Lewis Reed as a Chauffeur-Mechanic
The year is 1910 and you’ve just purchased a brand new automobile. To show it off for the first time, you’ve hired a knowledgeable chauffeur. You sit on a padded seat while the chauffeur tends to the engine. Though it takes a while to start up, your new ride can reach around 37 mph. The ride is a bumpy one, and you could probably walk faster than the car travels. Ooops! One of the wheels has popped off as you go around a bend. 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 Lewis Reed’s mechanic training – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.
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. At the dawn of the early 20th century, society was transitioning from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. Having grown up in a blacksmith family, he was well positioned to move to the new technology. The 1910 census indicates that 23-year-old Lewis Reed was working as a machinist. Lewis worked as a chauffeur from roughly 1910-1914, before he became involved in the business of selling and repairing automobiles.
Chauffeur-mechanics of the early 1900s were the first group to earn a living working on automobiles. 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. The vehicles of the time came with mobile toolboxes often resembling a small hardware store tucked away in the trunk. The early 1900s Pierce-Arrow toolkit included extra intake and exhaust valves, not exactly your typical roadside service. During the height of travel season, Spring through Fall, oil changes were required almost weekly. As you can easily surmise, there had to be someone to keep track of all of the maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle as well as the daily driving.
The novelty of the motor car led many manufacturers to create clothes that were specifically marketed for the automobile driver and his or her passengers. Lewis Reed wore a typical chauffeur’s uniform of the time. His motoring outfit was taken from the military uniform, combining a single or double breasted hip length coat and a pair of knicker pants with tall boots and a traditional driver’s cap. Gauntlet gloves were worn while driving and goggles were worn in open air cars. Goggles obviously protected ones’ eyes from flying pebbles and dirt, but heavy-weight boots ensured that the driver could, when necessary, get out to push a stalled car or fix a punctured tire.
Savvy marketers were especially quick to recognize that automobile owners had “more money to spend” than non-car owners. As these marketers gleefully noted, car owners “spend…more freely than non-[car] owners.” Convincing these customers of the need for special clothes was not too difficult. In fact, some car owners spent nearly as much on their motoring clothes as they did on their cars. The ladies in the photograph with parasols could have used them as an attractive way of shielding themselves from the sun’s rays, or to keep the dust from the dirt roads off their faces.
In October of 1915, Lewis Reed opened his Dodge dealership on Rockville Pike, less than one year after the first-ever Dodge automobile rolled off the assembly line. Reed Brothers Dodge provided “wheels” to many families for most of the 20th century during a period when the number of motorcars was rising rapidly throughout Maryland. Few businesses survived the Great Depression and two world wars, but Reed Brothers Dodge eventually emerged from the gauntlet of the 20th century as the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the United States.
Creed of A Dodge Brothers Salesman
The man responsible for much of the early Dodge Brothers advertising was George Harrison Phelps. Among other things, George Phelps wrote “The Creed of A Dodge Brothers Salesman” which embodied the Dodge Brothers philosophy in manufacturing and selling cars:
Dodge Brothers advertising was renowned for its simplicity. Sales brochures in 1914-15 and 1916 used the slogan, “It Speaks for Itself.”
Advertisements in 1916 emphasized the growing acceptance of Dodge Brothers care by the public. The campaign began with “A Year’s Growth of Good Will”, published on January 1, 1916.
Source: “The Dodge Brothers”, The Men, The Motor Cars, and The Legacy
Reed Brothers was founded and franchised as a Dodge dealership in 1915; only one year after the first Dodge automobile was made. Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson, along with Dodge. Reed Brothers was a successful company, combining car sales, auto accessories and repair service. They also sold Fisk Tires which were made in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.
After seeing the Fisk Tire signs in the photos below, I was curious to learn more about the company and the tires that they made. The history of the Fisk Tire Company is relatively obscure, but as far as is known, Noyes W. Fisk purchased a failing rubber manufacturing company in 1898. Fisk continued the company under his own name and branched out to sell automobile tires. By 1904, most of the country’s major car manufacturers were buying Fisk tires. The tire business, along with many other businesses, fell upon hard times during the great depression. Despite all the country’s hardships, Fisk survived and introduced its new Safti-Flight tire in 1930, and it proved to be an impressive success. (click images to enlarge)
Below is an ad I found in the September 18, 1915 edition of Automobile Topics that gives you an idea of the cost of tires at the time, which was considerable.
Source: Chicopee (Google eBook)
Reed Brothers Can Now Be Found On “Peerless Rockville”
Peerless Rockville has placed a link to “Reed Brothers Dodge History 1915-2012” blog under the Resources section of their website. Our thanks and gratitude to Peerless Rockville for sharing the link to our blog so our local historical information can be preserved and shared with future generations.
Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation, Ltd. is an award-winning nonprofit, community-based organization founded in 1974 to preserve buildings, objects, and information important to Rockville’s heritage. Please take some time to explore their official website here.
1972 Washington Auto Show
Gathering around the Charger Topper on display at the Washington meeting are (from left) Lee Gartner, Dealer President/Principal and Phil Vetter (at wheel), Service Manager of Reed Brothers Dodge.
The 1972 Dodge Charger “Topper Special” was a custom-equipped economy Charger specially equipped with the canopy vinyl roof, hidden headlights, side paint stripe, contour moldings, bumper guards, Rallye instrumentation, security inside hood release, whitewalls, wheel covers, left remote control mirror, extra chrome, and fender mounted turn signals.
And for adding these beautiful touches, your dealer can offer you a vinyl roof. Free. Want power steering and power brakes? See your Dodge Dealer about his offer on the specially equipped Charger Topper X. Dodge, Depend on it.
1972 Dodge Charger Topper Ad ~ Free Vinyl Roof