Tag Archive | early automobiles

Lewis Reed as a Chauffeur-Mechanic

Lewis Reed Chauffeur

Two ladies with parasols are sitting in the landaulet section of an early Pierce-Arrow limousine, while chauffeur Lewis Reed tends to the motor. The rear portion of the limousine is partitioned from the driver with a glass shield, and covered by a convertible top, which you can see is currently in the lowered position behind the ladies. Photo taken circa 1910.

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.

early 1900s chauffeur's uniform

Early 1900s Chauffeur’s uniform

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.

The First Dodge Automobile Debuted in 1914

First Dodge car

Horace Dodge (left, rear) and John Dodge (right, rear) take delivery of the first Dodge automobile on Nov. 14, 1914.

One hundred and seven years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

Horace and John Dodge

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer.

1920 Dodge Brothers Coupe Ad

A Dodge Brothers Coupe ad from by Reed Brothers. Montgomery County Sentinel. December 24, 1920

Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge in October 1915; less than one year after the first Dodge Model-30 rolled off the assembly line for $785. He was just 27 years old. Since then, the business grew and transformed into the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the entire United States.

The Dodge Brothers First Car

First Dodge car

Horace Dodge (left, rear) and John Dodge (right, rear) take delivery of the first Dodge automobile on Nov. 14, 1914.

One hundred and five years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

Horace and John Dodge

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer.

Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after the first Dodge Model-30 rolled off the assembly line for $785. He was just 27 years old. Since then, the business grew and transformed into the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

November 14, 1914: First Dodge Automobile Built

First Dodge car

Horace Dodge (left, rear) and John Dodge (right, rear) take delivery of the first Dodge automobile on Nov. 14, 1914.

One hundred and four years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

Horace and John Dodge

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer.

Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after “Old Betsy” rolled off the assembly line. He was just 27 years old. Since then, the business grew and transformed into the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

The First Dodge Car

Horace Dodge (left rear) and John Dodge (right rear) in “Old Betsy” in front of John Dodge’s Boston Boulevard home, 14 November 1914.

One hundred and three years ago on this date – November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year, Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Lewis Reed was an enterprising young man who put his future in the fledgling automobile industry. In 1915 he received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after “Old Betsy” rolled off the assembly line. Lewis Reed and his brother Edgar, were the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland. That made Reed Brothers the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

%d bloggers like this: