Ralph Emerson Carpenter, Jr., born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on October 6, 1909, died February 2, 2009, was a noted expert on Colonial American furniture and decorative art and a published author. A descendant of the noted Carpenter founding family of colonial Rhode Island, for more than a half century, he was actively involved in the restoration of some of Newport, Rhode Island's defining structures. Two of his books, The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640-1820, published in 1954, and The Fifty Best Historic American Houses, Colonial and Federal, published in 1955, are credited with bringing American colonial design international recognition.
He graduated from Cornell University in 1931 with a degree in mechanical engineering, but became an insurance and investment banking executive in New York City, retiring as senior vice president of a securities firm in 1978. In retirement, he used his expertise in and encyclopedic knowledge of the decorative arts and antiques to become a senior American decorative arts consultant, a position he held for 30 years. In 1999, his accomplishments were honored with the Henry Francis du Pont Award for the Decorative Arts.