Bill 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.
Bill spent his formative years in the Albany, NY, area. After graduating from Union College in 1953 and Columbia Law School in 1956, he spent 4 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 Bill’s 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.
Bill lived in Rye since 1982. Survivors include his wife, Erica Stoller; 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.
He was ever-grateful to The New York Public Library for his earliest historical research. There will be no service.