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E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers


E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers
Shipley, E. Roderick and Arthur M.
Collection number:
0.25 linear feet
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

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 collection consists 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.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

E. Roderick and Arthur Shipley papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

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.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Shipley Collection 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.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

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

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by James H. Harmon, June 1995.

Processing note:

The collection was received by the Archives and Manuscripts Department of 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 collection that was 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 I and II 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 III were placed in acid-free folders and in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Henry Allen, August 2004.

Arrangement of Collection

The collections is organized as four series

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Pickers' Checks, 1880-1975 (5 binders)

This series consists primarily of pickers' checks issued or collected by the Shipley family from the late nineteenth century through the 1970s. This series consists of several parts. The first is a compilation of 570 checks arranged by E. Roderick Shipley into five binders also containing explanatory text, associated documents, photographs, and printed materials about pickers' checks. Photographs originally in this part of the collection have been separated and transferred to Series IV. Photocopies of these materials have been placed in the binders.

These checks were obtained primarily through E. Roderick Shipley's connections in the Anne Arundell County Historical Society or through trade or purchase. The organizing principle appears to be the name of the person whose initials appear on the face of the checks, but there is some variation in this classification system. This portion of the collection exhibits the largest numbers of unique checks and the greatest degree of morphological variation. The vast majority of these checks are associated with Anne Arundell County or other Maryland locations, but there are two store tokens from Louisiana, several commemorative medals and coins, and a circa 1900 Token from a Los Angeles, California, brothel.

The second part of the collection consists of twenty-nine pickers' checks that have been placed at the end of the part arranged by E. Roderick Shipley. Most of these checks are associated with Shipley family farms, primarily of the L.R.S. (Larkin Rodolphus Shipley) and R.O.S. (Roderick O. Shipley) varieties. Several additional Anne Arundell County farmers are represented as well. The value of these checks ranges from one to one hundred, with both volume and checks included. Several of these checks are corroded or otherwise damaged.

The pickers' checks are primarily made of brass, but the collection also includes checks made from cardboard, aluminum, zinc, or other unidentified metals. There is no apparent connection between the value of the material of which the individual checks were composed and the value assigned to them. In addition, there is no patterned correlation between the size and weight of each check and its assigned value. There is some variation in the thickness of the checks, but there is no evidence that this variation is tied either to value or age.

The majority of the checks are circular in form. However, oval and semi-oval checks are also present in relatively large quantities. Cloverleaf shapes, squares, diamond shapes, and other variant shapes are also present, but in much smaller quantities. The checks also vary in edge decoration and edge treatment. Edge decoration consists of two types. The more predominant consists of an embossed bead pattern around the edge of the checks. The other type consists of embossed vertical, parallel lines similar to those on U.S. currency. Several classes of the checks exhibit no edge decoration of either type. Edge treatments include scalloping in rough and smooth forms. The scalloped edge in both forms is usually associated with oval or semi-oval checks rather than the predominant round type.

Stamped initials and values are the usual surface treatment of the checks. In the part of the collection that was organized by E. Roderick Shipley, the initials stamped on the checks are usually those of the farmer on whose land the crops were grown. However, there are some checks associated with stores or packing houses, and these have more elaborate surface treatment. In addition to the initials, a numerical value is stamped on the face of each check. This number corresponds either to an amount of produce picked or to a monetary value. A unique surface treatment associated only with the R.O.S. (Roderick O. Shipley) checks is an embossed double arrow. In addition, the initials R.O.S. are embossed rather than stamped on the checks.

The checks are all roughly from the same chronological period and were known to have been used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of the documentary materials in the binders suggest that the larger and simpler checks are of earlier origin, but at present there is no direct data to support this assertion.

The final part of this series consists of several items apparently originally associated with the pickers' checks. These include a plastic paperweight with pickers' checks embedded in it and a coin commemorating the U.S. Frigate Constellation. Also included within this portion of the series is a steel dye used in creating the R.O.S. Checks.

The pickers' checks and other items discussed above have been transferred to the memorabilia collection (#969-973)

The box inventory for this series is not currently available online. Please refer to the series description above for a broad description of the materials or contact the department for more information.

Series 2: Memorabilia, late nineteen-early twentieth centuries (42 items)

Series II consists of two types of material, souvenirs, or memorabilia related to Arthur M. Shipley's World War I service and several domestic antiques that were the property of Shipley family members.

A total of eleven items associated with Arthur M. Shipley's World War I service are included. Personal gear includes a helmet and canteen, and unidentified cord-wrapped leather object that appears to be part of a decorative tassel, and an American-made leather razor strop. Two bayonets and a .45 caliber Webley revolver and leather holster may also be directly associated with Arthur Shipley. The remaining material consists of a hand grenade of probable American manufacture, two German-made 42 millimeter shells with drilled-out explosive heads, and the brass cartridge from a German 88 millimeter artillery shell.

A somewhat anomalous object in this series is a single round cannonball, probably of Civil War vintage. It was originally placed with the World War I memorabilia, but it substantially predates Arthur Shipley's military service. It may have been collected by a member of the Shipley family and then placed with other World War I memorabilia.

The largest object in this series is a "magic" lantern. This device, of late nineteen or early twentieth century origin, was used to project images on glass slides onto a screen or other viewing surface. This specimen is constructed of red-painted sheet metal and is attached to a wooden base. A glass globe and brass burner comprise the remainder of the lantern's parts. The handle of the burner is embossed with the inscription "Flachbrenner*Weiner," indicating a probable German origin for the object. The lantern is housed in a wooden box marked, "Uncle Ship's Magic Lantern."The series also includes twenty-two glass slides for use with the lantern. These slides are from two sets. The slides from the first of these are lined with material that matches the color of the lantern and contain colored images of semi-realistic pastoral, town, and ocean scenes. The second set contains colored images of multicolored but much less realistic images of people and animals, perhaps of circus scenes. The imagers on the slides are fading and flaking from the surface of the glass.

Several domestic or farm-related artifacts have also been placed in this series. These materials include a hand-carved, green painted, softwood scoop of unknown function and a three part butter mold or press with a symmetrical wheat shock design. The approximate capacity of this press is one-half pound. Two possible associated circular mold stamps are also included. One of these is carved with a swan surrounded by a floral motif, and the other has an annular floral decoration.

E. Roderick Shipley's book stamp has been placed in this series as well. Approximately 1.75" by 2.25", this stamp consists of a cut metal plate attached to a wooden block. The design of the stamp includes a lighthouse and ocean scene and the inscriptions "Books-Lighthouses erected in the great Sea of Time" and "E. Roderick Shipley His Book."

The remaining two artifacts in this series are a 7/8" diameter brass button embossed with "B & A", and a 1.25" iron sleigh bell. The association of these artifacts is uncertain.

These items have been transferred to the memorabilia collection (#974-993).

The box inventory for this series is not currently available online. Please refer to the series description above for a broad description of the materials or contact the department for more information.

Series 3: Playbills, 1901-1902 (10 items)

This series consists of ten playbills for programs presented at three Baltimore theaters: Ford's, Nixon and Zimmerman's, and Chase's. Nine of these are from the 1901-1902 theater season in Baltimore, Maryland. The last is undated but is also from Baltimore and appears to be roughly contemporary with the others. The covers of two of the playbills are annotated with handwritten verse or prose. These materials cannot be directly associated with any Shipley family member, but they may have been the property of Arthur M. Shipley. The playbills are grouped together by theater.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Playbills, 1901-1902 series 3box 1folder 1
Playbills, 1901-1902 series 3box 1folder 2
Playbills, 1901-1902 series 3box 1folder 3

Series 4: Photographs, ca. 1900-1970s (111)

This series consists of black and white and color prints and slides. A total of twenty-five negative strips and squares are also included.

Most are directly associated with the pickers' check displays, sheds or barns associated with farms where the checks were used, or houses of the farmers whose checks are in the collection. Five of these photos were removed from the pickers' checks collection described in Series I above.

Other photographs in this series are images of Roderick. O. Shipley, Shipley family homes, and antiques possibly owned by the family. A single photograph of an early Shipley family member, Amy Shipley Hawkins, is also included.

The final item in this series is a large format (approximately 12" x 17") black and white photograph mounted on cardboard. It depicts a group of people in front of a series of tents and may be a Wesley Grove camp meeting, family reunion, or other relatively large gathering. Although undated, clothing styles suggest a late nineteenth or early twentieth century date for this photograph.

All of the photographs have been transferred to the photograph collection.

The box inventory for this series is not currently available online. Please refer to the series description above for a broad description of the materials or contact the department for more information.

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).

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


Names (Added Entries)