Joseph E. Ralph
(1863 – 1922)
Director, Bureau of Engraving and Printing
1908 – 1917
Joseph Ralph was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Joliet, Illinois. After school, he apprenticed in a steel works machine shop, eventually becoming an expert mechanic. Ralph was also prominent in union and political activities, which led to his appointment as Assistant Postmaster of the House of Representatives. He was later selected as Superintendent of Construction at Ellis Island, New York, and in 1892 he was named Deputy Collector for the Customs Department at the Chicago World’s Fair. Ralph first worked in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a plate cleaner in 1895 and then as the Custodian of Dies and Rolls in 1897. In 1906 he was appointed Assistant Director and upon the sudden death of Thomas Sullivan in 1908, he was chosen as Director. During his tenure, Ralph oversaw the construction of the Bureau’s new facility on 15th Street that opened in 1914 and still serves as the Bureau’s Main building. Although he resigned from the Bureau in 1917 to head a new banknote company, Ralph eventually went on to become the assistant to the president of the United States Steel Corporation. He died suddenly at age 59.