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 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 historical publications including, “Montgomery County: Two Centuries of Change” by Jane C. Sween, “Montgomery County (Then & Now)” by Mark Walston, “Montgomery County (MD) Images of America”, by Michael Dwyer, “Rockville: Portrait of a City” by Eileen S. McGuckian, Montgomery Magazine, historic landmarks “Then & Now”, and “Gaithersburg: History of a City”, and by the media, including on the national television show, American Pickers, Science Channel ‘Impossible Engineering’, Maryland Public Television, and on TV’s most watched history series, American Experience 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.
This is a rare photograph of three men in suits pumpkin picking in Thomas Kelley’s field of pumpkins in Pleasant Hills, circa early 1900s. Tom Kelly farmed much of the land around the Pleasant Hills homestead and was famous for his “Kelly 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.
Each of the images below from Lewis Reed’s Collection has a car included, whether as a center point of a family photo, in the background of life’s moments, or on a cross-country road trip. These photos give a snapshot not just of the cars at the time, but a peak into an important aspect of the everyday lives of County residents.
There were no paved highways for automobiles to shoot along at 60 and 70 miles an hour; just country roads, filled with ruts, sand, and mud, over which no one wanted to drive at the maximum speed of passenger cars, which was about 30 miles an hour. But every trip was a different adventure.
A cross-country road trip is a quintessentially American experience. It’s always an adventure, but in modern times it’s a relatively tame one: The roads are paved, signs point the way, and Siri always has your back. If cars had cup holders back then, these folks would be rolling with crystal goblets, not Big Gulps.
Come away with me, Lucille: In my merry Oldsmobile: Down the road of life we’ll fly: Automo-bubbling, you and I….
Back in the early part of the last century when the automobile was still new and a novelty, it was often used for Kodak moments.
The photographs below was taken by Lewis Reed on one of his many cross country road trips. The car is a 1935 Dodge Touring Sedan with Maryland Dealer license plates. Note the rear-hinged “Suicide Door”. Cars of this era did not have seat belts, so there was nothing to hold a passenger in the car. The term “suicide doors” was therefore placed on vehicles with the rear-hinged door configuration, the theory being that the forward motion of the car could cause the door to fly open, possibly causing the unlucky person sitting next to the door to be pulled out of the car, or the door itself could be ripped from its hinges.
In order for occupants of early 1920’s cars to remain warm during the cold winter months, especially when it was snowing, it was necessary for them to dress warmly and cover themselves with blankets. Note the car in the photo below is mostly open-bodied, with no windows and certainly no heat. Tire chains are on the rear tires. I cannot say with any certainty, but I believe it is Lewis Reed’s car with his wife and baby daughter, Mary Jane, sitting inside all bundled up.
Early motorists weren’t afraid to drive in the snow simply because they didn’t have 4-wheel drive and electronic assistance; they just got out and did it. Who would dare go out in these conditions today without an AWD SUV and heated seats?
Nobody really thinks about it today. If your car is too cold, then simply switch on the “heater” and soon your car will be warm. However, it wasn’t always that way. What passengers did back then, in the early days of motoring, was bundle up as if one was outdoors. This meant heavy clothing, winter gloves and snow boots. It wasn’t long, however, before car makers realized that a few comforts, like heat in the passenger compartment, or even some type of heated seating, would help sell cars.
In 1900 car owners were almost by definition wealthy, especially since they often employed chauffeurs: many wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to operate their own vehicles. 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. Pierce-Arrow was one of the most common makers of luxury cars in the early 20th century. The price for one of these vehicles was sometimes as much as ten times the price of a standard touring car.
Early automobiles were unreliable. They broke down frequently and needed to be pulled out of mud or snow by horses. They meant it back in the good old days when motorists were advised to “get a horse”. The photo shows William Beall in his 1915 Pullman in front of old St Mary’s Church and his younger brother Vernon on horseback “towing” him to Reed Brothers.
The touring car was one of the most common styles of automobile in the early decades of the 20th century. Nearly every auto manufacturer offered a vehicle in this style. Touring cars generally were denoted by an open body seating four or more people. Identified by the triangle logo on the grill and the number of passengers seated in it, the car below appears to be a 1918 Hudson Super Six Seven Passenger Touring. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1923.
Vehicles required much higher road clearances than modern cars due to the poor state of roads and tracks, hence the large diameter skinny tires of the day which were effective at cutting through mud to reach more solid ground.
The popularity of the touring car began to wane in the 1920s when cars with enclosed passenger compartments (i.e. fixed steel roofs) became more affordable, and began to consistently out-sell the open cars.
The touring car body style was popular in the early 20th century, being a larger alternative to the two-seat roadster. The photo below was taken in 1915 by Lewis Reed in front of the original Rockville Garage. Old St Mary’s Church is in the background. Note the unpaved dirt road on Veirs Mill Road. Rockville Garage was a distributor of Fisk Tires until circa 1918, when they replaced it with the Firestone brand. The car appears to be a 1916 Studebaker Roadster. The roadster was a sportier style of vehicle, usually a two-seater with a convertible canopy roof. Many manufacturers offered roadster versions of their larger touring car models.
Ever want to see how sausage is made? Well, okay – maybe not… but this interesting photo taken by Lewis Reed some 100 plus years ago allows you to see how 18 men managed to cram themselves into a 1910-1911 Pierce Arrow Model 48 7-Passenger Touring. Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made and was one of the most popular high-quality cars of the time.
The automobile has affected this country more than any other invention of its time. Without automobiles, life as we know it would not be the same, and the changes that they have brought can be seen in every aspect of our lives.
While I was going through Lewis Reed’s photograph collection trying to get them all sorted, I started noticing how many images of people posing with pets and animals he had. I thought, everybody loves their pets. Everyone can relate to these photos. Most of the photos involve cats, but there are some depicting dogs, a pony, a squirrel, a cow, a chicken, a rabbit, and even a spider!
If you thought filling your camera roll with pet pics was a modern phenomenon, these photos prove otherwise. These never before seen pet photographs feature glimpses into the lives of every day people and their relationships with their pets at the turn of the 20th century.
Cows are not the most athletic of creatures, they tend to just stand around a lot, so must be pretty easy to capture in a photo.
Getting up close and personal with a chicken can’t be easy. I imagine my grandfather sitting in the backyard for hours with his lens pointed at whichever chicken is closest to him in an effort to get the perfect shot. It’s pretty amazing the texture and detail he captured in this photo.
In the early 1900s, Lewis Reed also trained his camera on a part of the world most of us try to ignore: spiders. This photograph is incredibly unique, both for its subject matter and use of magnification that shows the spider in such detail.
On this day in September 17, 1908, Orville Wright and Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge test flew the Wright Flyer in a demonstration for the U.S. Army at Fort Myer, Virginia. Less than a thousand people witnessed the first flight at Fort Myer, because the general public was still doubtful that powered flight had been achieved. But Lewis Reed was there… and to commemorate that milestone, I have posted six original snippets of history that Lewis Reed captured through the lens of his camera that day.
A Rex Smith Aeroplane Company School can be seen on the side of the building in the background. The founder, Rex Smith, was an inventor and a patent attorney. The Rex Smith Biplane was used in the successful April 3, 1911 U.S. Army Signal Corps experiments in wireless communications. The Signal Corps did not buy any Smith Biplanes, they did however use them from time to time to train pilots to fly the Curtiss aircraft at the same field.
The Wrights would prove their machine’s qualifications at Fort Myer. They met or exceeded all of the Army’s specifications, including flying at 40 miles per hour, carrying a combined passenger weight of 350 pounds, maneuvering in any direction in the air, landing without damage, and flying for at least an hour non-stop, which was a world record at the time.
Today, the Wright brothers are legends, with their accomplishments being the storybook example of American perseverance and ingenuity.
Today is a very special post in honor of my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. Today was also one of the hardest days of my life, when I answered my phone in the early hours of the morning to the news my mom had died. She was 96 years old. The nurse of Wilson Health Care Center at Asbury Methodist Village waited patiently as I tried to process the information. I was at a loss for words. Knowing I was about to devastate each member of my family with just three words — “Mom passed away” — was not a responsibility I wanted, but it was the one I had. With every number I dialed, my mom’s death became more real.
Losing the person who has literally been there for you your whole life is shocking. It’s heartbreaking. It’s life changing. But I find it helps to take the perspective that I didn’t really lose her. I know exactly where she is and where she’ll always be. She is alive in my memories and the link to all the history I share on this blog.
While it is hard to loose her, I know she is in a better place. She was never in pain and we all got to spend time with her before she went to sleep. Thanks mom, for the 69 years of love and support you have given me. May your soul rest in perfect peace.
I love you … your eldest.
Here is the link to her Obituary for friends and family who follow this blog: https://www.pumphreyfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Mary-Jane-Gartner?obId=7173479#/celebrationWall