Montgomery History New Online Exhibit: Montgomery County 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed

Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed

Montgomery History has launched a new online exhibit co-developed by Blog Author, Jeanne Gartner and Montgomery History Librarian & Archivist, Sarah Hedlund: “Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed”. Explore Montgomery County and its environs in the early 20th century through the lens of Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. A pioneering automobile dealer and one of the most prolific photographers in Montgomery County at the turn of the 20th century, Reed took motorcycle excursions all over the state of Maryland with his camera, capturing landscapes, monuments, historical places, people, and anything else that caught his attention.

The presentation of the Lewis Reed collection features his photography in several themed exhibitions (Transportation, Photo-magic, Recreation, Daily Life and Community) which will be released separately over time. The first exhibition, “Transportation in Montgomery County”, features some of the earliest known photographs of various modes of transportation, from horses and canal boats to motorcycles and automobiles. It is an absolutely unique window into how Montgomery Countians lived over a century ago.

Click on the category you are interested in below to visit the various presentations and their photographic content. Through the lens of Lewis Reed, we see that Montgomery County’s history is America’s history.

  • Transportation: Lewis Reed loved moving vehicles and photographed the evolution of transportation happening around him at the turn of the century. Explore the pages on modes of transportation in Montgomery County from horse power to automobiles.
  • Photo-magic: Details how self-taught photographer and county native Lewis Reed edited photos before computers existed, using techniques like hand-tinting and double exposure.
  • Recreation: Enjoy a vicarious getaway by exploring the newest section of the Lewis Reed Photography online exhibit, “Recreation”. View these amazing photos to see how Montgomery Countians in the first half of the 20th century enjoyed fun in the sun — beach trips, camping, fishing, vacationing, attending fairs, and more. You’ll find many summer activities have stood the test of time!
  • Daily Life [coming soon!]
  • Community [coming soon!]

New Blog Feature: Then & Now

Then & Now

Looking back at photography from the past is a fascinating experience for me, and with a newfound interest in history, it occurred to me that with the vast number of historical photographs in Lewis Reed’s Collection, that this blog would be a great place to feature a series of Then & Now photography. I started doing this about a year ago as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject. With that in mind, I will occasionally be spotlighting some “Then & Now” images from his collection that will show photographs of buildings, street scenes, and other historical locales alongside photographs of how they appear today.

Some of the historic locations in this series includes the Smithsonian, Capitol, Union Station, Old Post Office, Library of Congress, Raleigh Hotel, Key Bridge and other important sites in and around the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. There are also photographs of many non-Maryland locations including the historic landmark “Lucy the Elephant”, Gettysburg Battlefield, Mount Vernon, Pennsylvania Monument and United States Regulars Monuments under construction, and Quebec Bridge (the 8th Wonder of the World).

I have no formal history training, just a general interest in local history where I grew up. I will post one of Lewis Reed’s photographs matched with a corresponding contemporary shot of the same area, and supply a few sentences of context. All of them will in some way will offer a visual history of how things have changed over the years. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960)

Lewis Reed Photos

Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge, was a well-known photographer in Montgomery County. Many of his photographs are now part of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Historical Society photo archives. He even developed his own photographs. He had a darkroom in his house —  in the kitchen, to be exact — and worked at night to develop the negatives.

About This Collection:

Since I started this blog, I have had the opportunity to look through my grandfather’s extensive collection of photographs from historical locations not only in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia, but all across the country. The Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960) spotlights the photographs that I have been able to research and identify. There are 100+ blog posts within this section that gives a snapshot of what life was like more than 100 years ago. Highlights include the Black Rock Grist Mill, Rockville Water Tower, C&O Canal, 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, Rockville Fair dirt track races, Trolley Cars, Wright Brothers Airplane, and Quebec Bridge (8th Wonder of the World). Especially stunning are images of the aftermath of the 1936 Gainesville Georgia tornado, one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history. Many photographic images in this collection have never before been seen publicly in print.

Lewis Reed’s photography has appeared as a resource in highly regarded local history publications, and in historical television programming, including on the national television show American Pickers, Science Channel Impossible Engineering, Maryland Public Television, and the American Experience History Series on PBS.

If there’s an historical marker on the side of the road in Montgomery County, chances are, one of Lewis Reed’s images is on it. Some of the markers that display his photographs include the Andrew Small Academy Marker in Darnestown, The Origins of Darnestown Marker, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg, From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda, Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker in Rockville and the 19th Century Crossroads Marker in Darnestown.

Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of manipulated photographs. He was 100 years ahead of his time by creating special effects to images long before the convenience and efficiency of digital photography and Photoshop were ever imaginable. Lewis Reed used a wide variety of effects, including hand-tinting, double exposure, applied handwork, and creating images that made it look as if there were ghosts in the picture. It’s pretty amazing how his early photography shows such versatility and creativity considering the limited tools that were available at the time.

Click here to take a look back in time and explore the lives of those who have gone before us.

Note: All images are scanned from prints made from Lewis Reed’s original glass plate negatives. Glass plate negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s. No touch-up or alteration has been done, in order to retain their historical essence.

No New Cars During WWII, But That Didn’t Stop Lewis Reed

During World War II, Reed Brothers Dodge had virtually no new cars to sell for three and a half years. Tires and parts were rationed. Strict price ceilings governed used-car sales. Used cars were really hard to find, because people couldn’t afford to give them up. So, most dealerships had to rely on their service and parts departments to fix the cars people couldn’t replace. Empty showrooms were a problem. When manufacturers halted car production and many dealers went bankrupt, Lewis Reed converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines, Westinghouse Radios, and other large appliances to fill the gap.

Westinghouse Radio Ad

Newspaper ad for Westinghouse Radios with Reed Bros, Rockville, MD listed in fine print at the bottom

Reed Brothers Dodge lost eight employees to the draft. One former employee, Philip Frank, a member of the Air Corps in World War II was in killed in combat in the South Pacific. Raleigh S. Chinn of Rockville, Salesman, who started with Reed Brothers in 1920, resigned in 1942 due to lack of automobiles to sell. Edward R. Brosius of Barnesville, Salesman, started with the company in 1938. He, too, resigned in 1942 when cars were unavailable. Guy Merry of Rockville started in 1937 as a mechanic. He entered the armed forces in World War II and served for three years. When he was released, he returned to his old job. John Burdette of Gaithersburg, Gas Station attendant, started in 1940 and worked for about one year and then entered the armed services. He served four years in World War II and returned to his old job when he was released. Richard C. Burdette, Rockville, mechanic, started in 1941 and also worked at Reed Brothers until he entered the service. He served two years and then returned to work.

Car salesmen back in the 1940s would drive as far as 35 miles to deliver cars to their spread-out farmer customers. Lewis Reed allotted specific sales territory to his salesmen in four different directions from the dealership. The salesmen spent all day in the outlying areas, because the farmers in Poolesville, Rockville, Barnesville and Spencerville had no time to go to a showroom. Lee Gartner (Lewis Reed’s son-in-law) spent his summers on his grandfather’s farm and it was Mr. Lewis Reed who brought his grandfather’s car to him. Three of the four salesmen at the time were Francis O. Day, Raleigh S. Chinn and Benjamin Thompson.

At that time, Reed Brothers was selling about eight new cars a month and most sales resulted from knocking on people’s doors. After the end of World War II, the car boom came and the automobile assembly lines were back in action. The first car after the war was the1946 Dodge, which sold for about $800.

Sept 17, 1908: Testing the Wright Military Flyer at Fort Myer, VA

On this day in September 17,1908, the first military airplane in the world, built by the Wright brothers for the Army Signal Corps, made its first flight at Fort Myer, Virginia. Less than a thousand people witnessed the first flight at Fort Myer, because the general public was still doubtful that powered flight had been achieved. But Lewis Reed was there… and to commemorate that milestone, I have posted six original snippets of history that Lewis Reed captured through the lens of his camera that day.

Wright Military Flyer

Soldiers at Fort Myer prepare to pull the Wright Military Flyer out of its temporary hangar. Photo by Lewis Reed

Five years after the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, Orville Wright and Thomas E. Selfridge test flew the Wright Flyer in a demonstration for the U.S. Army at Fort Myer, VA. The Army was considering contracting Wright’s aircraft to use as a military airplane, but, in order to win the contract, he needed to demonstrate the plane’s ability to carry a passenger. Twenty-six-year-old Lt Thomas E. Selfridge volunteered to be a passenger that day. Orville Wright succeeded in keeping the Wright Flyer aloft for one minute and 11 seconds. After more than four minutes in the air, the airplane crashed to the ground from a height of about seventy-five feet after a propeller blade broke and the machine went out of control. Orville Wright was severely cut and bruised and his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, became the first powered-aviation fatality.

Curtiss Model D

Curtiss Model D with tricycle undercarriage. Photo by Lewis Reed

Curtiss Model D

Curtiss Model D. Photo by Lewis Reed

Wright Model B with skids

Wright Model B with skids. Photo by Lewis Reed

Bleriot XI monoplane

Another early aircraft from 1909 was the Bleriot XI monoplane. In the background a Rex Smith Aeroplane Company School is advertised on the side of a building. Photo by Lewis Reed

A Rex Smith Aeroplane Company School can be seen on the side of the building in the background. The founder, Rex Smith, was an inventor and a patent attorney. The Rex Smith Biplane was used in the successful April 3, 1911 U.S. Army Signal Corps experiments in wireless communications. The Signal Corps did not buy any Smith Biplanes, they did however use them from time to time to train pilots to fly the Curtiss aircraft at the same field.

Airplane Hangars at Fort Myers, Virginia

Airplane Hangars at Fort Myers, Virginia. Photo by Lewis Reed

The Wrights would prove their machine’s qualifications at Fort Myer. They met or exceeded all of the Army’s specifications, including flying at 40 miles per hour, carrying a combined passenger weight of 350 pounds, maneuvering in any direction in the air, landing without damage, and flying for at least an hour non-stop, which was a world record at the time.

Today, the Wright brothers are legends, with their accomplishments being the storybook example of American perseverance and ingenuity.

Remembering My Mother on the First Anniversary of Her Passing

Today is a very special post in remembrance of my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who passed away one year ago on September 10, 2019. Her father, Lewis Reed, was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge of Rockville – a family business that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. It’s hard for me not to reflect on what an amazing person she was. As with most people, I have a few people in my life who really inspire me, and my mom is one of them.

In some ways, it seems like more than a year has passed since she passed. Her absence is part of my daily life now. At some point every day, I think I should call her and have to remind myself I can no longer do this. But I can keep her memory alive by sharing a few recent stories about her.

Apple Cider Time!

In the autumn months, a weekly visit with mom to Lewis Orchard Farm Market in Dickerson, Maryland for some apples and cider was a weekly ritual. Then over to Bassett’s in Poolesville for dinner. She was always happy to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall days and the sights outside.

Did Someone Say “Happy Hour?”

We celebrated mom’s 93rd birthday at Bassett’s Fine Food & Spirits in Poolesville, one of her favorite restaurants.

Mary Jane Gartner

Rosemary Pasek and mom enjoying a happy 93rd birthday toast

Celebrating mom’s 94th birthday at Arties in Fairfax. Baby back ribs and cheesecake dessert for the birthday girl!Mom's 94th birthday at Arties

The Saturday Lunch Bunch

Saturday lunches were something that my mom and her friends at Asbury Methodist Village always looked forward to. They had a lot of fun taking turns choosing which restaurant they would go to each Saturday. I always tried to have an annual summer cookout for them down at my place. Simple pleasures mean so much more these days, and grilling out was always a big hit.

Below, we are enjoying a cookout on my back porch with mom and three of her friends. Burgers, beer brats, baked beans, potato salad, marinated asparagus, and homemade key lime pie were on the menu. Three of them in their 90s, doing with gusto whatever it is that gives them joy. I miss these small, but very meaningful times. Hard to believe that this was only 5 years ago.

Mary Jane Reed Gartner

Left to Right: Jane Sween, Mary Jane Gartner, Polly Conners and Rosemary Pasek.

“What’s Your Excuse?”

The photo gallery below could be titled, “what’s your excuse?” This is my mom at 94 years of age going through her exercise routine at the Asbury Village Wellness Center. Great job mom!

My #1 Fan

My mom has always been my #1 fan. I was so very proud to have had her in the audience on November 18, 2016 when I was recognized with the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication by Peerless Rockville for my blog and book documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge. The ceremony was held at Glenview Mansion, one of Rockville’s most beautiful historic properties. It was a tremendous honor for me to receive this award, but more importantly, share this special occasion with my mother. I saw my mom in the audience. I saw her smile and I felt her joy.

Never Too Late to Learn Something New

My mom has always been an active person and had the heart and mind of someone 20 years younger. She was 90 years old when she joined Facebook! She was not only a Facebook friend, but a Skyper, a Texter and could navigate an iPhone and Windows 8! I could have not possibly been more proud of her.

Mom's Facebook Page

Recalling a Wonderful Life

I have been fortunate to have spent the last 10+ years experiencing the best friendship ever with my mother. One of my greatest joys was looking through all of my grandfather’s photographs along with my mother. On many afternoon visits with her, we went through hundreds of photographs and wrote down names, dates, and locations to the best of her recollection. We were able to relive the highlights of her life together; it was a very special time. This weekly activity, working together with her sharing memories and photos about previous generations, has been one of the greatest joys of my adult life.

Mary Jane Gartner

Watching my mom’s eyes light up when I gave her the first proof book of her father’s entire photograph collection — 350 pages and 2500+ photographs — was a beautiful thing to see. True magic happened when she opened that book and started looking through the pictures. The book was a monumental task, and almost 10 years in the making, but it had a monumental reward at the end. Bringing out all those cherished memories for my mother was truly a celebration of her life.

Near the end of her life, I came to understand what a strong person my mother was. My mother had grit, warmth, a positive outlook on life, and an independent streak that served her well during the last years of her life.

Grateful for Beautiful Memories

When it comes right down to it, all we have are memories. You don’t have to travel or go far away to make memories; it can be as simple as a trip to the orchard or a Saturday afternoon brunch. I miss my mother, but I am forever grateful for the beautiful memories she left me. I find it helps to take the perspective that I didn’t really lose her. I know exactly where she is and where she’ll always be. She is alive in my memories and the link to all the history I share on this blog.

September 7, 1979: The First Chrysler “Bailout”

Dodge Aries

In the early 1980s, the Dodges Aries-K inspired Chrysler’s renaissance.

In 1979, Chrysler was at death’s door and petitioned the U.S. government for $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to avoid bankruptcy. It made gas guzzlers that nobody wanted to buy and it asked for $1.5 billion to keep itself going until a fleet of more fuel efficient cars could take up the sales slack. It was by far the largest government bailout in US history. On September 7, 1979 Chrysler formally petitioned the U.S. government for the loans, and on December 20, 1979 Congress ratified the appropriation in the “Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act,” which President Carter subsequently signed into law. It was an extremely painful period for Chrysler, but Reed Brothers survived the first Chrysler Bailout and resurgence under Lee Iacocca.

The K-Cars, the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, were, quite literally, the cars that saved Chrysler from the abyss in 1980. Their only real savior other than the K-Car was a government bailout. Though it came after bankruptcy, they managed to save the company with it by 1983.  The K-Cars were inexpensive, reliable, and they delivered economical transportation for 6 people at an affordable price. Sales from the K-Car enabled Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy and evolve into a profitable company.

Reeling from the combined effects of a recession and a global energy crisis, in 1979 Chrysler was forced to seek government loan guarantees. Meanwhile, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca took the company’s case straight to the people in a series of television commercials. Looking straight into the camera, the legendary auto executive pitched the company’s new K-cars with total conviction, asserting, “America, if you can find a better car, buy it.”

Buyers took up Iacocca’s challenge, flocking to the showrooms to buy their own K-cars. Nearly one million Aries were sold (and another million Reliants), allowing Chrysler to pay off its loans a full seven years early. Soon Iacocca was back on the airwaves with another ad campaign. This one was called “The Pride Is Back.”

These models were soon followed by what would become a home run product for Chrysler: minivans.

Nearly thirty years later, in 2008, Chrysler would receive billions in a new bailout from the U.S. government in the aftermath of the financial crisis that decimated automotive sales over the following few years. In 2009, Chrysler files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. On May 14, 2009, Chrysler left 789 dealerships, about a quarter of its dealer base, out in the cold by rejecting their franchise agreements and giving them about a month to sell all their remaining new cars, factory parts and service equipment.

Whether a franchise is run by a second- or third-generation dealer, or is older than even Chrysler itself, didn’t seem to matter when Chrysler decided to cut dealerships ranks during their 2009 bankruptcy process. After almost 95 years selling Dodges, Reed Brothers was one of the 15 dealerships in Maryland and 789 dealerships nationwide notified by Chrysler that their franchise agreement would not be renewed. Chrysler was acquired in total by Fiat in 2014.

Source: Chrysler

Rare, Historical Photos: 1912 Grading of Massachusetts Ave Washington, DC

Washington, DC is an amazing city with a fascinating history. Massachusetts Avenue intersects every major north–south street and passes numerous Washington, DC landmarks. It is a landmark itself, long considered the northern boundary of the downtown as well as home of Washington’s Embassy Row.

Massachusetts Avenue is tied with Pennsylvania Avenue as the widest road in the District, at 160 feet. The two roads run in parallel through much of the city, Massachusetts about seven blocks north of Pennsylvania. Massachusetts Avenue was long Washington’s premier residential street, as Pennsylvania was once its most sought-after business address. Both streets were named after states with prominent roles in the American Revolution: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Below are some extremely rare, historical photographs that Lewis Reed took of Massachusetts Avenue as it was being graded in 1912. As always, click on the photos to get a better look.

1912 Marion steam shovel

Marion Shovel Model 60 in action cutting a high bank of dirt on Massachusetts Ave. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca.1912

1912 Bucyrus steam shovel

A Bucyrus steam shovel loading dirt onto a railway car. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1912.

A steam shovel is a large steam-powered excavating machine designed for lifting and moving material such as rock and soil. It is the earliest type of power shovel or excavator. Steam shovels played a major role in public works in the 19th and early 20th century.

When digging at a rock face, the operator simultaneously raises and extends the dipper stick to fill the bucket with material. When the bucket is full, the shovel is rotated to load the railway car. Steam shovels usually had a three-man crew: engineer, fireman and ground man.

The track of Massachusetts Avenue was paved in the early 1870s. It was extended beyond Boundary Road (now Florida Avenue) in the 1880s, and beyond Rock Creek up to the District line after 1900. The section between Sheridan Circle and Scott Circle became known as “Millionaires’ Row”.

1912 grading of Massachussets Ave

Hill Grading Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC. The Washington Monument and many other landmarks can be seen in the background. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1912

The Great Depression forced many to relinquish their homes on Millionaires’ Row. After World War II, Massachusetts Avenue was seen as less fashionable than newer areas such as upper 16th Street. Many residences were sold and demolished to make way for office buildings, particularly around Dupont Circle and to its east. Many others, however, survived as embassies and society houses; the former ‘Millionaires’ Row is today well known as Embassy Row.

1912 Walter railway car

An early steam locomotive is hauling away dirt. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1912

Source: Wikipedia

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