Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Earl Shaffer Papers

Collection ID:
Shaffer, Earl V., 1918-2002
bulk 1803 - 2007, undated
Collection text is in
Physical Description:
16 Cubic feet
50 boxes, 15 map folders
This collection contains the trail diaries, papers, photographs and slides, and writings of Earl V. Shaffer, the man credited with being the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (AT). His complete trail hikes took place in 1948, 1965, and 1998. He was also a hiking and nature enthusiast and advocate.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection contains correspondence, trail diaries (including those from Shaffer's 1948, 1965 and 1998 hikes of the Appalachian Trail), maps and trail guides, writings (most notably drafts of Walking With Spring), galley proofs from his final book Calling Me Back to the Hills, and printed material from hiking and environmental organizations. The collection contains items relating to Shaffer's early life and education, such as diplomas, a baptismal certificate, papers from his years in elementary school, and materials relating to his Army service. One extremely important item found in Series 5 is an article by Benton MacKaye (founder of the AT) that is inscribed to Earl from the author. The bulk of the collection spans the years 1903-2002. There is one item from 1803 (a land deed) and one item each, compact discs, from 2004 and 2007. The collection is divided into five series. Addendums were donated in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2012 consisting of additional letters and poetry, and a book of poetry entitled South of the Sunset.

This collection is divided into five series.
Series 1: Biographical information, 1803-2006
Subseries 1.1: Shaffer Family Papers, 1873-1998
Subseries 1.2: Education, 1918-1980, undated
Subseries 1.3: Army, 1940-1948, undated
Subseries 1.4: Personal Documents, 1803-2006, undated
Subseries 1.5: Correspondence, 1945-2005, undated
Series 2: Materials Related to Hiking, 1935-2002
Subseries 2.1: Trail Notes, Diaries and General Information, 1935-1998, undated
Subseries 2.2: Photographs and Slides, 1940-2001, undated
Subseries 2.3: Maps and Plats, 1936-1998, undated
Series 3: Writing and Related Materials, 1910-2007, undated
Series 4: Hiking Associations and Clubs, 1937-2002, undated
Series 5: Collected Publications, 1910-1999, undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Earl Victor Shaffer (1918-2002) is credited as the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) from Georgia to Maine. Shaffer was born on November 8th, 1918 in York, Pennsylvania to Daniel and Frances Gallagher Shaffer. One of his most influential childhood friends was Walter Winemiller. Shaffer termed Winemiller, ". . . the most capable outdoorsman I had ever known." They grew up together in and around York. When WWII broke out Shaffer joined the Army and Winemiller joined the Marines. Shaffer served in the Army Signal Corps from April 15, 1941 to September 17, 1945. Three years and three months of his service was in the Pacific Theatre based in Hawaii but for a good amount of time on detached service on various outposts and combat islands. Winemiller died in the assault on Iwo Jima and Shaffer's decision to hike the AT in 1948 was in his own words a testament to his friend and ". . . to eradicate as much as possible the lingering effects of that wartime service in the tropics." He wrote that when he was in the army the three books he had with him were the Bible, an Oxford English Dictionary and a volume of Rudyard Kipling's poems. It was during his time in the army that his love of writing poetry manifested itself.
Shaffer hiked the entire AT for the first time in 1948 traveling south to north. This trek is detailed in his book Walking With Spring. For the rest of his life Shaffer was a trail enthusiast and participated in local and national hiking clubs and events. In 1951 Shaffer was named corresponding secretary for the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC). Shaffer hiked the AT north to south in 1965. Shaffer lived his entire life in and around York, Pennsylvania. He wanted to purchase property for a permanent home near the Appalachian Trail. This dream almost became a reality in the 1980s when Shaffer purchased a small parcel of land near the trail. With the ramifications of the 1968 National Trails System Act and the land purchasing policies of the National Park Service conflicting with his desires Shaffer sold his land near the trail to the National Park Service and broke ties with the ATC over their handling of the affair.
Shaffer continued writing poetry throughout his life. He wrote prose almost always centered on his experiences in the army or while hiking. He self published Walking With Spring in 1981. In 1983, the ATC published the work with Shaffer donating his share of the proceeds to the ATC. In 1998, Shaffer decided to undertake a 50th Anniversary hike commemorating his 1948 hike of the entire AT. He was seventy-nine years old. He completed the hike in October 1998 and gained much national notoriety for it. Shaffer was a carpenter and beekeeper. He also refinished and repaired furniture. Shaffer never married but maintained ties to a large, extended, and supportive family. Shaffer's health gradually deteriorated after his last AT hike and he died on May 5, 2002. The Earl Shaffer Foundation was founded in his honor and is based in York, Pennsylvania.

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.
Separated Materials
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Culture and the Arts (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) contain the following:
Accession#: 2002.0195
Kodak camera used by Earl Shaffer on his first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1948 and the flannel shirt, cotton trousers, leather hiking books, knit cap, and canvas backpack he used for his 1998 hike.
Accession#: 1999.0189
Backpack, boots, pith helmet, head net, poncho, and a cook-set, all used by Earl Shaffer on two of his hikes of the Appalachian Trail, 1948 and 1965.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian in April 2003 by John Shaffer, Earl V. Shaffer's brother.
Addenda were donated by John Shaffer in 2004 and 2003; Earl Shaffer Foundation in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012; and David Shaffer in 2014.
Processing Information
Processed by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., April 2005.
Existence and Location of Copies
Select diaries in Series 3 digitized in 2014.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Use reference copies of diaries.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyrights to all donated materials, both printed and photographic, are retained exclusively by the Earl Shaffer Foundation.
Preferred Citation
Earl Shaffer Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Appalachian Trail Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sports Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
West Virginia -- Trails and roads Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tennessee Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Trails Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maryland Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Geography -- Maine Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pennsylvania Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Virginia Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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