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.

The Legendary Lake House Hotel of Horror, Then & Now

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to feature a photograph that Lewis Reed took of the Saylorsburg Lake House Hotel, now the site of Hotel of Horror. The aging Lake House Hotel in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, once a vibrant Poconos retreat, was a popular hotel for the region’s tourists who were looking for fun on nearby Saylors Lake. During the hotel’s heyday, its staff was booking rooms a year in advance. Today, the former hotel’s fame is generated from its annual Halloween haunted-house attraction.

Lake House Hotel (THEN): The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two-hundred years. According to local folklore, during World War II, many of the employees at the Lake House were called to assist in the Pennsylvania National Guard, leaving the local asylum with one lone security guard to watch over the entire building. The inmates escaped, made their way to the hotel and took it over. The insane patients performed experiments on the guests. What was once a renowned resort for the rich and famous, became a torture chamber.

Saylorsburg Lake House

Saylorsburg Lake House Hotel. Photo taken by Lewis Reed, 1915.

Hotel of Horror (NOW): The hotel was purchased in 1990 and turned into an Antique Co-Op, and then in 1992 saw its first haunted house attraction. This 2020 season will celebrate the 28th year that the Hotel of Horror has been fascinating and horrifying legions of fans from the far reaches of the United States and even internationally. To all the readers of this blog: Have a spooky, enjoyable and very safe Halloween!

Saylorsburg Hotel of Horror

Welcome to The Hotel of Horror, The Pocono Mountains Premier Haunted House Attraction

Happy Halloween

Thomas Kelley’s Pumpkin Patch, Early 1900s

When the leaves begin to change and the air takes on a chill that means it’s time for one thing – pumpkin picking! This is a rare photograph of three well-dressed men pumpkin picking in Thomas Kelley’s field of pumpkins in Pleasant Hills, circa early 1900s. Tom Kelley farmed much of the land around the Pleasant Hills homestead and was famous for his “Kelley Corn” farm wagon of fresh dairy produce during the summer months, as well as the corn that fed visitors to the Montgomery County Fair each August and, of course, his pumpkin patch in the fall.

Pumpkin Patch 1920s

Pumpkin picking in Thomas Kelley’s Pumpkin Patch, Darnestown, Maryland circa. early 1900s. Photo by Lewis Reed

First Kensington VFD Fire Truck Purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge

The first piece of fire apparatus purchased by the Kensington (Maryland) Volunteer Fire Department was a 1925 Dodge-Graham fire engine purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge at a cost of $5,000. It was not a complete truck when purchased, however.

From the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department’s “History” webpage:

1922 was the birth of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department. With little money, a Dodge truck was purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville. A custom fire body was then built and fitted on the truck by Jacobs Brothers in Gaithersburg who ran the Wheelwright Shop on East Diamond Avenue. To raise money, the volunteers held carnivals. The Fire Department incorporated in 1925, and two years later moved into a permanent home in the basement of the National Guard Armory.

Kensington VFD first fire truck

The Evening Star, 16 Aug 1925

A bit of Dodge-Graham Brothers history: Dodge trucks actually began with three brothers named Graham. In reality, it is the story of two companies – the Dodge Brothers Company and the Graham Brothers Company. In 1916, seeing the need for a good, dependable truck to serve people, the Graham brothers entered the truck body business. By 1919, they had produced the “Truck-builder,” which is a basic platform from which a customer could spec a truck according to his or her needs. The Truck Builder was essentially a truck conversion that began with a passenger car.

In 1921, Dodge Brothers began to market Graham Brothers medium-duty trucks through its dealerships; in turn, every Graham vehicle utilized a Dodge engine. This partnership provided Dodge dealers with a full line of trucks to sell in addition to the highly regarded Dodge passenger cars, and the resulting sales increases prompted Dodge to buy the Graham Brothers Company.

The Dodge trucks would carry the Graham Brothers nameplate until 1928 with a few of the designs lasting as long as the 1930s.

Pictured below is not the Kensington engine, but a fully restored 1925 Dodge-Graham Brothers Era Chemical Pumper that was probably very similar to the original one that was used.

Fully Restored 1925 Dodge-Graham Brothers Era Chemical Pumper

Fully Restored 1925 Dodge-Graham Brothers Era Chemical Pumper


Peerless Rockville/Glenview Mansion Speaker Series

The Peerless Rockville/Glenview Mansion Speaker Series continues on-line. Join me Thursday, October 8 at 7:00pm on WebEx for my presentation on The History of Reed Brothers Dodge. My PowerPoint presentation will follow the dealerships historic timeline which showcases how Reed Brothers Dodge came into being, and how the company overcame the inevitable changes and challenges throughout almost a century of being in business. More than 150 photos will be featured, 90 of them historic images taken by the dealership’s founder, Lewis Reed. Click the link for free registration >>

Peerless Rockville/Glenview Mansion Speaker Series

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.

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