in antiques and folk art, Bill assembled a formidable collection of American pottery. His important New York state pieces have been donated to the New York State Museum.
Ketchum lived in Rye since 1982. Survivors include his wife, Erica Stoller; his son, Aaron Ketchum, daughter-in-law, Jill, and their children, Madeleine and Claire; step-children, Alison Yager and Ian Kipp, and their families; and a sister, Kate Ravenstein.
There will be no service. He was ever-grateful to the New York Public Library for access to information for his earliest historical research; in lieu of flowers, a donation to the NYPL may be considered in his name.
-Submitted by the family
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