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Dodge “Punishment Pit” – Torture Makes Them SAFER!

Did you know that Dodge Brothers corporation had a “punishment pit”? This pit was a new type of automobile proving ground that was regarded as the quickest and most satisfactory way of finding out how an automobile can stand up under treatment of the most severely abnormal sort. Before Dodge introduced its latest models, some of the test cars were tortured in the punishment pit for as long as 600 hours.


Montgomery County Sentinel. August 24, 1933

In these trials, every stunt resulting in mechanical agony to all parts was employed to furnish the engineers and builders with proof of the car’s sturdiness and safety, with its ability to “take it.” Where the owner-driver would steer around chuck holes, dams and other obstacles, the punishment pit driver hunts the obstacles, steps on the throttle and tears right into them. He is exceedingly nimble-footed and can let the car turn over without being injured himself.

Dodge Punishment Pit

Photo of Plymouth against which a truck overturned; note how steel body resisted impact

Not only in the pit is torture applied to the new models. An ingenious device called the “Belgium roll” is almost as cruel to an automobile as the punishment pit. This machine shakes, rattles and vibrates a car placed upon it in such a vigorous manner that many hidden defects are revealed speedily. A few hours of the Belgium roll subject an automobile to more punishment than months of driving over the roughest roads. The effects of vibration on every part are studied closely by the engineer, changes made here and there, and to the public goes the result of torture —

Belgian roll torture machineA quiet, safe, smoothly riding automobile that will give years of service.

Dodge Six in the torture pit

Big Dodge Six in the torture pit

One unusual test of motor quietness was conducted by Dodge engineers under military supervision. While the engine was running, an expert rifleman sitting in the front seat fired ten shots with a United States army rifle at a regulation target 100 yards away. During aiming and firing, the rifle rested on the windshield. The result was a 100×100 target score.

Dodge 6

Target shows where bullets struck

Unusual as these tests may appear, they are the means to a common end, that of producing faster, safer and more comfortable automobiles.

Source: Popular Mechanics · ‎Vol. 60, No. 6 · Dec 1933

Introduction of School Buses in Montgomery County

Your parents and grandparents have probably told you stories of walking miles to get to school – uphill both ways of course. Today, most kids take the school bus. In fact, if you were a grade school student the late 1950’s, a Dodge school bus might have been your ride. The first school buses used around Rockville (and in Montgomery County) were furnished by Reed Brothers Dodge.

From The Montgomery County Sentinel, May 21, 1959:

First School Buses

In the 1940s, the school bus started to become a profitable trend, so other companies began to jump on the bandwagon to create their own versions. Fifty years prior, Wayne Works and Blue Bird were the main producers, but around this time mainstream companies like Ford and Dodge used their vast resources to further innovation.

Following the end of WWII, the number of children exploded in America, and that necessitated another redesign for buses. This time they didn’t get wider or safer; this time they got a lot longer. Adding all that length increased overall capacity to around 100 students. It was around this time that the infamous yellow paint job became a national standard as well, so this is the beginning of the school buses we know today.

Upside Down to Prove Its Strength

The advertisement in this post does more than just simply pitch a product, it captures a moment in history. A moment in history when Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Essex were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917-1923. Rockville–Hudson-Essex–Garage, is highlighted in yellow in the ad below. In addition to franchise car dealers, there were also factory stores. In the early days, the factory stores did the national advertising. A factory store, also known as a branch store or branch dealer, was a dealership owned and run by the manufacturer. A list of area Dealers was placed in fine print at the bottom of the ads.

The upside down coach on the dealers sales floors to demonstrate strength and sturdiness of construction is what proved effective in selling the Hudson and Essex.

We make this test at our store to show the strong, rigid body construction of the Hudson and Essex Coaches. In this position it is supporting a crushing load of 2700 pounds. Come see it. Test the doors and windows, which operate with ease, showing a total absence of body strain.

1923 Rockville Garage Ad

Rockville Garage Hudson-Essex Advertisement: The Evening Star, Washington DC Thursday, March 1, 1923

Hudson introduced the Essex brand in 1919. The Essex was intended to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for budget-minded buyers. The Essex offered one of the first affordable sedans and by 1925 the combined Hudson and Essex sales made Hudson the third largest automobile manufacturer in the United States.

The Hudson Motor Company, assisted by advertising a stripped Coach body and a chassis, and by a display of the individual parts that go into the Hudson and Essex cars, resulted in the sale of 75 Hudson and Essex cars the first 10 days. During its production run, the Essex was considered a small car and was affordably priced. The Essex is generally credited with starting a trend away from open touring cars design toward enclosed passenger compartments. By 1922 the Essex Motor Company was dissolved and the Essex officially became a product of Hudson.

In 1923, the big news was the demonstration the values the Hudson and Essex purchasers received. The advertisement below demonstrates the strength of the rigid body construction of the Essex Coach.

1922 Husdson-Essex Upside-down

From The Hudson Triangle, Detroit Michigan, December 1, 1922.

Historic Gem: Drunk Falls Through Plate Glass Window of Reed Brothers Dodge

I encountered this fun and interesting news story among the millions of pages in the Library of Congress’s massive digitized database of historic American newspapers. The database is a superb resource, but it’s also the best kind of Internet rabbit hole: You go in looking for one thing, and encounter a dozen fascinating oddities along the way. This article is one of them:

Drunk Falls Through Reed Brothers Window The Evening Star Washington, DC Monday March 18, 1929

The Evening Star Washington, D.C., Monday, March 18, 1929

One of the dealership’s large plate glass windows in the photograph below would have been where the young resident may have stumbled through.

Reed Brothers Dodge, 1921

Reed Brothers Dodge, 1921


Got Milk? Mrs Phillip Reed Endorses Cream Top Milk in This 1931 Ad

They say that the cream always rises to the top. What rose to the top of my internet search this week was this advertisement of cream top milk endorsed by Mrs Phillip Reed (Mary Zelda Reed) of Rockville. Phillip Reed was a brother of Lewis Reed and a part of the dealership’s first work force. Phillip came to work for the dealership as a mechanic in 1916. Characteristic is this compliment from Mrs. Phillip Reed of Rockville, MD:

I wish to tell you that I like your ‘Cream Top’ Milk better than any I have ever bought in the eleven years that I have been buying milk … The Cream whips wonderfully.

Cream top milk ad 1930

The Sunday Star, Washington D.C. March 8, 1931

The Chevy Chase Dairy resulted from the merger of two companies. Brothers George and Joseph Wise started Chevy Chase Dairy in 1885. The Dairy was utilized to supply milk to the Chevy Chase/Bethesda, Maryland and the Washington DC area with fresh milk. The dairy was started by H. G. Carroll who owned the farm in 1897. Sometime around 1913-1915 he sold the dairy to George, Joseph and Raymond Wise who added the “Wise Brothers” to the Chevy Chase Farm name. There first retail location in the District was at 3306 P Street NW. They later moved to 3206 N Street NW (adjacent to Martin’s Tavern which fronts Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown) where it remained until it was sold to National Dairy Products in January 1931.

Chevy Chase Dairy delivery wagons, circa 1918-28.

Chevy Chase Dairy delivery wagons, circa 1918-28. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION)

The Chestnut Farms, Chevy Chase Dairy may be gone, but an unexpected descendant remains. Dairies used to sponsor all sorts of extracurricular activities for employees, from baseball teams to orchestras. Chestnut Farms, Chevy Chase Dairy had a brass band. In 1938, the band played in the stands of Griffith Stadium during a football game. The owner of the team liked the idea of entertaining the fans so much that he signed them up to play regularly. The owner was George Preston Marshall, the team was the Redskins and the band became the Redskins Marching Band.

Source: The Washington Post

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