The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 9, February 26, 2017, Article 12


John Lupia submitted the following information from his   Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies for this week's installment of his series. Thanks! As always, this is an excerpt with the full article and bibliography available online. This week's subject is Ralph Randolph Barker of Newport, Rhode Island. -Editor

Ralph Randolph Barker Ralph Randolph Barker (1856-1913), was born on February 12, 1856, at Newport, Rhode Island, son of George Clarke Barker (1833-1903) and Mary Jane Chace Barker (1836-1866). He attended public school at Newport graduating in 1873. He entered his father's firm dealing in paint and home decorating. In 1877, his father made him a partner in the firm and changed the name to George C. Barker & Son.

Ralph Randolph Barker, ANA Member No. 41, is a mysterious figure in American numismatic history counted among the notable numismatists of Newport that included : Windfield Scott Sisson, Dr. Horatio R. Storer, Russell, and Edwin P. Robinson. Most American numismatists do not know who he was and are therefore uneasy when they come across anything bearing his name. Consequently it is not uncommon to find him variously listed in American numismatic literature as Ralph Barker or R. R. Barker;

1889-Woodward-Barker Coll It is uncertain, though possible, that the Barker Collection sold June 3-4, 1889, catalogued by Ed Frossard for W. E. Woodward and sold at Davis & Harvey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was that of the then thirty-three year-old Ralph R. Barker. There are two other equally viable candidates, however : L. C. Barker (ANA Member No. 123) of East Vassalboro, Maine, and Edward Barker (ANA Member No. 528) of Wakefield, Massachusetts. There, of course, may be a few others equally qualified to fit the criteria identifying them as this mysterious and rather ambiguous Barker whose collection Ed Frossard catalogued for Woodward who was too ill at that time. Where is the snarky loquacious Frossard with his commentary scattered throughout the catalogue when you need him most?!

On June 22, 1880, he married Minerva "Minnie" Stone (1860-1945), daughter of Jason P. Stone and Sarah Wicks Stone, in Providence, Rhode Island. Minerva was a direct descendant of Job Matteson (1758-1809) of Rhode Island, who was at the siege of Boston and was captured at Fort Washington, 1776. They had three children : Ralph Randolph Barker, Jr. (1883-1948), Mabel Chace Barker (1891-1901), and Laura Stone Barker Seabury (1894-1983), who married Raymond M. Seabury (1890-1960).

There are ninety pieces of correspondence with the Chapman Brothers from Ralph Barker currently catalogued in the Lupia Numismatic Library.

Barker, R. R. 1897-Dog postal cover

In the August 1892 issue of The Numismatist Ralph R. Barker is listed as ANA Member No. 111.

Barker was a member of the Newport Coin and Medal Club. In the June/July 1897 issue of The Numismatist it was reported that Barker owned all three varieties of the Rhode Island Medal.

In the April 1902 issue of The Numismatist he is reported owning a near complete set of all the $3 gold pieces except that of 1875.

In 1903, after the death of his father he began to publish his business as George C. Barker & Son, Ralph R. Barker, successor.

He consigned to the Chapman Brothers for their coin auction sale held July 7-8, 1904 at Davis & Harvey, Philadelphia, containing a Chalmers shilling and sixpence, Washington pieces, Betts medals Nos. 603 & 604, and many U. S. and foreign coins with an emphasis on English coinage.

He was the treasurer of the Newport Historical Society, and a Trustee of the United Congressional Church. His interest in native Rhode Island Indians led him to become a director of the Miantinomi Club. He was the director of the National Exchange Bank, Newport, Rhode Island, and also of the Island Savings Bank. He served as president of the Builders' and Merchants' Exchange. He was a director of the YMCA.

He died by committing suicide inhaling illuminating gas on February 26, 1913, at Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteenth century houses were plumbed, i.e., fitted with pipes for the conveyance and distribution of illuminating gas into rooms and halls. Apparently, Barker extinguished the flame and kept the gas valve opened gassing himself in an enclosed room. His wife, who just returned from visiting relatives in Providence, Rhode Island, found him dead in her sewing room. He was 57 years old. The medical examiner, Charles W. Steward, expressed the opinion that a recent illness affected his mind. He is buried at the Island Cemetery, Newport, Rhode Island.

His estate consigned the remainder of his coin collection to Henry Chapman which was sold on November 28-29, 1913, with the combined collections of J. L. Heffner, H. C. Bowman, and a Chicago Amateur.

To read the complete article, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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