Montgomery History Unveils 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, and Daily Life) 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 [coming soon!]
  • Recreation [coming soon!]
  • Daily Life [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.

Exploring the Past

If there’s an historic wayside 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 Black Rock Mill and Great Seneca Creek Marker in Germantown, 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.

Another photo is also be featured on a historical/interpretive sign along a trail in the Watters Smith Memorial State Park in West Virginia.

From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda

Location: Marker is in Bethesda, Maryland and can be reached from Norfolk Avenue near Rugby Avenue.
Duplicate: Another nearly identical marker is located at the exit ramp from westbound Montrose Parkway to northbound Rockville Pike (MD 355).

From Trolley to Trail in Bethesda

From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda

From Trolley to Trail in Bethesda

From Trolley to Trail Wayside Marker in Bethesda.

1910 trolley car

Close-up of image on From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda. Original photograph by Lewis Reed, 1910.

A trolley heads south from Rockville toward Tenallytown through open farmland. This view appears to be looking north and shows the area south of where Montrose Road intersects with Rockville Pike. The Pike is in the background.

Trolley to Rockville

Close-up of image on From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda. Original photograph by Lewis Reed, 1908.

In the photo above, passengers board car #596 heading to Rockville in 1908. These distinctively styled cars, popularly know as ‘Rockville’ cars, were also used on Washington Railway’s Maryland line. Note the ‘people catcher’ or ‘lifeguard’ in the front.

The Origins of Darnestown Marker

Location: Marker is in Darnestown Square Heritage Park at 14039 Darnestown Road.

The Origins of Darnestown Marker

The Origins of Darnestown Marker. Background image by Lewis Reed

The Origins of Darnestown Marker

Close-up of background image on The Origins of Darnestown Marker. Route 28 looking West. Original photograph by Lewis Reed

Darnestown A 19th Century Crossroads

Darnestown A 19th Century Crossroads

Close-up of the same background photo (on nearby Origins marker depicted above).

The house and lot located to the west of the graveyard site (right foreground) was owned by the Griffith family at the time this photograph was taken. The frame and log house may have been built as early as the 1850s; by 1863 it was used as a house and store by Samuel Fisher, who eventually sold the property to Ulysses Griffith and James Windsor, who also used it as a store. Griffith and Windsor continued as partners for ten years, until Windsor built his own store and house at the southwest corner of Seneca and Darnestown Roads.
Darnestown A 19th Century Crossroads Marker

Close-up of photo on marker. Darnestown Looking East. Photo by Lewis Reed

Darnestown Route 28

Darnestown Route 28. Original photograph by Lewis Reed

Andrew Small Academy Darnestown

Location: Marker is in Darnestown Square Heritage Park at 14039 Darnestown Road.

Andrew Small Academy Darnestown

Andrew Small Academy Darnestown. Background image by Lewis Reed

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg

Location: Marker is on South Summit Avenue south of East Diamond Avenue, on the left when traveling south. It is at the station, facing the Summit Avenue sidewalk.

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg.

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg. Original photograph by Lewis Reed, 1911.

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker in Rockville

Location: Southwest corner of North Washington Street and Beall Avenue, Rockville.

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker in Rockville

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker in Rockville

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Rockville, MD

Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker Rockville, Md. Original photograph by Lewis Reed, 1912

Black Rock Mill and Great Seneca Marker in Germantown

Location: Marker is near Germantown, Maryland, in Montgomery County. Marker can be reached from Black Rock Road north of Grey Pebble Way, on the left when traveling north.

Black Rock Mill

Black Rock Mill and Great Seneca Creek.

Black Rock Mill

An unidentified lady poses in front of Black Rock Mill. Original photograph by Lewis Reed, 1905.

Then & Now: Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin

Time passes, but the cherry blossoms always come back. Seeing the cherry blossoms is a time-honored D.C. tradition that dates back to 1912, when Tokyo gifted 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. in an act of friendship. While many of the original trees have been replaced, the Tidal Basin’s beauty has persisted for more than a century. Each spring, more than 1.5 million visitors descend upon Washington, D.C. each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees.

Here’s a great “then and now” comparison shot of the Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. from the 1930s and 2019.

Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (THEN): From Lewis Reed’s collection of photographs. Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin, circa 1930s with my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner.

1930s DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin with my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1930s

Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (NOW): The “now” photo is a google image of approximately the same location… some 80 years later. According to the National Park Service, DC’s 2020 cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom sometime between March 21 and 22. The best viewing of the cherry blossom trees typically lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins, but the blossoms can last for up to two weeks under ideal conditions.

The 2020 Festival, March 20 – April 14, includes four weeks of events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is cancelling and postponing some Festival events occurring through March 31. You can read the announcement with details here.

DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin today.

Fun facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms

  • The first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft. Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
  • The first two trees were planted on the north bank of Tidal Basin in March 1912, and they still stand today. You can see them at the end of 17th Street Southwest, marked by a large plaque.
  • It’s against the law to pick the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. While there aren’t any subtle wire fences or stern security guards like in a museum, any attempts to create your own corsage may very well land you a fine.
  • The majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety. But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.
  • The average lifespan of a cherry blossom tree is only 20 to 30 years, but nearly 100 of the original trees from 1912 still thrive at the Tidal Basin due to the maintenance of the National Park Service.
  • No, they’re not all from 1912, reinforcements are sometimes necessary. New trees have been regularly planted, including in 1965, the late 1980s, 1999 and from 2002 to 2006, according to the NPS.

Reed Photo Collection: Early 20th Century Motorcycles

Motorcycles have evolved in countless ways since their emergence near the beginning of the 20th century. In the early years of the 20th century, motorcycles and automobiles were competing for the same audience. Most people traveled either on or behind a horse, while the more adventurous were fascinated by those new-fangled bicycle things. So anything with a motor represented a giant step forward.

Take a step back in time with this glimpse into an almost forgotten era of Montgomery County history in the early 20th century… the motorcycle era. These photographs taken by Lewis Reed span a period from roughly the early 1900s up until about the late 1920s.

Lewis Reed on Harley Davidson

Lewis Reed sitting on his Harley Davidson circa 1915 somewhere outside Frederick, Maryland.

Lewis Reed was not only passionate about automobiles, he also enjoyed riding motorcycles. At the turn of the century, before cars were even around, Lewis Reed traveled up and down the East Coast on his motorcycle with his brother, Edgar, and a group of friends. In the early days of motorcycling, propriety dictated that a gentleman be presentable when he went out for a spin, and since tweed suits were the standard countryside uniform of the the late-nineteenth century, so it was for motorcyclists as well. Jodhpurs and full-length boots derived from horseback riding and jackets with a cut consistent with hunting and other kinds of sports were adapted to the new pursuit of motorcycle riding.

early 20th century motorcycle club

Above, Lewis Reed stands with his camera at far left. The photo was taken 1914 in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The wooden frame Victorian-style train station dating from 1889 can be seen in the background.

1922 Montgomery County Police Force

This photograph is the first known photograph of the entire Montgomery County Police Force. Photo taken by Lewis Reed on July 4, 1922.

Montgomery County Mounted Police

By the early 1920’s, the motorcycle had proven itself to be a rugged, reliable, and economical means of transportation. No one benefited from this more than law enforcement agencies. State and local police departments quickly adopted the new machines into their arsenal, allowing patrolmen to more skillfully navigate city streets and venture farther into rural areas.

Posing in front of Reed Brothers Dodge on July 4, 1922 Chief Charles Cooley, center, and his men of the first mounted unit of the Montgomery County Police Force, were on their first day of duty. For several years, since there was no police station, the officers would meet for “roll call” on the steps of the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville at 2:00 p.m. every day to let each other know they were alive and well. Chief Cooley was given the privilege of a Model T Ford. The chief was paid $1,800 a year (the chief now gets $112,564) while the officers got $1,500. Each of the officers was issued a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, a black jack, law book and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motorcycle.

1914 Ecelcsior Motorcycle

Grafton Reed, Bernie Hanshew, and Lewis Reed (standing)

Have you ever come across a picture that you had to look at twice just to make sure you were not crazy? Well I have… and the photo above is one of them. When I came across this photograph in Lewis Reed’s album, I had to look at it several times to make sure I was not “seeing things”. There is something surprising in this photograph, and when I finally figured out what it was, it put a big smile on my face.

Can you spot the unusual object in this photo?

OK, give up?

It's a Doll!

It’s a Doll!

1914 Indian motorcycle with Sidecar

Edgar Reed in sidecar, ca. 1914. Photo by Lewis Reed

Once motorcycles were established in the marketplace, various accessory items were developed to accommodate a larger audience for the product. The sidecar, a one-wheeled passenger compartment that was attached to the main frame of the motorcycle, was perhaps the most visible accessory. The sidecar expanded the number of passengers that could be driven and also improved the stability of the vehicle.

This is a photograph taken by Lewis Reed of an Indian motorcycle with his brother, Edgar, seated in the sidecar. From what I’ve been able to research, I believe it’s a 1914 Indian. The handle bars on a 1913 had no cross bar, the 1914 model had a cross bar that can be seen on this one. The tool box was mounted on the rear of the carrier in 1913 and moved to the top of the fuel tank in 1914.

1914 Harley Davidson

1914-1915 Harley Davidson. Photo taken on Park Street in Rockville by Lewis Reed

Riders wore gauntlet gloves along with their full-length boots to keep the wind out, as well as provide a little extra skin protection should they go down. A less protective addition to the motorcycling wardrobe was the flat cap.

1915 Fairgrounds Motorcycle Race

A motorcycle racer rips down an unknown racetrack kicking up dust in his wake. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1915

Lewis Reed Captures the Thrill of Motorcycle Racing in 1915

In the first years of the twentieth century, companies like Harley-Davidson and Indian began producing motorcycles for the general public. Although there is not an exact date of the first motorcycle race, you can be sure that as soon as there were two motorcycles on the road, there was racing. As more and more motorcycle manufactures started popping up across the U.S., motorcycle racing started making it’s way to more official venues. The earliest races were held on fairground dirt tracks used for horse racing. On short tracks, typical of county fairs, the most valuable driving technique involved the infamous “pendulum skid,” with riders taking the curves much as automobile drifters do today (but with two wheels fewer, to add to the excitement).

The photograph above taken by Lewis Reed shows an unknown racer at a fairground raceway in the early 1900s. In the teens, motorcycle racing on dirt tracks throughout the country, was one of the most popular spectator sports. Despite the danger to both racers and spectators, the motorcycle races became very popular and drew large crowds of spectators. Motorcycle racing continued until just after World War 1, when the focus shifted to automobile racing.

mother and daughter on excelsior motorcycle

Unknown lady and toddler posing on a 1913-1914 Excelsior motorcycle. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back in the early part of the last century when the motorcycle was still new and a novelty, it was often used for Kodak moments. In the photo above, the toddler’s sporty little cap and goggles make the image. Just imagine how excited she must have been to sit on that big machine. The motorcycle seems to be well equipped with extras including: a headlamp, a handlebar-mounted Klaxon horn, and a well padded passenger seat on the back.

Lady & toddler on Harley Davidson motorcycle

Lady & toddler on Harley Davidson motorcycle. Photo by Lewis Reed, circa 1914

1915 motorcyclists

Motorcyclists in front of Greenawalt Drug Store in Frederick, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, circa 1915

Things look pretty quiet in front of Greenawalt Drug Store on Market Street in Frederick, Maryland on this day some 100 years ago. In the early days, motorcyclists were more likely to wear a tie and sporty little cap than the leather of today.

1915 Harley Davidson

Lewis Reed is airing up the rear tire of his Harley Davidson with an old-style hand pump, 1915.

Motorcycle repair shops were nearly nonexistent in the early 1900s, so many motorcyclists had to learn to fix their own machines wherever they broke down. Early motorcycles carried a tool box mounted on the rear luggage carrier, or on the top of the fuel tank. Hand air pumps were also carried in case the rider had a flat tire along the way.

early 20th century motorcycles

Repairing a flat tire on the side of the road. Photo by Lewis Reed

If you look closely at this photo, you can see bicycle pedals on the motorcycle. Most early motorcycles were equipped with pedals so that an unlucky rider with a failed engine could still get home. They were also handy for getting a little extra uphill push and for starting the machine.

1915 excelsior motorcycle

Edgar Reed and unknown lady on Excelsior motorcycle. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

The early days of motorcycle riding was an expensive joy and pursued mostly by wealthy men. Instead of having a motorcycle as a source of transportation, gentlemen of the days oftentimes used it to spice up their sunny weekends and impress ladies. Outfit relevance dictated a gentleman to be presentable and neat, so when going for a spin, Edgar Reed is wearing a leather jacket, full-length boots, necktie and sporty cap with goggles.

1912 Exclesior motorcycle

Edgar Reed (rider second from left) and Lewis Reed standing behind him (others unidentified). On Park Street in Rockville, ca. 1912

Early motorcyclists were often pictured in riding groups. From its beginnings, motorcycling developed very much as a social activity. Lewis and Edgar Reed, along with brother-in-law Bernard Hanshew, began their riding adventures with a group of friends from the Park Avenue community in Rockville in the early 1900s.

Excelsior motorcycle

Eleanora Reed, and Lewis Reed’s sisters Geneva and Eva posing on Excelsior motorcycles, 1912. (Note they are all sitting “side-saddle” as true ladies of the time would have been expected to do). Photo by Lewis Reed

While women have been enthusiastic bikers ever since motorcycles were invented, they have had to push back against deeply ingrained attitudes. Women in the first half of the 20th century were expected to dress fashionably and conservatively, and above all, remain ladylike. Sitting astride a motorcycle was considered uncouth: the same as riding a horse with a leg on each side.

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown

Motorcyclists on Rt 118 in Darnestown, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

1914 Excelsior motorcycle

Future biker on the right. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

Adventurers, enthusiasts, friends, and family… these are the pioneers of Montgomery County who made riding a social pastime, which has carried on in motorcycle travel today.

Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company

Pierce Arrow FactoryPrior to World War I and before he opened his Rockville Garage, Lewis Reed worked as a chauffeur, receiving some of his training at the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, whose car he is pictured with below. Pierce-Arrow was once one of the most recognized and respected names in the automobile industry. For 38 years, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company produced some of the finest automobiles made. Their models could easily cost ten times the price of a standard touring car.

Pierce-Arrow became known for its luxury autos, as film stars and heads of state made sure to have at least one Pierce in their collection (William H. Taft made the Arrow the first official car associated with the White House). Later, however, since Pierce-Arrow didn’t have a moderate-priced line, the company suffered during the Depression and closed its Buffalo factory, which has since been declared a landmark.

In the factory’s early days, the roof held a giant illuminated billboard spelling out the word “PIERCE” with a giant arrow displayed behind it.

lewis Reed as Chauffeur

1914 – Chauffeur Lewis Reed (left) is shown with a circa 1910-1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 and unidentified family

Early 1900s Photograph Taken at Stoneyhurst Quarries

Stoneyhurst Quarries, Bethesda, Maryland

Edgar Reed (front) and unidentified companions pose for a photograph at Stoneyhurst Quarries, Bethesda, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. early 1900s

The Stoneyhurst Quarry on River Road in Bethesda Maryland has been supplying stones since the 1920s for some of the great landmarks of Washington, DC, including the National Cathedral. The quarry was first opened in 1924 by the aptly named Lilly Stone. She was a widow in her 60s at the time and her family had owned multiple quarries but were also farmers. When the farm was busy, the quarries lay dormant. However after World War I, the family needed money after their farm had been destroyed in a disastrous fire. She once said that her father had told her, “Lilly, if you are ever in need, open the quarries.” And thus, she decided to open the quarry business on a full-time basis and personally oversaw operations until the mid 1950s.

Lilly didn’t hand the reigns over to her son Dunbar until she was in her mid 90’s! Quite an accomplishment for anyone, but also considering the culture of the times, a strong woman operating a large, notable business was quite unusual. She was the only female quarrier in the country that anyone knew of and quite an interesting character to say the least. Described as a “feisty lady” she once was arrested for speeding in a truck and hitting the officer on the head with a cane when she was ticketed.

During her spare time, Lilly researched Maryland’s historical roots and helped establish the Montgomery County Historical Society. She was also instrumental in organizing the Maryland State Historical Society and even designed Montgomery County’s original flag.

Source of Information: Montgomery History

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