Montgomery History Online Exhibit: Montgomery County 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed
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.
New Blog Feature: Then & Now
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.
Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960)
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.
1953 Reconstruction of Gulf Gasoline Station
Due to changes in the highway, Reed Brothers Dodge began an extensive remodeling and rebuilding program. The program consisted of a sizable addition to their Service Department which enlarged the Showroom area and housed the Parts Department. Two-thirds of the original location at the junction of then Route 240 and Veirs Mill Road was razed and a modern Gulf Service Station was erected. The following photos were taken before demolition and after reconstruction of the Gulf Gasoline station.
Like many building types of commercial and roadside industries, gas stations often underwent alterations or changes over time. Reed Brothers Gulf Gas Station underwent five alterations over the course of 55 years that were built to follow corporate design. The famous Gulf “ice box” design dates back to late 1930’s, and there were probably more of these built than any single one of the later Gulf designs.
From The Montgomery County Sentinel. June 04, 1953
Reed Brothers Will Move June 13 to New Building
Reed Brothers, second oldest Dodge dealer, which has been serving the county for 38 years, is moving from its present location at the point of the Veirs Mill Road, Route 240 triangle in Rockville to a modernized location nearby at 608 East Montgomery Avenue. Open House will be held June 13 from 6p.m. to enable residents to view the new structure.
The automobile firm will have greatly enlarged quarters in the new location, with increased floor space for the new car department and the repair department. A completely new parts department and a modern service department where the tradition of service that has been built up by this firm through the years will be carried on, and if possible, improved.
The service department will be completely equipped with parts for all Chrysler made cars and will have facilities for repair of all makes of cars. The paint and body shop will be one of the best equipped in the area and the glass department will be prepared to install any or all automobile glass and also to prepare custom cut glass for any other use.
The shop and sales offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and will remain open until 6 p.m. Saturdays.
The familiar triangle gasoline station will be razed and an ultra-modern Gulf gasoline service station constructed. The new service station will be operated independently of the Reed Brothers plant. Every effort will be made to serve the customers while the transition is taking place, company officials said.
Batter Up! 1950s Service Reminder
Remember in the 1950’s and 1960’s when gas stations were called service stations? They pumped gas and gave out road maps and promotional giveaways like pens, calendars, thermometers, etc. These items are rare finds, because most get thrown away when the doors are closed.
This item is a promotional 1950s Reed Brothers Dodge-Plymouth 3-1/4 inch cardboard BATTER UP! service reminder. The dealership still used a 4 digit phone number: Rockville 2151 and had the old blue and orange Gulf logo.Some of the more difficult collectibles to obtain were awards given to the salespeople for outstanding sales performance, including neckties, cuff links, pen and pencil sets, and award plaques. Unique items were often given to salesmen to promote a new model being released that year.
This item is currently being offered for sale on ebay: 1950s GULF GAS-Reed Bros. Dodge/Plymouth 3-1/4″ inch BATTER UP! Cardboard Baseball service reminder.
Reed Family “Real Photo Postcard” (1910)
Nostalgic photo postcards, known as “real photo postcards”, were popular in the early 1900’s. Kodak even produced a special camera (the model #3A) and added a special postcard developing and printing service that made it easy for anyone to make their own photo postcard. Mailing a postcard was only a penny and the photo postcard itself cost between one and two cents. The postcard below is a “real photo postcard” mailed by Geneva (Eva) Reed, sister of Lewis Reed in 1910. It was mailed to her half-brother Rufus who lived in Point of Rocks, Maryland.
The photo of Woodlawn Hotel on the front of the postcard was taken by Phillip Reed (Lewis Reed’s brother). Lewis Reed’s photograph collection contains several hundred of these photo postcards dating from approximately 1907-1915. Many of these postcards are rare, one of a kind items and historical documents.
A bit of history about the Woodlawn Hotel: Opened as a luxury hotel in 1889 for Washingtonians seeking to escape the city’s summer heat, the Woodlawn Hotel thrived until the economy and more accessible transportation made Rockville a suburb of Washington rather than a summer vacation destination. The hotel was then purchased by Dr. Ernest L. Bullard who reopened the building, naming it Chestnut Lodge, as “a sanitarium for the care of nervous and mental diseases”. The Bullard family operated nationally famous Chestnut Lodge for 75 years. The building was conveyed to a developer in 2003 with the intention to convert it to condominiums as part of the development of the Chestnut Lodge property. The facade and the chestnut grove from which it got its name were to be preserved. The downturn in the real estate market derailed those plans.
Sadly, a fire on June 7, 2009 destroyed the landmark building that began as Woodlawn Hotel and came to symbolize the psychiatric institution of Chestnut Lodge. Today, the Chestnut Lodge campus is preserved for the community and consists of Little Lodge, Frieda’s Cottage, a Stable and an Ice House, and eight acres of forested lawn.
The postcard below reads:
Your letter received. Mama wants the board and stand too, for our board is not any good. Grafton is still in Washington but I don’t know how long he will be there he has about finished painting for this winter. I sent your letter to him today. Did you receive the pictures, and were they small enough for the lockets? I will close love to and from all. Come down when you can. Lovingly, Eva Reed
Uncle Lewis Thompson’s address is 511 G St N.W.
Strong as an Ox
Everyone’s heard the phrase, “as strong as an ox”. Oxen often were used as draft animals in the early 20th century. They supplied much of the power associated with agriculture and were used to haul heavy loads, plow fields, and for carrying goods. A two-animal team usually can manage several tons. Interesting fact: Oxen cost half as much as horses, required half the feed and could be eaten in an emergency.
Point of Rocks has been an important crossroads of travel since American Indians established routes through the region. Though quieter these days, the area was bustling with commerce between the 1830s and 1930s. During the Civil War, troops from both sides frequently crossed the River and the Towpath. Troops traded volleys across the water, skirmished in and near Point of Rocks, and Confederates attacked canal boats and trains, destroyed locks, and raided supply stores. Both the C&O Canal Company and the B&O Railroad reached Point of Rocks by 1832.
The Automobile College of Washington
In addition to the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York and the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, Lewis Reed received automotive training at The Automobile College of Washington.
The Automobile College of Washington was organized in 1909 for the purpose of training young men to fill positions as automobile engineers. The school had a repair department and a machine shop with modern motors for demonstration, where each student was taught in the mechanical construction, use, operation, and repair of the very latest four-cylinder automobiles. Some of the cars used in the school were the Washington A-1 Touring Car, Pope Tribune, Ricketts Model G 6-cylinder, Peerless 35hp, and Mitchell 25hp.
The November 7, 1909 edition of The Washington Times announced that the school was the pioneer institution of its kind in the city. Young men without previous experience were taught to be chauffeurs to not only drive, but also maintain and repair the automobiles. The Automobile College of Washington was more than likely the institution where Lewis Reed received his chauffeur training.