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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.

1910 real photo postcard

Postcard addressed to Rufus Reed from Eva Reed. Note the cost of the postage stamp is just one penny.

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 Many of these postcards are rare, one of a kind items and historical documents.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.

1910 real photo postcard

Postcard image was taken by Phillip Reed (Lewis Reed’s brother) of Woodlawn Hotel before it became Chestnut Lodge in 1910.

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.

1910 real photo postcard

Strong as an Ox

Point of Rocks Maryland

A pair of oxen pull a wagon in Point of Rocks, Maryland. Edgar Reed, second from left is seated on the railing. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1911.

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.

Christmas Trees and Snow Villages from a Hundred Years Ago

With only a few days left until Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some photos from Lewis Reed’s collection that show us what Christmas trees used to look like 100 years ago. In those days, there was not wide-spread agreement on exactly what a tree should look like, which made for a lot of creativity. Not surprisingly, they were very different than the perfectly shaped tress we have on display today.

The trees were big back then and always fresh. They went right to the ceiling and were very wide. Early Christmas trees were generally fastened onto a flat board surrounded with fence-rails, snow villages and carpeted with cotton blankets of snow. The tree in the photo below has an abundance of tinsel, which grew in popularity to the point that, by the 1920s, it was common to nearly cover the tree in the decorative material.

So, what is tinsel (aka icicles) exactly? Originally made from strands of silver alloy, tinsel was in fact first used to decorate sculptures. It was only later that it became a Christmas tree decoration, employed to enhance the flickering of the candle flames. In the 1950s, tinsel became so popular that it was often used as a substitute for Christmas lights.

vintage Christmas tree

A small snow scene with what appears to be a miniature church is arranged at the foot of the Christmas tree. A popcorn garland adorns the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

So, where did Washingtonians get their trees?

From The Evening Star, Washington, DC 23 December 1923:

Conduit Road on the long stretch between Glen Echo and Great Falls for many years has been a favorite hunting ground where hundreds and hundreds of families have customarily obtained scrub pine trees for Christmas week. Usually there is plenty of holly and some mistletoe to be found in the rugged and rolling hill lands which are the gateway to Great Falls.

vintage Christmas tree

No room for a star on the top of this tree! And just look at those big Santa and Angel dolls. Other fun little details are notable, including a miniature church with picket fence is arranged at the base of the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

There’s a fine art to decorating Christmas trees that’s been developing since over 100 years ago. People consider lights, garland, ornaments, skirt, and more. But one thing that’s hard to resist sometimes is just filling every available space with decorations. Clearly, that was the case years ago too. What I like about these trees is that they are so randomly shaped and even misshapen. Folks back then didn’t trim them down to a more aesthetically pleasing symmetry like we do today.

The tradition of building miniature Christmas village landscapes, including houses, animals, and other hand-crafted wooden figures, began with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the late 1800s. Mass-produced cardboard houses, sold in dimestores, became popular in the mid-20th century. Today, these villages in good condition can be highly collectible.

Below are photos of Lewis Reed’s snow village set up under the Christmas tree decorated with vintage ornaments, tinsel, and lights. I don’t remember the odd-shaped Christmas trees, but I do remember having a lot of fun helping my grandfather set up the miniature landscapes with the varied figures, little houses, and trees at Christmastime each year. It seemed like a holiday village right out of a storybook.

1900s Christmas village

A rustic picket fence is used to set off the village display. Dangling strands of tinsel hang below the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

The snow villages were set up in Lewis Reed’s basement on top of a big table beneath a small Christmas tree. He made the snow scenes entirely by hand using wire-covered cardboard and balled up paper to make hills and pathways. The little houses and figurines would fit into the landscape with cotton ‘snow’ all around; and lights would be wired underneath.

1900s Christmas village

Little houses, churches, fences, trees, and pathways were added to the scene. Some of the houses have charming light effects in the windows. The roofs of the houses were decorated with fake snow. Photo by Lewis Reed

These Christmas villages were precursors of the Holiday Villages that were made popular by Department 56 that you see today.

1900s Christmas village

Old-fashioned lights can be seen on the tree, along with lit windows in the houses. The miniature houses usually had holes in the back or the bottom through which tiny lights were placed to provide illumination. Photo by Lewis Reed

Wishing all of you who have stopped in to visit a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Stay safe and enjoy the holiday season with friends and family!

Merry Christmas

Then & Now: Smithsonian Institution Castle

This post is a continuation of a series of “Then & Now” images from Lewis Reed’s Photo Collection alongside photographs of how they appear today. Lewis Reed worked hard to preserve a visual history of Montgomery County, Maryland and surrounding area long before automobiles were even around. As early as 1905, he toured on his motorcycle across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and took photographs of many historic locations. Taken approximately 115 years apart, you can see how the Smithsonian Institution Castle looks both the same and completely different from over a century ago.

Smithsonian Institution Castle (THEN): The Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the “Castle,” was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. Initially, the Castle was intended to be built in white marble and then in yellow sandstone. The architect and the building committee finally agreed on using Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca Quarry, located in Montgomery County, Maryland. When it was completed in 1855, it sat on an isolated piece of land cut off from downtown Washington, DC, by a canal. In the ensuing decades, the Castle became the anchor for the National Mall, as additional museums and government buildings were constructed around it.

Smithsonian Castle 1907

Smithsonian Institution Castle. Photo taken by Lewis Reed in 1907

Smithsonian Institution Castle (NOW): The same view over a century later. The Smithsonian Institution Castle, located near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. behind the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery, houses the Smithsonian Institution’s administrative offices and information center.

Smithsonian Institution Castle

Smithsonian Institution Castle today

A Look Back at What Halloween in Montgomery County Looked Like 100 Years Ago

Ever wondered how Montgomery County families celebrated Halloween 100 years ago? Thanks to the these photographs from Lewis Reed’s collection, we can travel all the way back to 1914.

At the turn of the century, women often wore their regular clothes topped with homemade masks. The first Halloween costumes were usually worn by women and reflected the idea of masquerades that was extremely popular in the early 1900s. People only began to buy manufactured costumes in the second and third decades of the 20th century.

1900s Halloween costumes

Halloween, ca. 1914. These women are holding homemade Halloween masks for their upcoming celebration. Photo by Lewis Reed

Oh the good ol’ days, when wearing a mask was enough to be dressed up for celebrations! Do you know how your ancestors’ celebrated Halloween? Newspapers are a great source to get a better understanding of life in the past. This special post is a look back through newspaper articles and Lewis Reed’s photographs at how Halloween was celebrated 100 years ago.

Stocked Stores: Stores were stocked with all the Halloween supplies needed for a fun celebration. Below is an ad for costumes and masquerade suits for those participating in Halloween parties and other seasonal affairs.

1916 Halloween Costumes

The Washington Post, October 30, 1916

Dancing and Parties: Halloween parties and dancing were enjoyed by many. Some announcements even included a list of guests in attendance!

Halloween Dancing in 1912

The Baltimore Sun, November 3, 1912

Here is the description of a Halloween party from the Society Section of the November, 1916 issue of The Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia):

A Halloween party was given last evening… and a merry evening spent by those present. The reception hall, living and dining rooms were artistically decorated with autumn leaves, lanterns, chrysanthemums and orange and black streamers. The evening was spent in old-fashioned games, concluding with the entire assemblage gathering about an open fireplace in the dark, while the guests were led by a ghost through various parts of the darkened home. The evening’s entertainment concluded with music, dancing and the serving of refreshments.

1900s Halloween

This photo captures a moment from a Halloween gathering over 100 years ago. Photo by Lewis Reed

Any sort of Halloween festivities demanded some sort of refreshment. In addition to traditional pumpkin pies and molasses cookies, a suggested dish to serve at Halloween parties was a Halloween salad.

Halloween Salad

Halloween Pranks: Witches and goblins, ghosts and mischief-making youngsters were permitted to enjoy all the Halloween revelry they liked … BUT DON’T THROW FLOUR. Yes, apparently in the early 1900s, there wasn’t much to do for entertainment, so kids would knock on doors on Halloween night and throw flour at whoever answered. To the modern observer, some of the traditions of Halloween 100 years ago are downright bizarre.

1916 Halloween Pranks

The Evening Star, October 31, 1916

Halloween Parades: Halloween parades actually began because pranks and mischief had gotten out of control. By 1920, there was a push to turn Halloween into a holiday centered around community gatherings and festive Halloween parades, rather than mischief. 

Early 1900s Halloween Clown

There is something undeniably creepy about this clown in sunglasses riding on a horse in a Halloween Parade. Location is unknown. Photo by Lewis Reed

Wishing all my friends, followers, and visitors of this blog a very safe and happy Halloween!

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