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 William H. Zinsser

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William H. Zinsser

  • Birth 1887
  • Death 20 Feb 1979 Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Burial Great Neck, Nassau County, New York, USA
  • Memorial ID 58260718

William H. Zinsser, former president of William Zinsser & Company, the oldest importer, processor and seller of unbleached shellac in the United States, died at his home in Manhattan yesterday, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old and lived at 580 Park Avenue.
He was president of the Lenox Hill Hospital from 1941 to 1952 and had served as a trustee. Under his leadership, the hospital grew steadily, expanding physically and in professional stature. Mr. Zinsser was also chairman of the 65th United Hospital Fund campaign for New York City in 1943.
After World War II, Mr. Zinsser was active in the effort to raise funds to build Lincoln Center. He was appointed by Mayor Robert F. Wagner to serve on the Art Commission of the City of New York, and in 1962 was appointed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Walked to His Office Daily

Despite his many volunteer pursuits, his first love was William Zinsser & Company. The company, at 516 West 59th Street, stayed on the same block for 115 years. For 65 years, until the firm moved to New Jersey in 1974, Mr. Zinsser walked to the office daily, a jaunty figure with silver hair and blue eyes, wearing a bow tie and a Panama hat in summer, and familiar, friendly figure in the neighborhood.
The business was begun by Mr. Zinsser's grandfather, the first William Zinsser, who brought a shellac formula from Baden, in southwest Germany, in 1849. His father, William 2d, inherited the business in the 1880's and Mr. Zinsser and his brother, Rudolph, took over the company in 1909. Rudolph Zinsser died in 1956.
Business was on the downgrade when Mr. Zinsser left Princeton University in his senior year to try to turn the company around. His instincts as a merchant turned out to be sound and his love affair with the company never faltered.
His son, William K. Zinsser, wrote of his father in “Five Boyhoods”: “When he discussed his business, I never felt that he regarded it as a venture for making money, but rather as an art to be practiced with imagination and nothing but the best materials. Quality was his passion.”
Although Mr. Zinsser's health was such at the age of 87 that he was unable to travel when the business moved to Somerset, N.J., he maintained a lively interest in the company — and in American business as a whole — until his death.

In 1916, he married Joyce Knowlton, of Brookline, Mass. Four years later, the young couple had a house built near the tip of Kings Point, then a sparsely settled section of Great Neck, L.I. Becoming involved in the affairs of the new community, he was elected president of the Great Neck Association, a small civic body that grew and flourished under his direction.
When Kings Point became an incorporated village in 1924 he was elected trustee and subsequently served as Mayor of the village for many years. He introduced the village's first zoning laws.
For most of his life Mr. Zinsser was an ardent Republican. In the last 20 years or so, he reversed the usual life cycle of conservatism and supported Democratic Presidential candidates, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey and President Carter.

Mr. Zinsser was a member and former president of the Yeamans Hall Club in Charleston, S.C., and belonged to the Century Association.
He was also a member of the University Club, where he had lunch almost daily. As chairman of its club activities committee during and after World War II, he saw a connection between the club's frail financial condition and the fact that no woman was allowed to step more than two feet inside the front door. Through his efforts, the club opened a women's dining room and bar — an innovation that by no means met with unanimous consent —and the club has been financially solvent ever since.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Zinsser is survived by three daughters, Mrs. Edward H. Waiworth Jr., of New Canaan, Conn., Mrs. Henry Z. Steinway of New York, and Mrs. Edgar J. Applewhite of Washington, D.C.
-The New York Times, February 21, 1979

Father of Nancy Zinsser Walworth (1918-2008), Polly Zinsser Steinway (1918-2009), Joyce Zinger Applewhite (1920-1996) and William Knowlton Zinsser (1922-2015).
His son, William Knowlton Zinsser (1922-2015), was a noted author. He was married in 1954 to Caroline Fraser Zinsser, an educator and historian.
His daughter, Nancy Zinsser Walworth (1918-2008) was the author of children's history books. She married Edward H. Walworth in 1944. He was Chairman of William Zinsser & Co.
His daughter, Polly Zinger Steinway (1918-2009) was married on Aug. 25, 1944 to Henry Ziegler Steinway of the Steinway & Sons Piano Co.
His daughter, Joyce Zinger Applewhite (d. 1996) was married to Edgar Jarratt Applewhite, a retired CIA officer and writer.

Family Members



I sleep but my heart keeps watch





  • Maintained by: squadron a association
  • Originally Created by: Dyane
  • Added: 6 Sep 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 58260718
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William H. Zinsser (1887–20 Feb 1979), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58260718, citing All Saints Cemetery, Great Neck, Nassau County, New York, USA ; Maintained by squadron a association (contributor 48454800) .