The best gun collection in the southeast is located in Camden, South Carolina. The Ross E. Beard Gun Collection has over 1,000 items; currently the Camden Archives and Museum displays about 400 of the collection. One of the most popular to see is a John Dillinger machine gun. Mr. Beard was given this gun by his Godfather, Mr. Melvin Purvis. Many of the other items on display are attributed to Melvin Horace Purvis, Jr. (October 24, 1903 – February 29, 1960), an American law enforcement official and FBI agent. He was given the nickname “Little Mel” because of his short stature. He is noted for leading the manhunts that tracked such outlaws as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger.
John Dillinger (1903 – 1934) was a gangster, bank robber, and murderer. He robbed twenty-four banks and even four police stations. He killed police officers in East Chicago, Indiana during a notorious shootout. Even in the day of Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd, he stood out. After receiving a tip as to his whereabouts in Chicago from Ana Cumpanas, a brothel madam, police attempted to arrest him outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. In the pursuing shootout, Melvin Purvis along with other FBI agents, killed Dillinger.
One of Dillinger’s famed machine guns is displayed at the Camden SC Archives and Museum. Evidently, Dillinger had several machine guns. In an earlier raid, he robbed a police station and requisitioned him several. Thus, Mr. Purvis recovered one as a memento.
Our guests at Bloomsbury Inn, Camden SC, are always excited to visit this exhibit. Many of them visit Camden specifically to see the Archives and Museum which is located in the Carnegie Library . The gun collection is a permanent display and the other exhibits are rotating to exemplify the history of Camden. With the Library celebrating its centennial, guests are treated to a special display covering 100 years, including original building correspondence. This is a must visit while staying at the award-winning (ranked # 12 of an estimated 17,000 by TripAdvisor) Bloomsbury.