Early Commercial Trucks on the Job in Rockville

Rockville Fair

1918 – Lewis Reed in drivers seat of Rockville Garage Dodge Brothers Service Truck. Note the Dodge Brothers six-point emblem on the hood and “Dodge Brothers Service” displayed on the side panel.

After the introduction of mass-produced automobiles, people started to modify their vehicles for enhanced utility. These people stripped off the rear bodywork and mounted open-topped boxes that resembled the first step towards the modern pickup truck. The photos on this post gives a wide variety of vehicles outfitted with the equipment necessary for various trades… Dealership Service Truck, Delivery Truck, and Firetruck.

Horace and John Dodge reluctantly agreed to develop a commercial vehicle in 1917 after their sales associates lobbied for a work truck that could be sold to small businesses that made deliveries of fruit, beer, and other goods. The result was a vehicle based on the first Dodge passenger car. The vehicle eventually became the screen-side Dodge business truck, with a thousand-pound payload, selling for $885.

The photo below of the original Offutt’s General Store shows a 1919 Dodge Screenside delivery truck purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge parked in front. Notice the screens on the side with roll up canvas covers. Commercial users of these units preferred Dodges because they had an all steel body.

Offutt’s General Store, with a 1919 Dodge delivery truck purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge parked in front.

Offutt’s General Store, with a 1919 Dodge Screenside delivery truck purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge parked in front. The store later became Hank Dietle’s Tavern on Rockville Pike which was recently destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy of Mary Offutt Stubbs, Edward Offutt’s daughter

In 1919, the Graham Brothers produced the “Truck-Builder” which was a basic platform from which a customer could spec a truck according to their needs. The Truck Builder was essentially a truck conversion that began with a passenger car. The Truck Builder worked this way: The new-car dealer would sell a new car to a customer, then suggest to the buyer that his old car could be converted into a truck.

dodge truck builder

Original Dodge Truck Build Order

The Dodge Truck Building Order listed the components and equipment that go into an individual truck; engine, transmission, axles, ratios, tires, special equipment, and others. A copy of the order is affixed to the cab or body, engine, and frame during the first steps in the assembly process and accompanies it until the truck is completely assembled.

In 1921, Dodge Brothers began to market Graham Brothers medium-duty trucks through its dealerships; in turn, every Graham vehicle utilized a Dodge engine. This partnership provided Dodge dealers with a full line of trucks to sell in addition to the highly regarded Dodge passenger cars, and the resulting sales increases prompted Dodge to buy the Graham Brothers Company.

Graham Brothers Trucks

In the 1920s Reed Brothers sold Dodge Brothers Motor Cars and Graham Brothers Trucks

1922 was the birth of the Kensington (Maryland) Volunteer Fire Department. The following quote was extracted from the KVFD History page.

With little money, the new company went about purchasing apparatus. A Dodge truck was purchased from Reed Brothers in Rockville. A fire body was then put on the truck by Jacobs Brothers in Gaithersburg. To raise money, the volunteers held carnivals. The Fire Department incorporated in 1925, and two years later moved into a permanent home in the basement of the National Guard Armory.

Lewis Reed later became a charter member and President (Feb.1933 – Feb 1937) of the Gaithersburg – Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department.

Kensington VFD c. 1922

This photo was on the Kensington VFD web page. The trucks in front appear to be c. 1920s.

The Dodge trucks would carry the Graham Brothers nameplate until 1928 with a few of the designs lasting as long as the 1930s.

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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