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 not try to be an historian; 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.
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 80+ 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 in highly regarded history books such as, Montgomery County: Two Centuries of Change by Jane C. Sween, Rockville: Portrait of a City by Eileen S. McGuckian, and Gaithersburg: History of a City. His photographs have been featured in the Norris-Banonis Automotive Wall Calendar, on the national television show, American Pickers, and on television’s most watched history series, American Experience on PBS.
Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of digitally 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 surrealistic, ghost-like effects in his image-making processes.
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.
The advertisements in this post do more than just simply pitch a product, they capture a moment in history. A moment in history when Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage 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 1921.
Hudson introduced the Essex brand in 1919. The Essex was intended to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for budget-minded buyers. The Essex offered one of the first affordable sedans and by 1925 the combined Hudson and Essex sales made Hudson the third largest automobile manufacturer in the United States.
Prior to the advent of television and radio advertising, print media was the most popular form of advertising and most car ads were black and white. The following ads distributed by the Lambert Automobile Company in The Baltimore Sun newspaper advertises the Hudson and Essex automobiles.
In addition to franchise car dealers, there were also factory stores. In the early days, the factory stores did the national advertising. A factory store, also known as a branch store or branch dealer, was a dealership owned and run by the manufacturer. A list of area Dealers was placed in fine print at the bottom of the ads. Rockville Garage, Rockville, Md, is highlighted in yellow on each of these ads.
By the 1920s, Hudson and Essex Motor Car advertisements featured elegant architectural borders with static drawings of their cars; some ads never pictured people during this period.
A lot of old newspapers have found their way online and with digital archival, it’s easier to take a trip back through old newspapers than ever before. These ads were found on NewspaperARCHIVE.com, the largest historical newspaper database online.
It’s August, which means the Montgomery County Fair is coming soon! (The Agricultural Center’s website is literally counting down the seconds until opening day.) Since the fair will be here soon, I thought it would be fun and interesting to look back at some rare, historical photographs taken by Lewis Reed at the fair, whose origins stretch back 172 years.
All of these photographs are from the first incarnation of the Fair, held by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society (1846-1932) in Rockville and often known simply as the “Rockville Fair.” The current Fair, held at the Gaithersburg fairgrounds, was started in 1949. From the August 25, 1923 Washington Post Rockville Fair Auto Race article, to some of the earliest known photographs of the original grounds, Lewis Reed’s photos show the splendor of the original fairgrounds with its grandstands, to the oval dirt track used for bicycle, harness, and later, car races, and conversion to a baseball field.
The headline of the Washington Post article about the race read, “Auto Races to Clash at Rockville Today”.
World speed records will be placed in jeopardy at Rockville fair this afternoon when half score of professional drivers, including speedway and dirt track auto monarchs, will compete in a seven-event program.
The annual County Fair used to be held for four days in the month of August at the old Fairgrounds of Rockville, Maryland. Families came from every section of the Montgomery County in wagons and carriages, and stayed for the duration of the Fair. Like many fairgrounds, the Rockville Fairgrounds included an oval track. Fairground race tracks, typically one-mile or half-mile dirt racing ovals with wide, sweeping curves and grandstands for spectators, were easily adapted for bicycles, harness racing, and the sport of car racing. The fairgrounds were just outside Rockville, about where Richard Montgomery High School is today. As always, click the photos to get a better look.
Like many fairgrounds, the Rockville Fairgrounds included an oval track. Fairground race tracks, typically one-mile or half-mile dirt racing ovals with wide, sweeping curves and grandstands for spectators, were easily adapted for bicycles, harness racing, and the sport of car racing.
The photos below reveal what auto racing looked like in the days before helmets, seat belts, air bags, and traction control.
Early race car drivers were required to have a riding mechanic, otherwise it was voluntary. Riding mechanics, who in addition to being lookouts, kept an eye on tire wear and would even hop out of the car and run back through the infield to get fuel.
Below is a 1923 Washington Post article for an auto race at the Rockville Fair.
A football field was designed within the oval of the old Fair racetrack in 1946.
Dirt track racing was one of the main attractions, but the Fair also provided other events such as horse pulls, games of chance, showing of prized livestock and poultry, needlework, homegrown produce, baked and canned goods. A building called the Exhibit House displayed the prize-winning entries of the various categories.
Rockville Garage Displaying New Model Cars at Rockville Fair Grounds, 1918
The Fair also gave automobile dealers the opportunity to display their new models. Below is new car show time as fair goers get their first glimpse at the latest models that Rockville Garage had to offer.
Reed Brothers Dodge Baseball Team at Rockville Fair, ca. 1920
Most likely, Rockville’s first experience with baseball was during the Civil War on the fields where Richard Montgomery High School now stands. It was known as “Camp Lincoln” because of the Union encampment there, and Federal soldiers helped popularize the new game they brought from the North. After the Civil War those fields – known as the Rockville Fairgrounds – continued to be a popular place for baseball.
Reed Brothers Dodge had a company baseball team that played on those same fields. The photos below were taken by Lewis Reed on a field at the Rockville Fairgrounds circa early 1920s.
In 1949, the Montgomery County Agricultural Center (the Fairgrounds) was moved from Rockville to its current location adjacent to the B&O Railroad between Chestnut Street and Perry Parkway.
Source: Montgomery History
One of the worst tornadic outbreaks in area history occurred on May 2, 1929. At about 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 1929, northeastern Montgomery County was struck by an F3 tornado, part of a large storm system that caused devastation from Florida to Ohio. The weekly Montgomery County Sentinel reported on May 10th that the “wind storm of cyclonic power . . . was of limited width and serpentine on its course. Everything in its path met with destruction.” These previously unpublished photographs were taken by Lewis Reed “after the tornado of May 2, 1929”.
The damage in the county was limited to the rural Unity area, north of Brookeville. The Sentinel article detailed each affected farm, noting that “thousands of persons from far and near visited the scene for several days to look upon the indescribable wreckage.”
From the Sentinel: “The storm showed its first violence upon the farm of Mr. J. William Benson. There it destroyed every building – the dwelling house, large barn, 117 feet long, including an attached shed, and all other outbuildings.” The farm was unoccupied, but furniture belonging to “a prospective tenant” was destroyed. Mr. Benson’s apple orchard was also significantly damaged, and the article claimed that “many [trees] were lifted into the air, carried over woods and landed several miles away.”
The fire departments of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Sandy Spring responded to the call made by farm worker James Leizear, who “extricated himself from the wreckage” and ran half a mile to a neighbor’s house to summon help.
The Post reported on May 4th that 28 people in Maryland and Virginia had been killed by tornadoes during the storm; most of the casualties were in Virginia, where an elementary school was struck full-force and at least 18 children died. In Montgomery County, the local Red Cross Chapter formed a citizen committee to raise funds “for relief of the sufferers.”
Note: These photographs were undated and unlabeled in my grandfather’s collection. My mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who is seen above when she was almost 7 years old, positively identified these photographs and just about pinpointed the location! She is almost 96 years old! It’s amazing the things you remember from your early childhood.
Information Source: A Fine Collection
In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now” to see how the location has changed or remained nearly the same through the years. I started doing this as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject. In the following photographs, you can see the difference 100 years can make.
New Occidental Hotel (THEN): The New Occidental Hotel was built by Henry Willard (of Willard Hotel fame) in 1906. If any of 2,500 celebrities — including four presidents — forgot who they were, they could stop by the Occidental Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue and check their picture on the wall. Within a few years the Occidental became known as the place “Where Statesmen Dine”.
After the restaurant closed in 1971, the wall-to-wall collection of paintings and photographs of the famous was auctioned off. The new Occidental Restaurant re-opened at 1475 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, almost on the old site, as part of the Willard Collection of buildings.
Looking from the Treasury Building directly at the United States Capitol, this 1912 photograph taken by Lewis Reed shows the first floor retail shops and the Occidental Hotel, which has an Electric Grill Room, on the left. On the right are office buildings and the Old Post Office. The magnificent Raleigh Hotel held a commanding position on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the Old Post Office Building. The Occidental Hotel was located at 1411 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
New Occidental Hotel (NOW): Google Street View from approximately the same perspective in 2018.
Lewis Reed had a passion for photography and had the know-how to try out a few of the trick shots that were popular at the time — including creating double exposures that made it look as if there were ghosts in the picture.
When I saw this photograph — which is slick enough to fool anyone not paying attention to detail — I became curious. How on earth did he do that? So I did some research to get some information on what went into this type of photography. This technique often left a telltale vertical line along the center of the image — a fuzzy stripe separating the two exposures.
Supernatural effects were mainly accomplished using double exposure. When developing the photos, a pre-prepared glass plate would be used which already had the image of a person on it. This would be the ‘ghost’. It would then be inserted into the camera in front of an unused plate which was used to shoot the photo. The developed negative comes out with both images on it — an incompletely exposed ghostly image as well as a sitter, looking perfectly unaware.
I think it’s really amazing how Lewis Reed’s early photography shows such versatility and creativity.