Montgomery History 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 exhibition 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). 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: What was domestic and social life like in Montgomery County at the turn of the century? Explore glimpses of early 19th century housing, education, social activities, entertainment, pets, and more in the  “Daily Life” section.
  • Community: Featured in the section are images of the businesses, industries, occupations, and services that provided income for Montgomery County’s residents, and shaped the growing towns in the first few decades of the 20th century.

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 close to 200 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, the African American Heritage Walking Tour Marker in Rockville, and the 19th Century Crossroads Marker in Darnestown. A Lewis Reed photo is also featured on a historical/interpretive sign along a trail in the Watters Smith Memorial State Park in West Virginia.

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.

Then & Now: River House Lodge, Rowelsburg, WV

This post is a continuation of a series of “Then & Now” images that will show photographs of buildings, street scenes, and other historical locales from Lewis Reed’s Photo Collection alongside photographs of how they appear today. Taken approximately 100 years apart, these photos show the River House Lodge in Rowelsburg, West Virginia, then and now.

River House Lodge (THEN): This little railroad town of Rowesburg has always had hotels, beginning with the original River House, an early tavern and hotel serving the needs of a growing town in the 1850s. The railroad brought prosperity to Rowlesburg, designed the town and named it. Mr. Rowles was a surveyor with the railroad and laid out the plots and streets for the town.

The house was designed at the turn of the century or just before but the features were unusual. The top part of the house was Edwardian with panels and battens, creating a kind of checkerboard appearance. The lower half of the house was finished with narrow wood siding. The gables were of wood shingles.

River House Lodge Rowlesburg WV 1914

River House Lodge located on Main Street in Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Lewis Reed’s circa 1926 Dodge Brothers Sedan is parked in front. Photo by Lewis Reed.

River House Lodge (NOW): Today, the River House has been transformed into a small, boutique lodge tucked away in the mountains of West Virginia. Though razed long ago, the “New” River House now takes its place to welcome guests into a motif of railroading that once dominated the small town of Rowlesburg. B&O artifacts adorn the rooms and hallways. Pictures of the past history of the town take visitors back to a different time, one of railroading in its golden era.

One source says that the original River House was a tavern and railroad lodge operated by A.A. Perry. The lodge was the center of this small settlement, with homes scattered nearby. The building sat next to the railroad, as did most of the early structures in Rowlesburg. Downtown Rowlesburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Rowelsburg River House Lodge

The River House Lodge today is still very recognizable.



Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2022!

Christmas 1944, exactly 77 years ago this holiday season, marked the last Christmas of World War II. The 1940s was a decade shaped by war, but the Christmas spirit and the act of good fellowship and kindness was still important to people even in times of hardship. The vintage holiday print ad below from Reed Brothers Dodge offers a window into how businesses of the 1940s pictured an idealized holiday season.

Merry Christmas Print Ad, 1944

The Montgomery County Sentinel, December 21, 1944

I would like to wish everyone who finds time during the course of your day to visit this blog a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy Happy New Year in 2022.

Jeanne Gartner
Blog Author


Dear Santa, Please Pause Here

This special post doesn’t have anything to do with Reed Brothers Dodge history, but it does have a lot to do with the founder’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. In her younger years, Lewis Reed’s daughter (my mother) was a very talented ceramic and china painter. She painted the ceramic tray of Santa (below) for me Christmas of 2000 and entered it in the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. Seventy-eight years old at the time, she won First Premium Prize. The tray is currently displayed in my dining room china cabinet and evokes memories of my childhood and makes me happy every time I look at it. I hope you enjoy this special post.

“Dear Santa, Please Pause Here” 2000 oil painting on ceramic tile by Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner.

Some background about the image

Have you ever heard of an artist named Haddon Sundblom? No? Well you’ve seen his work. You could say he’s one of the most famous character designers ever. He created the iconic Santa we all know and love. The image, “Santa, Please Pause Here” was originally created by Haddon Sundblom who was commissioned by Coca-Cola company to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. He may have been paid as much as $1,000 per painting—a lot of money at that time (you could buy a car for $700). Based on Clement Clark Moore’s descriptions of St. Nick in “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Sundblom’s Santa Claus emphasized the rosy cheeks and snow white beard along with the now familiar suit and hat. A wide leather belt and brown boots completed the look.

From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom’s creations for Coca-Cola had Santa pictured as doing everything from delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read letters, visiting with children who had waited up to meet him on Christmas Eve, raiding the refrigerators of several homes, warming his feet by the fire, and other activities — always with a bottle of Coke in hand or nearby. The Sundblom Santa became so popular that the images spread from print ads onto billboards, posters, calendars, plush dolls, and more.

Below, is the original Coca-Cola Santa Claus painting and sketches by Haddon Sundblom.

In 2001, Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus was creatively brought to life in a Coca-Cola ad video tribute, animated by the Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Petrov.

So the next time you envision Santa Claus and maybe even have a simultaneous unexplained craving for a Coca-Cola, please give a wink and nod to the artist Haddon Sundblom. He was instrumental in defining the image of Santa Claus for us all.

Wishing the very best of the holiday season to everyone, and of course, Merry Christmas!


Trees of Christmas Past

With only a few days left until Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at a couple of photos from Lewis Reed’s collection that show us what Christmas trees used to look like a century 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.

And what is tinsel exactly? Tinsel was designed to mimic the way ice looks, and the earliest tinsel was made from strips of real silver. 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.

vintage Christmas tree

A small snow scene with what appears to be a miniature church is arranged at the foot of the Christmas tree. A popcorn garland adorns the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.

Early 1900s Christmas tree

No room for a star on the top of this tree! And just look at those big Santa and Angel dolls. Other fun little details are notable, including a miniature church with picket fence is arranged at the base of the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.

Today, most Christmas trees are artificial and very symmetrical. Stringing lights and hanging ornaments are used mostly for decorating, since large bare spots are a thing of the past. Branches are clicked into place and limbs can be fanned out to accommodate whatever decorations you choose to add. Tinsel is long gone and lights now come in all types of sizes and styles. Tree lights can be set to not blink or programmed to flash in whatever sequence fits your mood. You have the control of exactly how you want your tree to look. It is a far cry from the trees of Christmas past.

Edgar Reed Helps Inaugurate The Legendary Normandy Shores Golf Club

Normandy Shores Golf Club

From the Miami Herald, January 24, 1941

Edgar Reed helps inaugurate the Normandy Isles Golf Course in Miami, Florida. The golf course opened for play on January 23, when Maryland visitor Edgar Reed had the honor of being the first player to tee off that morning and ended up shooting a 97. The golf course was officially dedicated on December 18, 1941.

Normandy Shores Golf Club

Montgomery County Sentinel, Feb 20, 1941


Normandy Shores Golf Club is located on the northern end of Miami Beach in Miami-Dade County. In 1923, two mangrove-covered islands in Biscayne Bay were being developed by Henri Levy and his associates. In honor of Levy’s French heritage, it was renamed the Isle of Normandy and the streets were named after French towns and provinces.

The developers originally planned to create one large island with a golf course in the center, however, they ended up building two separate islands. Workers starting dredging and filling to create the South Island, now called Normandy Isles. Unsuccessful in building a golf course, the developers eventually sold the North Island, which would be later be named Normandy Shores, to the City of Miami Beach.

The City soon made plans to build a municipal golf course and began to dredge and fill to create the man-made Normandy Isles. In 1936, the City began working with William S. Flynn of the golf course architectural firm Toomey and Flynn. He planned to make this new course one of the sportiest municipal layouts in the country. Flynn made several visits to the site and after his inspection in December 1940 he stated “The laying out of the Normandy Isle course offered a different problem from any that I had undertaken before.” Flynn added, “On most of the jobs you are given a topographic map of the section and then it is up to the architect to make the holes as sporty as possible.” Normandy was just the opposite as it was drawn out first on paper and then the land was pumped in to fill the requirements.

Construction of the golf course took longer than expected due to the difficulties encountered growing grass on the spoil that had been pumped off the bottom of Biscayne Bay because of its heavy salt content.

The golf course opened for play on January 23, when Maryland visitor Edgar Reed had the honor of being the first player to tee off that morning and ended up shooting a 97. The golf course was officially dedicated on December 18, 1941.

The golf course underwent major changes in 1966, when the grade was raised several feet and 14 artificial lakes were added to address the flooding issues. The site of the old driving range became the new 18th hole and the former 18th became the new and enlarged driving range. Miami Beach Mayor Elliot Roosevelt (son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) hit the first ball on the reopening of the golf course.

In 2008, the City of Miami Beach spent over $9 million to renovate the golf course. Golf course architect Arthur Hills was hired to redesign the aging course and bring it back to its former state of glory.

To learn more about the history of the course and its hometown, see a selection of historic and current images of the course, and learn about what the course is like today, visit the Florida Historic Golf Trail:

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