Born in Philadelphia; grandson of Robert Patterson and son of Robert Maskell Patterson. Graduate of the University of Virginia. Studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1840.
He became clerk of the Mint in June 1845. He served as acting director after the resignation of Eckert in April and again after the death of Pettit May 30, 1853.
He became secretary treasurer of the Fidelity Trust in 1868. He published a biography of Franklin Peale in 1875 and of William Dubois in 1881. He died in Philadelphia.
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Franklin Peale obituary written by Robert Patterson, extracted from the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 11, no. 81, pp. 597-604.
Obituary notice of William E. DuBois, extracted from the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 20 (1882).