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.
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 Many of these postcards are rare, one of a kind items and historical documents.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.
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.
Strong as an Ox
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.
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.
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.
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.
These Christmas villages were precursors of the Holiday Villages that were made popular by Department 56 that you see today.
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!
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 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.
Remembering Edgar Reed’s Service This Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a time to recognize the veterans in our lives — to honor their service for our country and show them that we appreciate their sacrifices made in our behalf. World War I began on July 28, 1914 and later ended on November 11, 1918. In commemoration of Veterans Day, this very special post is in honor of the contributions Sergeant Edgar Reed made for our country during World War I.
Edgar was a partner with his brother Lewis Reed, in Reed Brothers Dodge. I never got to know my great uncle Edgar like the rest of the Reed family, because he passed away the year after I was born. My mother told me she took me to the hospital right after I was born to meet Edgar, but of course, I have no recollection of that. I do, however, feel like I know him through all of the family stories and photographs I have spent archiving over the last 10+ years.
On September 28, 1917 a draft for World War I began and the first 40 men reported for duty at the Montgomery County Court House in Rockville, Maryland. In the photograph below, cars are parked around the court house during the speech-making in the court room to drafted men. Montgomery County’s first recruits left Rockville by train for Camp Meade, Maryland on this same day. They each received a package of smoking tobacco and a rousing send-off from two thousand people after speeches at the courthouse, dinner at the Montgomery House Hotel, and a parade to the depot. About 160 Rockville men served in the eighteen-month war. One of those men was Rockville resident, Edgar Reed.
Edgar Reed (1890–1951) was born in Darnestown, Maryland on October 17, 1890. On February 26, 1918 at the age of 27 years old, Edgar was enlisted into the U.S. Army as a Private. At this time, he lived on Montgomery Avenue in Rockville. He had been employed by R.W. Vinson, Rockville druggist for eight years.
On April 27, 1918, Edgar was promoted to the rank of Private First Class, and on February 14, 1919, he was promoted to Sergeant. According to “Maryland Military Men, 1917-1918”, Edgar served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from February 1918 to August 1919. He had been posted to GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 16, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT and GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 11, CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY.
The spirit of patriotic service which swept the country prompted many persons to offer their properties to the War Department for hospital purposes. These offers included buildings of every conceivable kind, such as department stores, private establishments, hospitals, and properties in large cities. It was found that many of these could be obtained and converted into hospitals much more expeditiously than barrack hospitals could be constructed, and at less cost.
The Surgeon General recommended that the War Department authorize the leasing of the Hotel Cape May in New Jersey for use as a general hospital on December 18, 1917. The Hotel Cape May was located on the Ocean Drive, at the eastern end of the city, and within 100 feet of the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. Opened first as GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 16, the designation was changed to GENERAL HOSPITAL NO. 11, March 14, 1918. The enlisted personnel were quartered in tents which were located to the rear of the building.
At eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, World War I fighting came to an end when an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect. On August 4, 1919, Edgar was transferred to the Demobilization Center at Camp Lee, Virginia and was honorably discharged on August 6, 1919.
Pictured below is Edgar Reed’s World War I draft card, signed and dated June 5, 1917.
Below is Edgar Reed and friends returning home on the train after the war ended wearing the World War I “Victory Medal” on their lapels.
Edgar was fortunate enough to survive World War I and to settle back in Rockville and enjoy a successful life and career in the automobile business. After returning from the war in 1919, Edgar joined his brother in the business and the name changed to Reed Brothers Dodge. Edgar was in the automobile business with his brother, Lewis, for 35 years until his death in 1951.
So while we honor all who served this Veterans Day, on this day, I salute you Edgar Reed, and thank you for your service to our country.
U.S. Army Office of Medical History
Maryland Military Men, 1917-1918