Before he became a scouting pioneer by starting the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905, Beard was an artist. He was encouraged in this pursuit from an early age; his father, mother, and uncle were all successful artists. In the 1860s, he left his boyhood home in Kentucky to attend art school in New York City, where he joined the Student Art League and befriended illustrious personages such as Ernest Thompson Seton, Mark Twain, and Ernest Cosby. Beard would later illustrate books for Twain and Cosby, among many other authors.
The Sons of Daniel Boone began in a column Beard wrote for a magazine he edited, Recreation. He later moved his column to Woman’s Home Companion, which secured the rights to the group’s name and kept them after the column’s later move to Pictorial Review. Beard thus changed the name to the Boy Pioneers of America. The renamed group kept its curriculum of healthful exercise and the outdoors traditions of American frontier life, a curriculum that influenced the Boy Scouts of America when the groups merged in 1910. Beard also encouraged girls to get involved in the outdoors lifestyle through his work with his sisters Lina and Adelia Beard, who wrote The American Girls Handy Book and helped start the Camp Fire Girls.