Of most interest in the collection is the fairly complete file of sermons and addresses delivered during the period 1888 to 1921. These sermons, in conjunction with Beard's extensive subject file, provide a valuable record of the style and content of preaching of a successful Congregational minister during a time of liberal resurgence in American Protestantism. Beard came to the ministry from a brilliant undergraduate and graduate career at Yale. He was well equipped to grapple with the intellectual challenges facing liberal theologians of his times, such as historical criticism of the Bible, evolution, and the relationship between science and religion. During his seventeen years of ministry in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Beard was brought face to face with the urban problems of the Gilded Age. His sermons express concern with the issues of temperance, vice, housing and education. With the onset of the First World War, Beard participated in the prevailing surge of patriotism bolstered by theology. Regardless of the topic he addressed, Beard's views were informed by the spirit of confidence and hope typical of a pre-War civilization in which the ideals and patterns of American life were nearly equated with those of American Protestantism.
The first six folders in Series I, Correspondence, contain letters to and from family members. The small amount of General Correspondence which follows reflects Beard's interests in church affairs, reform, and relief. Several letters relate to the transfer of church membership. Beard wrote an article about the conditions of church membership which was responded to by various individuals, including Timothy Dwight and George B. Stevens of Yale. Other letters relate to the Knights of King Arthur boys club format which Beard was considering for his church. There are also letters of opinion written by Beard to President Woodrow Wilson, and a Senator, and letters stemming from Beard's service as chairman of the local branch of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.
There are nearly 1,000 sermons and addresses in Series II. They vary in format from complete typescripts to fragmentary holograph notes to published newspaper accounts. In a few cases only the title page of a sermon exists, with an indication that the body of the sermon was destroyed. The majority of the sermons are in one numerical sequence dating from 1892 to 1921. This sequence is preceded by seven early sermons which are designated by letter. Following the numerical sequence are several unnumbered sermons, sermon fragments,and one folder of undated children's sermons.
The sermons are not listed individually by title. The following list of titles will serve to suggest the range of topics covered:
- "Are Both God and the Earthquake Possible?"
- "Real Results of Prayer"
- "Personal Character and Public Office"
- "The Fight Against Tuberculosis"
- "Theodore Roosevelt -- President"
- "The Influence of the Well Housed Home"
- "Sunday Laws: Their Use and Abuse"
- "Our Duty as American Citizens"
- "Tennyson's Religious Influence"
- "Joining the Color for Christ"
- "The Christian Duty of Fighting"
- "The Vaudeville Stage in Bridgeport"
- "The Great Armenian Tragedy"
- "Darwin, Evolution and Christianilv"
- "A Working Creed About Miracles"
- "The Strength of the Purified Life"
- "A Christian Civilization"
- "The Christian Gentleman"
- "Christian Missions and International Peace"
- "Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science"
- "Total Abstinence in the Light of the Law of Love"
- "Christianity and the Licensed Liquor Saloon"
- "Bridgeport and the Kindergarten Education"
- "The Self-Complacencies of Orthodoxy"
- "The Christianization of America"
- "The Biblical Documents -- Are They Trustworthy?"
- "Is the Bible Inspired? Is it Authoritative? Is it Useful?"
The writings of Series III are largely undated. The major works are "The History of the Catholic English and of the American Revised Version of the Bible", which won second prize in the Gould Prize Essay contest in 1905, and a long unpublished treatise entitled "The Religion of a Man." Topics which Beard touched on in sermons are developed more extensively in essays included in this Series, such as "The Christian Redemption in the Light of Evolutionary Philosophy" and "Woodrow Wilson, Robert Lansing, and Some Ideals Worth Fighting For."
The Notebooks of Series IV primarily date from Beard's graduate student days at Yale. They are of interest for their record of the content of courses taught at Yale in the early 1890s in the subject areas of philosophy, theology and Bible.
Throughout his career, Beard maintained the practice of collecting newspaper and magazine articles, poems, programs, and other ephemera for use in writing sermons. Series V, the subject file which he created, is arranged alphabetically by topic. Materials were stored in manilla envelopes, with topics listed, usually not in exact alphabetical order.
The following topics from the "H" envelopes will serve to suggest the variety of materials collected by Beard:
- Home and School
- Holmes, O.W.
- Home Education
- Holy Ghost
- Hadley, President
- House of Lords
- Harrison, President
- Howe, Julia Ward
- Harper, W.R.
- Hay, John
- Hyde, George
- Hall family
- Higher Criticism
- Hindu books
- Hill, E.J.
- Hartford Seminary
- High School
- Hungarian work
- Human touch
- Hudson-Fulton Celebration
Series VI, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes the invitation to Beard's wedding in 1892, a few notes recording events on the days preceding Beard's death, "Our Church Record for 1900" (annual report of the Pastor of College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, VT, 1901), "The Story of a Church" (history of Park Street Congregational Church) by J. S. Wooster, and a notebook of Esther Sophia Deers given to Louise Beard.
Series VII consists of an addendum added in August 2001, which contains correspondence, sermons, writings, and personal items and memorabilia.