History of the Maryland State Police

The Maryland State Police was formed in 1921 to enforce the motor vehicle laws of the State. In 1935 they became a separate branch of state government, and were charged with preventing and detecting crime, to apprehend criminals and to enforce the criminal and motor vehicle laws.

First Maryland Road Patrol Officer
In the days of Governor Phillip Lee Goldsborough and Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, Harry A. Roe. The state started registering motor vehicles in 1914. Gov. Goldsborough authorized Commission Roe to start patrolling the highways with several motorcycles deputies. They were to enforce the Motor Vehicle Laws that were passed by the Legislature in 1904. The Motor Vehicle Law had a total of ten (10) sections and took effect on April 12, 1904. As time went on, registered vehicles reached 104,821. By that time there were 12 motorcycles deputies state wide, who found themselves overwhelmed. Even then there were newspaper articles calling for some type of a State Police Force.

Then 1916 Gov. Harrington took no action to form any type of police to handle a growing problem. The only way they had to deal with riots and public disorder was to call out the state militia. This was at a great expense and a problem.

Maryland’s neighboring state Pennsylvania had the same problem. In 1907 they formed a unit called “The Pennsylvania State Constabulary”, which consisted of 228 constables.

But still in 1919 still no state force, even though E. Austin Baughman took over as commissioner of Motor Vehicles in 1918. But when Governor Albert C. Ritchie became Governor in 1920. He formed a force of a motorcycle police to patrol state roads. They were called the Maryland State Police Force, or sometimes the state police force of Maryland. But they would still be under the control of the commissioner of Motor Vehicles, Major Enoch Barton Garey. This force was started with 38 officers, on Feb. 10, 1921, commanded by Captain Roger H. Williams. All these officers were employees of the Motor Vehicle Department.

First Maryland State Police Force, Saunders Ridge, February 10, 1921 Image
First Maryland State Police Force, Saunders Ridge, Feb. 10, 1921

For the next ten years, the push was on, inside the state force and outside the state force to form a State Police Department as an independent unit. The State Legislature made an effort in 1929, and a delegation of uniformed members of the force in 1931 who were accused of mutiny. But this is another story.

After a long hard battle from 1914 to 1935, to form an independent state police force, going through four governors and many interesting events, it finally happened. Even though there were many groups in Maryland who pushed for some kind of State Police force back in 1913 and on through 1920, the only highway police at that time was a few motorcycle deputies in 1914, authorized by Gov. Phillip Lee Goldsborough. When Gov, Emerson C. Harrington took over in 1916 all that happened was the addition of more motorcycle deputies.

Finally in 1920 when Gov. Albert C. Ritchie became Governor. One of the first things he did was to form a force of motorcycle officers to patrol roads. They were called The Maryland State Police Force or sometimes the State Police Force of Maryland. But they would still be under the control of the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Still no State Police Department as an independent unit.

Like Gov. Goldsborough and Haddington who would not change their motorcycle Deputies, Gov. Ritchie would not go for an Independent State Police unit. Gov. Ritchie was able to control efforts by the State Legislature in 1929 when they tried to establish a State Police Department. The Bill never got out of committee.

Then in 1931 a Bill in the House of Delegates tried again to form a state police force. This time the House Bill had the support of several uniformed members of the Motor Vehicle Department’s State Police. One of these men was a Lieutenant who was acting commander of Field Operations. He even led a uniformed member delegation in calling on Gov. Ritchie to ask support for the House of Delegates Bill. The Governor denied their request and they were all accused of being part of a mutiny. The bill was defeated.

So, much like the Governor before him. Gov. Ritchie did not want to change. So, when Gov. Harry W. Nice took office in 1935, one of his first actions was to come over to the side of the “Mutineers” and formed the Department of Maryland State Police as a separate branch of state government. Finally the MSP was born. On June 2, 1935, 54 troopers of the Maryland State Police were given their Oath of Office. Thus they will always be known as the “The First Fifty”.

MSP First 50 Photo
MSP First Fifty

The new Triangle shoulder patch was born and carried the title of the Maryland State Police. The superintendent was Major J. Purdow Wright. He was the first superintendent for MSP and only for less than a year. But, in his short time in office he started switching over to police cars, fazing out the motorcycle and horses. In a very short time there was Teletype, fingerprinting and establishment of a police school. By 1938 with fewer than 100 officers they had established of nine sub-stations linked by two-way radios in the radio equipped cruisers.

So the first 50, with the help of Gov. Harry W. Nice who formed the MSP, and Superintendent Major J. Purdow Wright and Major Enoch Barton Carey, did quite a job forming up the Maryland State Police.

Many of these First Fifty served MSP over 40 years. Names like Capt. Louis Bloom, 2nd. Lt. Ben Cecil, Lt. Col. Wilbur Conroy, Lt. Col. George E. Davidson, Capt. Menasha E. Katz, Major Wilson C. McVey, Capt. Earl W. Reith, Sr. and one of the most famous troopers of the days, Lt. Col. William (Hap) Weber. Col. Weber later during his retirement became President of The Maryland State Police Alumni also.

Along the way many events occurred to make the First Fifty famous, but that is another story.

MSP Badge Image
Current Maryland State Police Badge

The current badge of the Maryland State Police was adopted in 1950. It was designed by Mr. Edwin Tunis, a well know artist from Maryland, and is an adaptation of the shield in the State of Maryland Seal.

The shield bears the Arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. Calvert was the family name of the Lords Baltimore who founded Maryland. Crossland was the family of the mother of the first Lord Baltimore.

The black and gold colors are the Baltimore Arms. The red and silver colors are the Crossland Arms. The Maryland Flag bears the same Arms.

MSP 100th Anniversary Badge Image
MSP 100th Anniversary Badge

2021 - 100th MSP Anniversary