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Ralph Inman, portrait by John Singleton Copley, ca. 1770. Courtesy, Boston Athenaeum

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Ralph Inman, Portrait

Ralph Inman, the third husband of Elizabeth Murray, was a prominent merchant in Boston for many years, with a warehouse located on one of the town's many wharves. He also had an estate in Cambridge and became a noted Loyalist.

Ralph Inman met and befriended Elizabeth Murray during her first few years as a shopkeeper and indeed offered her a generous letter of credit when she visited England in 1754 to select merchandise for her shop. Her merchant friends in London dissuaded her accepting that offer, urging her instead to request more assistance from her brother James. At the time, he was married. During the 1760s, after Ralph became a widow, he frequently dined with and occasionally traveled with Elizabeth and her second husband, James Smith.

When Ralph and Elizabeth married in 1771, they completed a prenuptial agreement. Later, during the Revolutionary War, they tangled over family and political matters.

This pastel portrait by colonial artist John Singleton Copley was commissioned in 1771, three years before Copley left Boston for good. The wig and clothing are suggestive of Ralph Inman's affluence and interest in British fashion.

For more on Ralph Inman, see Patricia Cleary, Elizabeth Murray: A Woman’s Pursuit of Independence in Eighteenth-Century America, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.

For other Copley portraits, see those of Dorothy Murray, ca. 1759-1761, James Smith, ca. 1763, and Mrs. James Smith (Elizabeth Murray), ca. 1769. See also a 1759 advertisement, below those of Elizabeth [Murray] Campbell and Jane Day, a photograph of his Cambridge estate, and an account of a 1772 party at his home.