Montgomery History has launched a new online exhibition co-developed by Blog Author, Jeanne Gartner and Montgomery History Librarian & Archivist, Sarah Hedlund: “Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed”. Explore Montgomery County and its environs in the early 20th century through the lens of Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. A pioneering automobile dealer and one of the most prolific photographers in Montgomery County at the turn of the 20th century, Reed took motorcycle excursions all over the state of Maryland with his camera, capturing landscapes, monuments, historical places, people, and anything else that caught his attention.
The presentation of the Lewis Reed collection features his photography in several themed exhibitions (Transportation, Photo-magic, Recreation, Daily Life, and Community). The first exhibition, “Transportation in Montgomery County”, features some of the earliest known photographs of various modes of transportation, from horses and canal boats to motorcycles and automobiles. It is an absolutely unique window into how Montgomery Countians lived over a century ago.
Click on the category you are interested in below to visit the various presentations and their photographic content. Through the lens of Lewis Reed, we see that Montgomery County’s history is America’s history.
- Transportation: Lewis Reed loved moving vehicles and photographed the evolution of transportation happening around him at the turn of the century. Explore the pages on modes of transportation in Montgomery County from horse power to automobiles.
- Photo-magic: Details how self-taught photographer and county native Lewis Reed edited photos before computers existed, using techniques like hand-tinting and double exposure.
- Recreation: Enjoy a vicarious getaway by exploring the newest section of the Lewis Reed Photography online exhibit, “Recreation”. View these amazing photos to see how Montgomery Countians in the first half of the 20th century enjoyed fun in the sun — beach trips, camping, fishing, vacationing, attending fairs, and more. You’ll find many summer activities have stood the test of time!
- Daily Life: What was domestic and social life like in Montgomery County at the turn of the century? Explore glimpses of early 19th century housing, education, social activities, entertainment, pets, and more in the “Daily Life” section.
- Community: Featured in the section are images of the businesses, industries, occupations, and services that provided income for Montgomery County’s residents, and shaped the growing towns in the first few decades of the 20th century.
Looking back at photography from the past is a fascinating experience for me, and with a newfound interest in history, it occurred to me that with the vast number of historical photographs in Lewis Reed’s Collection, that this blog would be a great place to feature a series of Then & Now photography. I started doing this about a year ago as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject. With that in mind, I will occasionally be spotlighting some “Then & Now” images from his collection that will show photographs of buildings, street scenes, and other historical locales alongside photographs of how they appear today.
Some of the historic locations in this series includes the Smithsonian, Capitol, Union Station, Old Post Office, Library of Congress, Raleigh Hotel, Key Bridge and other important sites in and around the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. There are also photographs of many non-Maryland locations including the historic landmark “Lucy the Elephant”, Gettysburg Battlefield, Mount Vernon, Pennsylvania Monument and United States Regulars Monuments under construction, and Quebec Bridge (the 8th Wonder of the World).
I have no formal history training, just a general interest in local history where I grew up. I will post one of Lewis Reed’s photographs matched with a corresponding contemporary shot of the same area, and supply a few sentences of context. All of them will in some way will offer a visual history of how things have changed over the years. I look forward to sharing them with you.
About This Collection:
Since I started this blog, I have had the opportunity to look through my grandfather’s extensive collection of photographs from historical locations not only in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia, but all across the country. The Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960) spotlights the photographs that I have been able to research and identify. There are close to 200 blog posts within this section that gives a snapshot of what life was like more than 100 years ago. Highlights include the Black Rock Grist Mill, Rockville Water Tower, C&O Canal, 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, Rockville Fair dirt track races, Trolley Cars, Wright Brothers Airplane, and Quebec Bridge (8th Wonder of the World). Especially stunning are images of the aftermath of the 1936 Gainesville Georgia tornado, one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history. Many photographic images in this collection have never before been seen publicly in print.
Lewis Reed’s photography has appeared as a resource in highly regarded local history publications, and in historical television programming, including on the national television show American Pickers, Science Channel Impossible Engineering, Maryland Public Television, and the American Experience History Series on PBS.
If there’s an historical marker on the side of the road in Montgomery County, chances are, one of Lewis Reed’s images is on it. Some of the markers that display his photographs include the Andrew Small Academy Marker in Darnestown, The Origins of Darnestown Marker, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg, From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda, the African American Heritage Walking Tour Marker in Rockville, and the 19th Century Crossroads Marker in Darnestown. A Lewis Reed photo is also featured on a historical/interpretive sign along a trail in the Watters Smith Memorial State Park in West Virginia.
Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of manipulated photographs. He was 100 years ahead of his time by creating special effects to images long before the convenience and efficiency of digital photography and Photoshop were ever imaginable. Lewis Reed used a wide variety of effects, including hand-tinting, double exposure, applied handwork, and creating images that made it look as if there were ghosts in the picture. It’s pretty amazing how his early photography shows such versatility and creativity considering the limited tools that were available at the time.
Click here to take a look back in time and explore the lives of those who have gone before us.
Note: All images are scanned from prints made from Lewis Reed’s original glass plate negatives. Glass plate negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s. No touch-up or alteration has been done, in order to retain their historical essence.
Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. When Lewis Reed opened his car dealership in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. He founded what would become the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in the State of Maryland, and one of the oldest in the United States.
Success demands courage, dedication, perseverance and relentless hard work. As a young man, Lewis Reed apparently believed in the similar thought. He was the son of a blacksmith, raised in a large family that survived on knowledge and hard work. Tinkering with things and an interest in machines at an early age was probably encouraged by his father. The blacksmithing trade goes back about four generations in the Reed family. In those days, it was commonplace for sons to follow their father’s professions. The 1910 census indicated that 23-year old Lewis Reed was working as a machinist.
On the occasion of my grandfather’s 135th birthday, I thought I would revisit some interesting facts about him.
1. Lewis Reed’s passion for cars began at a very early age. He was full of curiosity, with an insatiable desire to know details, how things worked, and why. As a child, he would watch cars go past the family farm and then take off running across the fields to catch up with them until they would go out of sight. The “normal” speed during this time was so slow that drivers had difficulty keeping their cars from stalling out.
2. Lewis attended Darnestown School, a one-room schoolhouse which was located on Thomas Kelley’s Farm at Pleasant Hill. First through sixth grades were taught by one teacher to about thirty or more students. Few students went beyond sixth or seventh grade; in fact, Lewis Reed’s education stopped after the sixth grade. He would later be home-schooled by his wife, who was a teacher in the Maryland public school system.
3. Lewis Reed’s love of photography began at a very young age, at a time when most families did not own a camera. The oldest photo in his collection is dated 1898, which would have made him around 11-12 years old when he started using a camera. At the turn of the century, before automobiles were even around, he toured up and down the East Coast on his motorcycle, taking photographs of landscapes, monuments, historic places, and people. His entire collection spans more than six decades and showcases his love for people, automobiles, events, landmarks, and travel throughout the first half of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly, his love of both cars and cameras resulted in his taking numerous pictures of car culture all over the State of Maryland as it developed from infancy to supremacy.
4. Lewis Reed understood automobiles. He knew how they worked and how to fix them. He loved cars and anything associated with them. Prior to World War I, his love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Lewis Reed worked as a chauffeur from roughly 1910-1914, before he became involved in the business of selling and repairing automobiles.
5. In October 1915, Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars with brothers Horace and John Dodge in Detroit; less than one year after the very first Dodge automobile was invented.
6. In 1941, the State of Maryland named the connector street behind the original dealership at the triangle, “Dodge Street,” commemorating Reed Brothers’ presence from 1915-1970. The connector street was so short that Lewis Reed always liked to joke, “if the state wanted to name a street after him, the street needed to be longer”. Hence the street was named, “Dodge Street”.
7. When the United States entered World War I, Lewis Reed worked at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.
Note: Interestingly, there’s nothing online that explains how torpedoes were tested during WWI. I was, however, able to find how they were tested during WWII. “Torpedoes produced by the Alexandria Torpedo Factory were transported to Piney Point on the shore of the Potomac River where they were fixed with dummy heads, fired from boats and then retrieved by men or tenders. The purpose of the facility was to see whether the torpedo could hold a straight course. Some of them are said to have sunk to the bottom of the Potomac where they now rest in mud.”
8. In the early 1930s, Lewis Reed inaugurated a new department of auto body and fender repair. He did this primarily because no other repair agencies were locally available to motorists. The new department enabled motorists to obtain this critical repair service locally in Rockville, whereas, in the past they had to travel to Washington, D.C. or Baltimore for such work.
9. During World War II, Reed Brothers Dodge had virtually no new cars to sell for three and a half years. But that didn’t stop Lewis Reed. When manufacturers halted car production and many dealers went bankrupt, Lewis Reed converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines, Zuillen home freezers, Westinghouse radios, and other large appliances to fill the gap.
10. Active in the dealership daily until the day of his death, Lewis Reed passed on January 28, 1967 at the age of 79. Shortly after his death, the Senate of Maryland passed Senate Resolution No. 10, honoring the life and achievements of Lewis Reed. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. Anderson, Jr and Senator Louise Gore.
Lewis Reed’s business philosophy was simple: “Treat your customer as your friend and always do what you promise.” These words aptly showcase his life and his passion for what would become his life’s work.
This post is a continuation of a series of “Then & Now” images from Lewis Reed’s Photo Collection alongside photographs of how they appear today. Lewis Reed worked hard to preserve a visual history of Montgomery County, Maryland and surrounding area long before automobiles were even around. As early as 1905, he toured on his motorcycle across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and took photographs of many historic locations. Taken approximately 115 years apart, you can see how the Smithsonian Institution Castle looks both the same and completely different from over a century ago.
Smithsonian Institution Castle (THEN): The Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the “Castle,” was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. Initially, the Castle was intended to be built in white marble and then in yellow sandstone. The architect and the building committee finally agreed on using Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca Quarry, located in Montgomery County, Maryland. When it was completed in 1855, it sat on an isolated piece of land cut off from downtown Washington, DC, by a canal. In the ensuing decades, the Castle became the anchor for the National Mall, as additional museums and government buildings were constructed around it.
Smithsonian Institution Castle (NOW): The same view over a century later. The Smithsonian Institution Castle, located near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. behind the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery, houses the Smithsonian Institution’s administrative offices and information center.
Veterans Day is a time to recognize the veterans in our lives — to honor their service for our country and show them that we appreciate their sacrifices made in our behalf. World War I began on July 28, 1914 and later ended on November 11, 1918. In commemoration of Veterans Day, this very special post is in honor of the contributions Sergeant Edgar Reed made for our country during World War I.
Edgar was a partner with his brother Lewis Reed, in Reed Brothers Dodge. I never got to know my great uncle Edgar like the rest of the Reed family, because he passed away the year after I was born. My mother told me she took me to the hospital right after I was born to meet Edgar, but of course, I have no recollection of that. I do, however, feel like I know him through all of the family stories and photographs I have spent archiving over the last 10+ years.
On September 28, 1917 a draft for World War I began and the first 40 men reported for duty at the Montgomery County Court House in Rockville, Maryland. In the photograph below, cars are parked around the court house during the speech-making in the court room to drafted men. Montgomery County’s first recruits left Rockville by train for Camp Meade, Maryland on this same day. They each received a package of smoking tobacco and a rousing send-off from two thousand people after speeches at the courthouse, dinner at the Montgomery House Hotel, and a parade to the depot. About 160 Rockville men served in the eighteen-month war. One of those men was Rockville resident, Edgar Reed.
Edgar Reed (1890–1951) was born in Darnestown, Maryland on October 17, 1890. On February 26, 1918 at the age of 27 years old, Edgar was enlisted into the U.S. Army as a Private. At this time, he lived on Montgomery Avenue in Rockville. He had been employed by R.W. Vinson, Rockville druggist for eight years.
On April 27, 1918, Edgar was promoted to the rank of Private First Class, and on February 14, 1919, he was promoted to Sergeant. According to “Maryland Military Men, 1917-1918”, Edgar served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from February 1918 to August 1919. He had been posted to GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 16, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT and GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 11, CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY.
The spirit of patriotic service which swept the country prompted many persons to offer their properties to the War Department for hospital purposes. These offers included buildings of every conceivable kind, such as department stores, private establishments, hospitals, and properties in large cities. It was found that many of these could be obtained and converted into hospitals much more expeditiously than barrack hospitals could be constructed, and at less cost.
The Surgeon General recommended that the War Department authorize the leasing of the Hotel Cape May in New Jersey for use as a general hospital on December 18, 1917. The Hotel Cape May was located on the Ocean Drive, at the eastern end of the city, and within 100 feet of the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. Opened first as GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 16, the designation was changed to GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 11, March 14, 1918. The enlisted personnel were quartered in tents which were located to the rear of the building.
At eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, World War I fighting came to an end when an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect. On August 4, 1919, Edgar was transferred to the Demobilization Center at Camp Lee, Virginia and was honorably discharged on August 6, 1919.
Pictured below is Edgar Reed’s World War I draft card, signed and dated June 5, 1917.
Below is Edgar Reed and friends returning home on the train after the war ended wearing the World War I “Victory Medal” on their lapels.
Edgar was fortunate enough to survive World War I and to settle back in Rockville and enjoy a successful life and career in the automobile business. After returning from the war in 1919, Edgar joined his brother in the business and the name changed to Reed Brothers Dodge. Edgar was in the automobile business with his brother, Lewis, for 35 years until his death in 1951.
So while we honor all who served this Veterans Day, on this day, I salute you Edgar Reed, and thank you for your service to our country.
Ever wondered how Montgomery County families celebrated Halloween 100 years ago? Thanks to the these photographs from Lewis Reed’s collection, we can travel all the way back to 1914.
At the turn of the century, women often wore their regular clothes topped with homemade masks. The first Halloween costumes were usually worn by women and reflected the idea of masquerades that was extremely popular in the early 1900s. People only began to buy manufactured costumes in the second and third decades of the 20th century.
Oh the good ol’ days, when wearing a mask was enough to be dressed up for celebrations! Do you know how your ancestors’ celebrated Halloween? Newspapers are a great source to get a better understanding of life in the past. This special post is a look back through newspaper articles and Lewis Reed’s photographs at how Halloween was celebrated 100 years ago.
Stocked Stores: Stores were stocked with all the Halloween supplies needed for a fun celebration. Below is an ad for costumes and masquerade suits for those participating in Halloween parties and other seasonal affairs.
Dancing and Parties: Halloween parties and dancing were enjoyed by many. Some announcements even included a list of guests in attendance!
Here is the description of a Halloween party from the Society Section of the November, 1916 issue of The Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia):
A Halloween party was given last evening… and a merry evening spent by those present. The reception hall, living and dining rooms were artistically decorated with autumn leaves, lanterns, chrysanthemums and orange and black streamers. The evening was spent in old-fashioned games, concluding with the entire assemblage gathering about an open fireplace in the dark, while the guests were led by a ghost through various parts of the darkened home. The evening’s entertainment concluded with music, dancing and the serving of refreshments.
Any sort of Halloween festivities demanded some sort of refreshment. In addition to traditional pumpkin pies and molasses cookies, a suggested dish to serve at Halloween parties was a Halloween salad.
Halloween Pranks: Witches and goblins, ghosts and mischief-making youngsters were permitted to enjoy all the Halloween revelry they liked … BUT DON’T THROW FLOUR. Yes, apparently in the early 1900s, there wasn’t much to do for entertainment, so kids would knock on doors on Halloween night and throw flour at whoever answered. To the modern observer, some of the traditions of Halloween 100 years ago are downright bizarre.
Halloween Parades: Halloween parades actually began because pranks and mischief had gotten out of control. By 1920, there was a push to turn Halloween into a holiday centered around community gatherings and festive Halloween parades, rather than mischief.
Wishing all my friends, followers, and visitors of this blog a very safe and happy Halloween!
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to feature a photograph that Lewis Reed took of the Saylorsburg Lake House Hotel, now the site of The Pocono Mountains Premier Haunted House, Hotel of Horror. The aging Lake House Hotel in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, once a vibrant Poconos retreat, was a popular hotel for the region’s tourists who were looking for fun on nearby Saylors Lake. During the hotel’s heyday, its staff was booking rooms a year in advance. Today, the former hotel’s fame is generated from its annual Halloween haunted-house attraction.
Lake House Hotel (THEN): The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two-hundred years. According to local folklore, during World War II, many of the employees at the Lake House were called to assist in the Pennsylvania National Guard, leaving the local asylum with one lone security guard to watch over the entire building. The inmates escaped, made their way to the hotel and took it over. The insane patients performed experiments on the guests. What was once a renowned resort for the rich and famous, became a torture chamber.
Lake House Hotel (NOW): The hotel was purchased in 1990 and turned into an Antique Co-Op, and then in 1992 saw its first haunted house attraction. The Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are both indoor, walk through Haunted House attractions featuring live actors and paranormal activity housed in the 200 year old “abandoned” Pocono Mountain resort once called The Lake House Hotel in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. This 2022 season will celebrate the 30th year that the Hotel of Horror has been fascinating and horrifying legions of fans from the far reaches of the United States and even internationally. To all the readers of this blog: Have a spooky, enjoyable and very safe Halloween!