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‘Not Just Guns:’ The Ross E. Beard Collection

Posted: July 17, 2014 4:28 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2014 5:00 a.m.

On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 11 a.m., the Ross E. Beard Collection became the property of the city of Camden, as Mr. Beard signed the paperwork at the Camden Archives and Museum. City officials, long-time friends of Mr. Beard and representatives from the Friends of the Archives and Museum looked on as City Attorney Lawrence Flynn, Mr. Beard, Ed Royall (his attorney) and Austin Sheheen (his accountant) processed the paperwork.

The Beard Collection is a major acquisition for the Archives and Museum’s collection. The majority of Mr. Beard’s lifelong collection was acquired during the 63 years that he has been a resident of Camden. The weapons are what come to most people’s minds when they hear “Beard Collection.” But in reality, the weapons comprise only about 25 to 30 percent of the entire collection when each three-dimensional object in the collection is counted. The collection largely revolves around things “military,” including insignia, badges, framed art and military displays, early war posters, textiles, sculpture, manuscripts and documents, photographs, and a large library of reference and rare books.

To give you an idea of the diversity of this collection we’ll explore a few of the items in the Beard Collection which have come to the Archives and Museum. First, a blue man’s jacket came in mounted on a half mannequin. The wool and cotton fabric, known as linsey-woolsey, has threads of red and blue in the weft on a white warp, giving it a nubby look with the overall appearance of blue. Long thought to be a Civil War era coat, upon closer inspection, it turns out that it is a Regency period gentleman’s tailcoat. It sports a double breasted front with brass buttons, a wide lapel collar, and buttoned cuffs on the sleeves. The Regency Period, as far as styles go, ranges from 1800 to 1830 -- think of the costuming in the movie “Pride and Prejudice.” While women’s clothing was often kept for sentimental reasons, menswear seldom survived the ages. So in the Beard Collection we have an example of what a well-dressed gentleman in America would have been wearing in the early 19th century.

Another item in the Beard Collection is a framed state plat and grant from the year 1794. The land papers granted Nathaniel Smith 1,000 acres on Sawneys Creek in what is now known as West Wateree. These old state plats and grants are fairly common -- what is so unusual about this set is that the original wax seal is still attached to the papers by a ribbon. These seals are 4 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick and depict the state seal. They were attached to all official land papers but most do not retain them to this day. This full set is an unusual find.

Among the framed art which came in the collection is an original World War I poster. The poster, by Walter H. Everett, was done in 1918 and depicts a mother with two small children pleading with an outstretched arm. The caption reads, “Must children die and mothers plead in vain? Buy more Liberty Bonds.” The poster addresses the severe food shortage in war ravaged Europe. Food “becomes a tactical weapon” in war time, according to the Unites States Army Heritage and Education Center. America felt the responsibility to feed the allied nations embroiled the war and sold Liberty Bonds to help raise the money. The United States Food Administration administered the food program, which raised over $7 billion dollars for the hunger stricken Allies in Europe. The artist, Walter Everett, was a well-known illustrator of the day who trained with the Brandywine school of artists. His work often appeared in the social media of the day -- magazines. It was prominent in <italic> The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s and Colliers. </italic> He was one of the artists working with the Society of Illustrators of New York City and the Division of Pictorial Publication, under the Committee on Public Information, to produce war posters intended to foster patriotism and sacrifice on the home front.

From the library section of the collection comes a book published in 1823 entitled “Memorable Days in America: Being a Journal of a Tour to the United States …” by W. Faux, “An English Farmer.” Faux left England in 1818 to travel to America and assess the “Condition and Probable Prospects of British Emigrants” who ventured to settle in the United States. Interestingly, Faux was the nephew of Camden’s Col. Henry Rugeley, a well-known and respected citizen and a declared Tory during the Revolutionary War. After general amnesty was declared post-war, Rugeley regained his position as a valued citizen in Camden. Faux related an anecdote told him by Col. Rugeley’s friends in Camden. Apparently at the beginning of the Revolution, Rugeley and Col. Chesnut mutually agreed to disagree -- that both he and Chesnut, leading citizens, would remain in their loyalties to either side, yet remain friends, so that both could help the stricken on each side during the war. Rugeley died in 1796, but his three sons, daughter, and wife remained in Camden District (Fairfield County) for some years. His nephew, author W. Faux, visited one cousin, “Major Rugeley,” in Camden to see where his late uncle had lived and carved his plantations out of the “wilderness,” as he called this area. He was feted with dinners, trips to see plantations and Revolutionary War battlefields, and parties by the Camden locals during his visit. His account of Camden and surrounds in 1819 gives us a new “snapshot” of life in our area. This is just a sample of the items in the collection besides the weapons!

As Camden builds its tourism initiative, the Beard Collection provides a real draw for visitors to the city. The Archives and Museum visitation has increased since part of the collection was put on exhibit in February and March of 2013. As the Archives and Museum collection grows, it allows the staff to develop significant changing exhibits to offer to the public. Excellent exhibits like those made possible by the Beard Collection also encourage patrons to donate their collections to the Archives and Museum. This is a positive cycle and one that is important for a vibrant, healthy historical institution.

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