John Randolph Clay (1808-1885) was a career American diplomat who served in Europe and Latin America in the period from 1830 to 1860. He was born into the Philadelphia family of Clays; reared in Virginia, he entered the bar there in 1828. He never practiced law. Clay served in various diplomatic capacities in the following places: Russia (1830-1837), Austria (1838-1845), Russia (1845-1847), and Peru (1847-1860). In 1861 he moved to England where he remained until his death in 1885; in 1865 he returned to Philadelphia for a visit. Randolph was married twice, first to Frances Ann Gibbs, and second to Jane Crawfurd; he had two sons, Harry Gibbs Clay and Randolph Clay, and a daughter, Mary Frances Clay. Joseph Ashmead Clay (1806-1881) was Randolph's older brother; his wife was Cornelia Clay. Joseph entered the bar in Philadelphia in 1827. He managed Randolph's affairs in Philadelphia and influenced his diplomatic appointments in Washington.
Joseph and Randolph developed an interest in mineralogy in their youth and collected avidly throughout their lives. Randolph sent in many specimens during his travels abroad, and Joseph collected American specimens for their cabinet and for exchange. Apparently, both secured specimens exclusively by purchase or exchange. Joseph maintained the cabinet in Philadelphia, and after his death it was given to the University of Pennsylvania.
Biographical information may be found in George Irvin Oeste, John Randolph Clay: America's First Career Diplomat, University of Pennsylvania, 1966.