Ames Art Pottery Company

Summer travelers through Ames between 1935 and about 1940 often stopped to purchase locally-made ceramics from a business located at 505 East Lincoln Way.  This shop, Ames Art Pottery Company, was run by William Karl “Bill” Zinszer who drove up from Hays, Kansas each year to create and sell his pottery.  He rented space in the building for his kiln, located in the backroom, and a sales area in the front portion.  After the war, Bill was superintendent at the Livermore brick plant in California from 1946-1948.  Later, he managed the Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Brick Plant until his son took over the job.  Bill (1914-2000) was the second son of Harvey Alfred Zinszer, a faculty member at Fort Hays State University from 1929 until his retirement in 1957 as head of the Physics Department.

Longtime Ames resident, Delmar Woodward, came to town from State Center in June of 1940.  This 19-year-old youth had heard of a summer job opening for an assistant in a pottery shop.  According to Delmar, local clay was not used for pottery making, but was trucked in.  Although Bill Zinszer made some articles by hand using the traditional potter’s wheel, most production was from molds.  Delmar’s chores included mixing clay, pouring it into molds and placing the pieces into the walk-in kiln.  After being glazed by Bill and fired, the finished pieces were set up on wooden planks along the curbside to catch the eyes of motoring tourists.  Delmar worked six days a week, earning one dollar a day.  From these wages, he spent $2 a week for lodging and $2 a week for food.

Ames Art Pottery Company products usually took the form of utilitarian objects such as the bowls and pitchers illustrated.  Some pieces were marked on the bottom with a rubber stamp of the company’s name.  Many, however, were left unmarked.  Because of this, it is often difficult to identify pieces made by this shop.  Ames Historical Society would be interested in examining and acquiring representative articles held by local collectors as well as learning more about this short-lived business venture.