No New Cars During WWII, But That Didn’t Stop Lewis Reed

During World War II, Reed Brothers Dodge had virtually no new cars to sell for three and a half years. Tires and parts were rationed. Strict price ceilings governed used-car sales. Used cars were really hard to find, because people couldn’t afford to give them up. So, most dealerships had to rely on their service and parts departments to fix the cars people couldn’t replace. Empty showrooms were a problem. 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, Westinghouse Radios, and other large appliances to fill the gap.

Westinghouse Radio Ad

Newspaper ad for Westinghouse Radios with Reed Bros, Rockville, MD listed in fine print at the bottom

Reed Brothers Dodge lost eight employees to the draft. One former employee, Philip Frank, a member of the Air Corps in World War II was in killed in combat in the South Pacific. Raleigh S. Chinn of Rockville, Salesman, who started with Reed Brothers in 1920, resigned in 1942 due to lack of automobiles to sell. Edward R. Brosius of Barnesville, Salesman, started with the company in 1938. He, too, resigned in 1942 when cars were unavailable. Guy Merry of Rockville started in 1937 as a mechanic. He entered the armed forces in World War II and served for three years. When he was released, he returned to his old job. John Burdette of Gaithersburg, Gas Station attendant, started in 1940 and worked for about one year and then entered the armed services. He served four years in World War II and returned to his old job when he was released. Richard C. Burdette, Rockville, mechanic, started in 1941 and also worked at Reed Brothers until he entered the service. He served two years and then returned to work.

Car salesmen back in the 1940s would drive as far as 35 miles to deliver cars to their spread-out farmer customers. Lewis Reed allotted specific sales territory to his salesmen in four different directions from the dealership. The salesmen spent all day in the outlying areas, because the farmers in Poolesville, Rockville, Barnesville and Spencerville had no time to go to a showroom. Lee Gartner (Lewis Reed’s son-in-law) spent his summers on his grandfather’s farm and it was Mr. Lewis Reed who brought his grandfather’s car to him. Three of the four salesmen at the time were Francis O. Day, Raleigh S. Chinn and Benjamin Thompson.

At that time, Reed Brothers was selling about eight new cars a month and most sales resulted from knocking on people’s doors. After the end of World War II, the car boom came and the automobile assembly lines were back in action. The first car after the war was the1946 Dodge, which sold for about $800.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: