He was the son of William Ropes, Sr. and his first wife.
He went to Russia in the late 1830s. He worked in the family firm at St Petersburg, where he met the Whistlers, and he became a partner in 1846. He later returned to Boston, where he retired. He was an arrogant character.
Harriet Ropes Cabot, 'The Early Years of William Ropes and Company in St. Petersburg,' American Neptune, MA, April 1963, vol.13, no. 2, pp. 136-39.