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E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers

 Collection 0134-MDHC

E. Roderick (1915-1984) and Arthur M. (1878-1955) Shipley, were members of an old land-owning family in Maryland; both pursued medicine as a professional career. The Shipley papers consist primarily of a materials documenting late nineteenth and early twentieth century life in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore, Maryland. Included in the collection are 570 picker's checks, tokens used to pay seasonal laborers for havesting crops, other farm-related artifacts, World War II memorabilia, playbills from 1901-1902 theater season in Baltimore, and photographs.


  • 1901-1975

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


0.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers consists primarily of artifacts and documents associated with late nineteenth and early twentieth century life in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore, Maryland. The majority of the collection cannot be precisely dated, but dated material ranges from 1901-1975. The principal component of the collection is E. Roderick Shipley's collection of pickers' checks. These artifacts may have been used as early as the 1880s and continued to be used until the 1930s. Documentation associated with this portion of the collection dates as late as 1975. This portion of the collection also contains documents and miscellaneous material associated with the pickers' checks.

During the period from approximately 1880 to 1930, an economic system based on the production of vegetable and fruit crops for sale in nearby urban centers developed in Anne Arundel County. One aspect of this system was the use of tokens by the farmers or landowners to pay seasonal laborers fro harvesting the crops. These tokens, called pickers' checks, were either exchanged for cash at intervals during the course of the season or were directly exchanged for goods at nearby stores. As an interstate system of paved roads developed in the twentieth century, the prices of crops produced in Anne Arundel County became less competitive in comparison to produce grown in other states. Consequently, the use of pickers' checks was entirely discontinued entirely sometime before World War II.

Documentary materials in the collection indicate that the majority of those engaged to pick crops in Anne Arundel County under this system were immigrants of Polish or other Eastern European descent, who lived south of Pratt Street in the Fells Point neighborhood of East Baltimore. Many of these workers were not fluent in English and were recruited and supervised by a rowboss, who acted as an interpreter and facilitator for the less experienced pickers; in many cases, it appears that the rowbosses exploited this system for their own gain. Women, children, or older people who did not hold other jobs in the city comprised most of this work force.

The Shipley collection pickers' checks are artifacts of this relationship between Maryland farmers and seasonal workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The documents in the collection interpret this tangible evidence of an economic system that formerly operated in the county. Written both during and after the period in which the checks were used, these notes and articles contain descriptions of the activities with which the checks were associated, recounted from the point of view of the farmers who grew the produce. The ideas and viewpoints of the people who were paid with the checks are not represented in the collection.

The collection also includes historic artifacts other than pickers' checks. These include several farm-related implements, a "magic" lantern with glass slides, buttons, a sleigh bell, and a book stamp. Several are directly associated with the Shipley family, and others are of uncertain or unknown association. In addition, there are several pieces of memorabilia related to Arthur M. Shipley's military service in World War I.

The remaining material in the Shipley Collection consists of ten play bills from the 1901-1902 theater season in Baltimore and 111 photographs. The subjects of the photographs are primarily related to pickers' checks but several images of family members and family homes are also included. Two of these photographs are of probable early twentieth-century origin, and the remainder post-date 1950.

Family History

The Shipley family's association with Maryland began with Adam Shipley's arrival from England in 1668. After serving several years as an indentured servant, Adam began to acquire land on the south side of the Severn River near Annapolis, thus beginning the Shipley family's close identification with this part of the state. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numerous Shipley family farms were located in the fourth and fifth districts of Anne Arundel County.

Five generations after Adam's arrival in the new world, Arthur M. Shipley was born in 1878 to Roderick O. and Wilhelmina Clark Shipley. Arthur graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1902 and served as Chief of Surgical Services for Evacuation Hospital #8 during World War I. After the war, Dr. Shipleyreturned to the University of Maryland as a professor of surgery, eventually retiring in1948. Dr. Shipley died in 1955.

E. (Edgar) Roderick Shipley was born in 1915. His mother, Edna Roberta Shipley, was the sister of Arthur Shipley. E. Roderick's father, Edgar Larkin Shipley, was a son of Larkin Rodolphus Shipley, a brother of Roderick O. Shipley. E. Roderick Shipley's maternal grandfather was Larkin Rodolphus Shipley, whose pickers' checks form a large portion of this collection.

E. Roderick Shipley graduated from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland with degrees in medicine. He did post-graduate work in surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. E. Roderick eventually became a General Surgeon and Associate Professor of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. He was also president of the Anne Arundel County Historical Society and of the Shipleys of Maryland. A Shipley family tree is available in print form. E. Roderick Shipley died in 1984.


The collections is organized as four series.

Series 1
Pickers' Checks
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The E. Roderick and Arthur M. Shipley papers were donated to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in December 1994 through the estate of E. Roderick Shipley.

Related Material

The Anne Arundel County Historical Society holds several collections of pickers' checks and associated materials at both their Glen Burnie and Severna Park branches. The Kesey Library , also associated with the Historical Society, holds documentary material that may aid the researcher.

In addition, the Marylandia and Rare Books Department of the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries holds several publications that may be of interest to those researching pickers' checks, farming in Anne Arundel County, or other related subjects. A volume titled Maryland Merchant Tokens was published by the Maryland Token and Medal Society in 1986 (MD FOLIO CJ4909.M3S33 1986). This volume contains images of many pickers' checks, including some of those in the Shipley collection. Genealogical information regarding the Shipley family in Maryland is contained in two volumes published by the Shipley clan. These books, published in 1938 and 1971, are titled The Shipleys of Maryland: A Genealogical Study, and The Shipleys of Maryland 1968; a study of the descendants of Adam Shipley of Yorkshire, England, who came to Annapolis in 1668 (MD STACKS CS71.S5567 1938 and MD STACKS CS71.S5567 1971 respectively). Other volumes of interest include a study of the use of child labor on berry and vegetable farms titled Berry and Vegetable Pickers in Maryland Fields (MD STACKS HD6247.A29U5) and two analyses of historic Baltimore neighborhoods that may have been the year-round homes for field laborers; these are titled Historical Analysis of Baltimore's Inner City Neighborhoods and Your Guide to Baltimore's Neighborhoods (MD STACKS F189.B1H4 and MD STACKS JS587.A2C58 1973).

Processing Information

The collection was received by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in December 1994. At that time, the collection was housed in seventeen cardboard boxes. The collection included approximately 180 books on general subjects. Antiquarian books were transferred to the Marylandia and Rare Books Department, and the remainder were placed in the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries general collection. Arthur M. Shipley's medical instruments and books were transferred to Special Collections at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. The remainder of the collection was retained and processed by the Archives and Manuscripts Department.

Following initial assessment, the collection was divided into the series discussed above. The original order of the collection was maintained as nearly as possible throughout processing.

The order of the portion of the pickers' check collection arranged by E. Roderick Shipley was not changed. All of the pickers' checks were placed in non-reactive sleeves for long-term storage, and associated inventory sheets were photocopied onto acid-free paper and placed into the binders. Printed articles and typewritten manuscripts grouped with the pickers' check collection were also photocopied onto acid-free paper and placed into the binders. Photographs in this portion of the collection were removed and replaced with Xerox copies on acid-free paper.

The remainder of the pickers' check materials not arranged in binders by E. Roderick Shipley consisted of 2544 loose pickers' checks in a variety of containers. A representative sample of these checks was separated and placed in non-reactive sleeves at the end of the portion of the collection arranged by E. Roderick Shipley. Corroded or damaged checks were separated to prevent damage to stable materials. The remaining loose checks have been placed in acid-free boxes and stored with their associated containers.

All items in Series 1 and 2 have been placed in the memorabilia collection. Photographic negatives, prints, and slides were packaged in non-reactive sleeves or other containers and were then transferred to the photograph collection. All newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper, and the originals were destroyed.

The playbills that comprise Series 3 were placed in acid-free folders and in an acid-free box.

Guide to the E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers
Processed by James H. Harmon.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742