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.
35 Years Ago Today, Chrysler Invented the Minivan, And Changed History
On November 2nd, 1983, the world’s first minivan rolled off of Chrysler’s assembly line. It was the vehicle that saved Chrysler from financial doom. When Ronald Reagan was president — the economy was far from robust and Chrysler was on death’s doorstep. Chrysler needed a home run, and Lee Iacocca, who was running the company at the time, gambled that the first wave of baby boomers who were starting families would likely want something roomier and far more practical than the traditional family hauler, the station wagon. Iacocca practically bet the company on the fact that a new automotive segment dubbed “the minivan” would catch on with the boomers. It was a $660-million gamble, only made possible by money acquired earlier from Washington’s $1.5-billion bailout of Chrysler.
Sales improved dramatically with the debut of the well-received K-car platform and the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Chrysler paid off government loans seven years early. Reed Brothers successfully navigated through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout and resurgence under Lee Iacocca.
The 1984 Dodge Caravan was designed specifically with families in mind. The early design looked like station wagons at the time, featuring a wood panel along the sides. The Caravan was essentially a big, roomy box on wheels, utilizing maximum form efficiency — small on the outside, huge on the inside.
The other distinguishing features of the new minivan were its car-like features – notably including power windows, comfortable interiors, a nice dashboard, and front-wheel drive. These also explain the appeal of the vehicle. Not only did it fit in a garage like a car, but it actually drove like a car, while also providing plenty of room for the kids and luggage and giving mom a nice, high view of the road. The sliding door made it easy to for people to quickly enter or exit the vehicle and, with its lack of hinges, the sliding door was seen as a safer option for children.
After The 1984 Dodge Caravan was released, it became an immediate success. The minivan helped bring the company back from the brink of bankruptcy, and it reinvigorated the automotive market. Many buyers had to wait weeks to have their orders filled because there was so much demand. Dodge created an entirely new market with the minivan, and other models soon followed suit.
Lee Iacocca, the mastermind of the minivan era, presented this 12,000-mile Voyager at the assembly line in Windsor, Canada on November 2, 1983. A truly game-changing vehicle…
Early Car Starters: How Did Old Cars Start?
Today, we take the starting of automobiles for granted. Simply place the key in the ignition, turn, and VROOM, the engine starts. Vintage cars from from the 1900s and 1910s were comparatively archaic and limited in their mechanical features. Even starting these old relics was difficult because the process involved a number of complicated steps that the driver had to perform in the correct order.
However, this was not always the case. Hand cranks were the most common type of engine starters in the early days of the automobile. Cars in the early parts of the century had to be started by hand. This was accomplished by turning a crank, usually located in the front of the automobile. The driver would literally “crank the engine” by turning the handle, which would allow the process of internal combustion to begin. After a given number of cranks, the engine would begin to run on its own, and the crank could be removed.
Although hand crank starters were simple and reliable, they suffered from a handful of drawbacks. The main issue with this method of starting an engine is that it is inherently dangerous to the operator. For instance, if an engine kicks back during the cranking process, the operator could get TKO’d by the hand crank. Although many of these cranks used overrun mechanism, there was also a potential for injury if the handle continued to turn after the engine started running.
The other main issue with hand crank starters is that it took a certain degree of physical effort to turn them. That meant anyone who lacked the necessary physical strength or dexterity was incapable of starting a vehicle equipped with this type of starter.
By 1920, nearly all manufacturers were producing cars equipped with starters making it easy for anyone, regardless of physical abilities, to start a car by pressing a button mounted on the dash or floor. An ignition on and starter engage switch operated by a key was introduced by Chrysler in 1949.
Several new mechanical innovations were included in the 1946 Dodge Deluxe models. Among them were the introduction of the famous Fluid-Drive, a push-button starter system. The dash-mounted button on the 1946 Dodge Deluxe pictured below activated a solenoid, which in turn engaged the starter. For the first time since 1928 there was no provision made to manually hand crank the engine.
Chauffeur Lewis Reed Drives Pierce-Arrow Limousines
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. 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 his mechanic training – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.
Lewis Reed received his training at the Pierce-Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, and the Washington Auto College. Pierce-Arrow was once one of the most recognized and respected names in the automobile industry. For 38 years, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made.
The photo above would have to date to the time when Lewis Reed drove as a Chauffeur and before he started the Rockville Garage in 1914. Based on the time frame he drove as a Chauffeur and its appearance, the car in the above photo appears to be an early Pierce-Arrow limousine. If you can help to date it and/or identify the model, please leave a comment. The license plate in the photo below is dated 1914, and I would guess the car to be a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48.
The earliest car owners had no real repair business to turn to. To be a successful motorist in the early 1900s, you needed to have some sort of mechanical skills. Or you had to find someone who did. 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. Chauffeurs would be in charge of everything to do with the owner’s motor vehicle including repairs and maintenance and cleaning this meant that early personal chauffeurs had to be skilled mechanics.
With every car sold was a tool box that had the necessary to tools with instructions on how to dismantle and clean each part of the engine. It was recommended to do so after a certain amount of mileage depending on the make of the car, usually around seven hundred miles. When a tire wore out or was damaged, it was recommended that an expert do it, because it was glued to the rim and it took some doing to get it off. The new tire had to be cut to size for they were not always made to fit.
A mechanical aptitude was also necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900’s. When cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer, they arrived partially assembled in railroad boxcars. It was the dealer’s responsibility to unpack and assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the dealership. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way. During the early years, Reed Brothers represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Oldsmobile, Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1923.
Winner – 1931 Reed Brothers Third Annual Goodyear Dealers Zeppelin Race
In the early 1930’s, the Goodyear Zeppelin Company produced a series of framed prints as rewards for Goodyear dealers as prizes for high sales. Sales was based on a two months quota, and participated in by thousands of dealers all over the country. The print shows USS Akron on a mobile mast, leaving her hanger. The frame is made of the sheet metal and rivets used in dirigible construction, and each frame has an engraved duralumin plaque at bottom center of the frame.
The inscription plaque reads:
Third Annual Goodyear Dealers Zeppelin Race
THIS FRAME IS MADE OF DURALUMIN USED IN THE GIRDER CONSTRUCTION OF THE UNITED STATES AIRSHIP “AKRON” BUILT BY THE GOODYEAR ZEPPELIN CORPORATION
This original Margaret Bourke-White photograph of the United States Airship “Akron” is SIGNED in the lower right hand corner by the famed 20th Century photographer.
The USS Akron, first of a class of two 6,500,000 cubic foot rigid airships, was built at Akron, Ohio. Commissioned in late October 1931, she spent virtually all of her short career on technical and operational development tasks, exploring the potential of the rigid airship as an Naval weapons system. During the remainder of 1931 and the early part of 1932, the Akron made flights around the eastern United States and over the western Atlantic, including one trial of her capabilities as a scouting unit of the fleet. While beginning a trip to the New England area, Akron encountered a violent storm over the New Jersey coast and, shortly after midnight on 4 April 1933, crashed tail-first into the sea. Only three of the seventy-six men on board survived this tragic accident. During the search for other possible survivors, the Navy non-rigid airship J-3 also crashed, killing two more men.
Note: Margaret Bourke-White (1904 1971) is best known as the first foreign correspondent to be permitted to take photographs of Soviet industry, the first female war correspondent, and the first female correspondent permitted to work in war zones.
40th Anniversary with Goodyear
Lewis Reed was recognized by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for reaching his 40th year as a Goodyear dealer. Reed Brothers Dodge began selling Goodyear tires in the 1920s. Below is a letter from Russell DeYoung thanking Lewis Reed for his 40 years “in business together”.
Please see Margaret Bourke-White: The Photography of Design, 1927 – 1936 for more information