After school, Ralph apprenticed in a steel works machine shop, ultimately becoming an expert mechanic.
He was raised in Joliet, Illinois. He was active in union and political activities. By these connections, he became Assistant Postmaster of the United States House of Representatives.
He was later Superintendent of Construction at Ellis Island.
He worked for the United States Customs Service as Deputy Collector at the World"s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Ralph joined the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1895 as a plate cleaner.
In 1897, he became Custodian of Dies and Rolls. He was made Assistant Director of the Bureau in 1906.
Upon the sudden death of Thomas J. Sullivan in 1908, Ralph replaced Sullivan as Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
He resigned from the Bureau in 1917. After leaving government service, Ralph headed a banknote company. He later became assistant to the president of United States. Steel.
Ralph died suddenly in 1922 at age 59.