The Reed Brothers

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. He attended school in Montgomery County and later went to work for the fore-runner of the IBM Corporation at about the time it was founded in 1913. In October 1915, he  founded Reed Brothers Dodge. In 1920, he married the former Ethelene Thomas of Frederick County and  moved to Gaithersburg. In 1926, Lewis and Ethelene Reed built a craftsman-style home in Gaithersburg, at what is today 301 North Frederick Avenue. Lewis Reed’s family residence is listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties as the Lewis Reed Residence. He had one daughter, Mary Jane, who was born on September 24, 1922. She later married Ernest Lee Gartner in 1948.

Before becoming interested in automobiles, Lewis Reed was one of the original employees of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became International Business Machines, Inc. He received his automotive training at the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan and the Washington Auto College. When World War I broke out, Lewis Reed along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He did his bit in World War I by working at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.

Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training would have come into play. Many of the first chauffeurs came from a mechanic’s background — a vital skill in the early days of motoring.

Lewis Reed was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a Lay Leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was one of the nine original incorporators of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department when it was created by charter in 1928. He was a Charter Member and Past President of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department, and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. He belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalpha Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed developing photos

Before opening his Dodge dealership in 1915, Lewis Reed was one of the earliest and most prolific photographers in Montgomery County. At the turn of the century, before automobiles were even around, he amassed a large library of photographs of buildings, farm carts drawn by oxen, and other historic spots in Montgomery County. He had a darkroom in his house — in the kitchen, to be exact — and worked at night to develop the negatives. Lewis Reed expanded his hobby to include movies, and made them not only of his family, but on his trips to various parts of the world. He also enjoyed pheasant hunting in South Dakota and camping and fishing at Popes Head Creek in Maryland.

Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, donated her father’s photograph collection of 280 glass plate negatives to the Montgomery County Historical Society. Glass plate negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s.

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, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.

Lewis Reed Chauffeur

Two ladies with parasols are sitting in the landaulet section of an early Pierce-Arrow limousine, while chauffeur Lewis Reed tends to the motor. The rear portion of the limousine is partitioned from the driver with a glass shield, and covered by a convertible top, which you can see is currently in the lowered position behind the ladies.

The photo above would have to date to the time when Lewis Reed drove as a Chauffeur and before he started the Rockville Garage in 1914. Based on the time frame he drove as a Chauffeur and its appearance, the car in the above photo appears to be an early Pierce-Arrow limousine. The license plate in the photo below is dated 1914, and I would guess the car to be a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48.

Chauffeur Lewis Reed (left) with unidentified family, 1914

Chauffeur Lewis Reed (left) in the 1914 photo above poses with an unidentified family and their Pierce-Arrow Model 48.

The earliest car owners had no real repair business to turn to. To be a successful motorist in the early 1900s, you needed to have some sort of mechanical skills. Or you had to find someone who did. Wealthy people employed private chauffeur-mechanics to not only drive, but also maintain and repair their large, expensive automobiles — rather than learn to do it themselves. Chauffeurs would be in charge of everything to do with the owner’s motor vehicle including repairs and maintenance and cleaning this meant that early personal chauffeurs had to be skilled mechanics.

With every car sold was a tool box that had the necessary to tools with instructions on how to dismantle and clean each part of the engine. It was recommended to do so after a certain amount of mileage depending on the make of the car, usually around seven hundred miles. When a tire wore out or was damaged, it was recommended that an expert do it, because it was glued to the rim and it took some doing to get it off. The new tire had to be cut to size for they were not always made to fit.

A mechanical aptitude was also necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900’s. When cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer, they arrived partially assembled in railroad boxcars. It was the dealer’s responsibility to unpack and assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the dealership. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way.  During the early years, Reed Brothers represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Oldsmobile, Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1923.

Lewis Reed on Harley Davidson circa 1915

Lewis Reed was not only passionate about automobiles and photography, he also enjoyed riding motorcycles. This is Lewis Reed on his Harley Davidson overlooking the countryside somewhere outside Frederick Maryland circa 1915

Darneston one room School

Circa 1898 class photo taken at Lewis and Edgar Reed’s one-room schoolhouse (Darnestown School). There were six grades in the school with one teacher. Minnie McAtee, teacher (right rear).

Darnestown one room School

Darnestown School, where Lewis and his brother, Edgar, went to school. The school was originally believed to be located on the Thomas Kelley Farm on Route 28 near Black Rock Road in Darnestown. Note the small outhouse on the left.

Lewis Reed

Photo of Lewis Reed in the new car showroom at Reed Brothers Dodge original location at the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike c. 1965

Lewis Reed

There were 22,000 applications for Dodge dealerships before production even started. The story of how Lewis Reed was chosen from among the 22,000 applicants for a Dodge Brothers Motor Car franchise is lost, but his legacy continued until 2009 as the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

G-burg Washington Grove Fire Dept Past & Present Officers

Lewis Reed was a Charter Member and Past President of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department. This is a photo of Past Officers of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Fire Department. Pictured left to right: name unknown, Ernest C. Gartner, Charles Fox, Clyde Thomas, Dr. Frank Broschart, Lewis Reed.

Rotary Luncheon June 1955

Lewis Reed was a Rotarian for 34 years and had served as President of the Rockville Rotary Club. This is a Rotary get-together held aboard the luxury passenger liner SS United States on June 14, 1955. (Lewis Reed, 3rd from right)

Edgar Reed

Edgar Reed

Edgar Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on October 17, 1890. Edgar, a life-long resident of Montgomery County was a partner with his brother, Lewis Reed, in the firm Reed Brothers Dodge. He was a veteran of World War I and an active citizen of Rockville. He served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in World War I from February 1918 to August 1919. Previous to his enlistment he had been employed by R.W. Vinson, Rockville druggist for eight years. In 1919, Edgar joined Lewis Reed in the business and the name changed to Reed Brothers Dodge. Edgar was in the automobile business with his brother, Lewis, for 35 years.

Edgar Reed married Rachel White in June 1920 just a few weeks prior to his brother’s wedding. They had no children. As a prominent businessman active in local commercial, civic, and religious institutions, Edgar was a respected community leader. For many years, he was a popular member of the Town Council and was Chairman of Stewards at the Rockville Methodist Church. Edgar was an original incorporator and charter member of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department when the fire company was organized in 1921. He was a charter member and Past President of the Rockville Rotary Club and was a director of the Farmers Banking & Trust Company in Rockville until the time of his death. He served on the Rockville Fair Board of Directors and in the Rockville Chamber of Commerce. Edgar was a member of the Henderson-Smith-Edmonds American Legion Post 86 of Rockville and was the first President and one of 30 original members of the Dealers Automotive Association of Montgomery County.

Edgar Reed, who was the executive of Reed Brothers, handled all of the technicalities of the business and was generally in charge of the new car and truck sales. Edgar passed away on October 24, 1951 after a prolonged illness.

In the early days, motorcycles were a staple of transportation, and both Lewis and Edgar rode Harley Davidson and Excelsior motorcycles. Motorcyclists in the 1920s were more likely to wear a tie and sporty little cap than the leather of today.

Photo below: with Lewis Reed taking the photograph (from left: Lewis Reed’s empty motorcycle, Edgar Reed, unknown person, Bernard Hanshew) in front of Greenawalt Drug Store on Market Street in Frederick, Maryland circa 1915.

1915 Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club in Frederick, MD

This section honors the contributions Sergeant Edgar Reed made for our country during World War I. 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. 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.

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 (now known as the Red Brick Courthouse, visible through the trees on the right) 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.

Montgomery County Court House 1917

Montgomery County Court House in Rockville. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1917. Notice that most of the cars have two license plates: at this time, you needed a separate tag to drive a car in the District of Columbia. There is also horse dung in the dirt road (E. Montgomery Ave), suggesting buggies had been by recently as well.

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.

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 Reed WWI

Edgar Reed, right. Photo by Lewis Reed.

Edgar Reed WWI

This photo captures the moment Edgar Reed (left) and friends arrived home from World War I. Photo by Lewis Reed.

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.

8 responses to “The Reed Brothers”

  1. Mary Dougherty says :

    Where is Philip Reed? He was a part of Reed Brothers untill he died.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Lewis and Edgar Reed were the only owners of Reed Brothers Dodge. Their brother, Philip Reed, came to work for them in 1916 as a mechanic until 1944. Another brother, Grafton, was also employed there as a mechanic in 1921. Thanks for visiting our blog!

      • Robert D. Reed, Jr. says :

        Philip Reed was my grandfather. He died the same year I was born, 1948. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. His son (my father) Robert D. Reed named me Robert D. Reed, Jr. and I named my first born Robert D. Reed, III, and he named his first son Robert D. Reed, IV. Hopefully before I die I will live long enough to see Robert D. Reed, V. Wouldn’t that be cool? Sadly, there would only be four generations, Robert Sr. died April 1973. All my brothers and one sister (Cookie Follin) live in Maryland, One brother and Cookie lives in Thurmont, Maryland. The second brother lives in Ijamaville, Maryland. I’m very familiar with the Reed Brothers legacy. I grew up with the garage at Vier’s Mill Road and Rockville Pike; right across from the St. Mary’s Church. I was baptize in that Church. I do tell everyone here in Iowa the story about my uncles owning the oldest car dealership in the country and my grandfather who used to work at that same dealership. Cool, really cool to be a part of history. I wear my name proudly….Robert D. Reed, Jr., Davenport, Iowa

      • Reed Brothers says :

        Thanks for stopping by, Robert, and taking the time to leave your comment. My best wishes to you and your family for this holiday season! ~Jeanne

      • Kay Wentzel says :

        Hello, My dad and I drove a Dodge [well, he drove] from Washington state to the east coast back in 1932 ir 1933, I am writing my life story and am trying to find out what model Dodge. If memory serves me correctly it was green and had a hand crank motor. I was about four years old then so you know how memory can play tricks on one. Anyway, bless you for responding to my note. What a great family history you have. Have a great holiday. Sincerely, kw

      • Reed Brothers says :

        Hi Kay, thanks for reading and taking the time to leave your comment. Writing a life story can be quite daunting … kudos to you for undertaking such a project!

        Our 1928 Dodge Brothers Standard Six had a crank hole cover:
        If I had to guess, the last year for hand cranks on most Chrysler products was around the mid-1930s, so your memory has served you well.

        Best wishes to you and yours for this holiday season,

  2. Eva D. McClain says :

    Thanks to my daughter, Sheila Fillmore, I’m in the process of working my way through all of this family history. My mother was born Catharine Reed, Lewis’s youngest sister. Her married name was Dorsey. By the way, one of the men in the picture with the motorcycles should be Bernard Hanshew; spelling of the last name a little different. He was the husband of Eva Reed (for who I am named). She was the oldest girl in the family. Thanks for all the wonderful family info.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hi Eva,

      I am so glad you enjoyed the pictures! One of the things I enjoy doing is looking through all of the old photographs in my grandfather’s albums and trying to figure out who and what they are. Unfortunately, the majority of the photos are more than 100 years old and do not come neatly labeled on the back with names, dates, people or places. And thanks for pointing out the correct spelling of Bernard’s last name, I have corrected it!

      It’s really amazing how many extended Reed family members I’ve met through this blog. I have also connected with Robert D. Reed Jr, grandson of Philip Reed. They too, have kept the Reed name living on in their family. Philip’s son was named Robert D. Reed and Robert Jr’s first born was named Robert D. Reed, III, and he named his first son Robert D. Reed, IV.

      It’s so very nice to run into extended family! Thanks for taking the time to visit and share your stories! You’ve made me smile. 🙂

      My Best Regards,

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