The incoming and outgoing correspondence in this large series was created or collected chiefly by male members of the Hemphill family over many generations; there are also letters from and to women in the family. Topics discussed by correspondents cover almost all aspects of social, economic, religious, educational, and political conditions in South Carolina and other Southern states during the last half of the 19th century and into the early 20th. Many of the letters, especially in the earlier decades, discuss the Presbyterian church, for which several Hemphills were ministers. There are also many comments on national-level politics and presidencies, as well as events during those particular periods. Additional correspondence covering many of these same topics is found in the letterbooks found in the Volumes series.
Enslavement and states' rights, abolition, secession, and the movements of free people of color or formerly enslaved people are discussed in many letters before, during, and after the Civil War. There are repeated letters throughout the correspondence commenting on the repatriation of Africans and African Americans to Africa, and refer to the activities of the American Colonization Society and the American Commission on Liberia (1909). There are also references in early 20th century papers to race relations in the South and related politics; a speech by Oswald Garrison Villard, newspaper editor, co-founder of the NAACP, and early civil rights activist, sometime in the early 1910s, talks about segregation in Baltimore and Washington.
There are Associate Reformed Presbyterian sermons in the Sermons series that also speak to enslavement and the Southern States.
There are many letters that speak to specific significant political events and presidencies, including Jefferson Davis's Confederate administration, and discuss life for men and women of some wealth in cities and rural locations in the Confederate states. The letters in this series also cover military events and related issues in South Carolina as well as in Texas, where John Harrison Hemphill was located, such as the conflict with Mexico, and violent offensives against Native Americans in western states.
Correspondence (and other papers in the collection) following the 1870s chiefly document James Calvin (J.C.) Hemphill's career as a newspaper editor, but also speak to politics, "yellow journalism," Southern race relations, economic conditions, and society in the Southern States in the early 20th century. Some letters refer to events in World War I.
The latter portion of the collection includes a number of letters from William Howard Taft and Daniel H. Chamberlain, both of whom were friends of J.C. Hemphill; from Mrs. Francis W. Dawson I; and from various members of the Hemphill family. Correspondents who write on press affairs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries include C. A. Boynton, W. R. Cathcart, and S. J. Barrows. Other writers are Sarah (Morgan) Dawson, J. H. Averell, and J. S. Cothran.
In the last half of the series there is also a considerable quantity of correspondence of Robert Reid Hemphill until his death in 1908.