The Ross E. Beard Collection

Beard conducting a tour of the Collection

As a long-time collector, Ross Beard sought out every gun show, antique sale, auction, flea market, specialty store, and hole-in-the-wall that he could in the hopes of finding that one special item that would add to his internationally known collection.  Like many collectors, nothing gives Beard as much pleasure as displaying his collection to the public.   His dream was to be able to place all of his artifacts in a central location and have them on display for the enjoyment of everyone.  He also decided that he would like to keep the artifacts in his community.  In May, 2013, the Camden Archives and Museum was honored to become the home of this extensive collection.

One of Dillinger's many firearms

Currently on exhibit are a number of firearms, from a 16th century Chinese wheel lock to a c2000 semi-automatic 9mm M-950 “Calico.”  One section of the exhibit displays firearms and personal artifacts related to Melvin Purvis, John Dillinger, and other outlaws of the early 20th century.  Another section, on British SAS Captain Peter Mason, a real life James Bond, contains a Russian Cigarette gun, an umbrella with a retractable sleeve that exposes a poison needle, and Mason's Bowler hat with a metal lining and a hidden .25 caliber Bauer pistol.  A third section focuses on David “Carbine” Williams, famed inventor and one of the principal designers of the World War II era M-1 carbine. 

Capt. Peter Mason's Bowler

Through Beard’s efforts, the exhibit also features several firearms on loan from other collectors.  These items include a large number of “Western” firearms and Civil War era rifles and pistols.

The Beard Collection has something for everyone – everyday firearms fondly remembered by many visitors, one of a kind items with a connection to the famous (or infamous), and others that present the history of the common soldier.   

In 2014, the City of Camden purchased the Ross E. Beard, Jr. Collection for the city and it will be permanently housed and displayed at the Camden Archives and Museum.