Lewis Reed understood automobiles. He knew how they worked and how to fix them. He loved cars and anything associated with them. Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.
Lewis Reed received his training at the Pierce-Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, and the Washington Auto College. 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 in Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made.
The photo above would have to date to the time when Lewis Reed drove as a Chauffeur and before he started the Rockville Garage in 1914. Based on the time frame he drove as a Chauffeur and its appearance, the car in the above photo appears to be an early Pierce-Arrow limousine. If you can help to date it and/or identify the model, please leave a comment. The license plate in the photo below is dated 1914, and I would guess the car to be a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48.
The earliest car owners had no real repair business to turn to. To be a successful motorist in the early 1900s, you needed to have some sort of mechanical skills. Or you had to find someone who did. Wealthy people employed private chauffeur-mechanics to not only drive, but also maintain and repair their large, expensive automobiles — rather than learn to do it themselves. Chauffeurs would be in charge of everything to do with the owner’s motor vehicle including repairs and maintenance and cleaning this meant that early personal chauffeurs had to be skilled mechanics.
With every car sold was a tool box that had the necessary to tools with instructions on how to dismantle and clean each part of the engine. It was recommended to do so after a certain amount of mileage depending on the make of the car, usually around seven hundred miles. When a tire wore out or was damaged, it was recommended that an expert do it, because it was glued to the rim and it took some doing to get it off. The new tire had to be cut to size for they were not always made to fit.
A mechanical aptitude was also necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900’s. When cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer, they arrived partially assembled in railroad boxcars. It was the dealer’s responsibility to unpack and assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the dealership. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way. During the early years, Reed Brothers 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.
The special video I have posted below is without a doubt one of The United States Air Force Band’s finest accomplishments. If you have not yet seen the 2016 Holiday Flash Mob, you are in for a real treat. If you have seen it, watch and listen to it again. You won’t be disappointed I assure you. It was my honor and joy to be a part of this organization for 30 years. I am so proud of their continued accomplishments and so very grateful to have been among their ranks.
The United States Air Force Band Flash Mob broadcast from the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian in Chantilly, Virginia.
Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. When Lewis Reed opened his car dealership in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. He founded what would become the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in the state of Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.
Lewis Reed was just 27 years old when he started selling cars built by brothers Horace and John Dodge in Detroit. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer. Reed Brothers was franchised as a Dodge dealership and service facility less than one year after the first Dodge automobile rolled off the assembly line.
Lewis Reed was the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland and his company was the first Gulf gas dealer in the Washington, D.C. area. During the early years, Reed Brothers 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.
Before becoming interested in automobiles, Lewis Reed was one of the original employees of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became International Business Machines, Inc. He received his training at the Pierce Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge and Hudson factories at Detroit and the Washington Auto College.
When World War I broke out, Lewis Reed along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He did his bit in World War I by working at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.
Lewis Reed was very active in his community and in his church. He was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church, where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a Lay Leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was a charter member and Past President (Feb 1933 – Feb 1937) of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. Lewis Reed belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalph Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.
Active in the dealership daily until the day of his death, Lewis Reed died on January 28, 1967 at the age of 79. Shortly after his death, the Senate of Maryland passed SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 10 honoring the well-known Rockville automobile dealer for his personality and outstanding contributions. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. Anderson, Jr and Senator Louise Gore. At the time of his death, he was in negotiations with the State Roads Commission on the Commission’s proposal to take over a portion of his business property for construction of an interchange at Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive and Veirs Mill Road.
In recognition, the state of Maryland named the connector street behind the original location, “Dodge Street,” commemorating Reed Brothers’ presence from 1914-1970. When the state widened the roads in 1970, the dealership relocated to Route 355 at the Shady Grove Metro.
When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what Lewis Reed faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. Reed Brothers Dodge occupied two locations, the original at the Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike intersection and the second at 15955 Frederick Road in front of the Shady Grove Metro.
Lewis Reed set an outstanding example through his success, but more importantly through his sacrifices and commitment to the community he served. Today, Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments pays homage to the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland with commemorative art on the former site of the iconic Reed Brothers dealership.
Peerless Rockville recognized Jeanne Gartner, the author of this blog, with the 2016 Peerless Rockville Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, historians, visual and performing artists, and members of the press and broadcast media whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development. Instituted in 2001, the award is named for Arthur M. Wagman, a founder of Peerless Rockville and its attorney for the first thirty years. The award was presented on Friday, November 18 at Glenview Mansion, one of Rockville’s most beautiful historic properties.
This marks the 37th year that Peerless has presented awards to acknowledge contributions to Rockville’s architectural, and environmental heritage. In that time Peerless has honored nearly 200 individuals and groups for preservation work, quality design and new construction, educational programs, and other projects that contribute to the City’s character and vitality.
It’s hard to put into words just how special it is for me to receive such prestigious recognition. Although my name is on the award, none of the reasons for winning this award for would be possible without my grandfather, Lewis Reed. This award is for him.
Peerless Rockville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Rockville’s heritage, honored several other organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Rockville’s historic and/or architectural character.
One hundred and two years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.
According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:
The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.
“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…
The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Lewis Reed was an enterprising young man who put his future in the fledgling automobile industry. In 1915 he received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after “Old Betsy” rolled off the assembly line. Lewis Reed and his brother Edgar, were the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland. That made Reed Brothers the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.