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: 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 [coming soon!]
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.
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, 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.
Old photos have an amazing way of showing us what life was like years ago and depicting how our communities once looked. You might not realize how much things have changed until you look back and see what it looked like in the past. Lewis Reed grew up in Darnestown and later lived in Gaithersburg, so many of his photographs depict that specific region of Montgomery County. Take a journey back in time through the lens of Lewis Reed and see what Gaithersburg and the surrounding area looked like more than one hundred years ago. As always, click the photos to get a better look.
Philip Reed Blacksmith Shop and Farmhouse in Darnestown, early 1900s
Philip Reed (1845-1918), father of Lewis Reed, was an early settler in Darnestown and operated a blacksmith, wheelwright, and cabinet making business next to his home. Darnestown residents of that time included a doctor, a merchant, a blacksmith and a wheelwright. As late as 1910, there were still approximately 60 blacksmith shops in the county.
Hunting Hill, 1903
The area along Darnestown Road between Travilah and Muddy Branch Roads was once a small rural community known as Hunting Hill. The village included a blacksmith shop, two general stores, and a schoolhouse. This photograph of Darnestown Road looking west shows the Magruder house at the corner of Travilah Road.
General Store at Quince Orchard, 1906
A small school for white children was established on the northeast corner of Darnestown and Quince Orchard Roads around 1850. It was damaged during the Civil War and eventually burned down in 1873. The school was rebuilt on the same site in 1875 but was moved across the road next to Pleasant View Methodist Church in 1902 after the fire destroyed the school for black children. The General Store at Quince Orchard was built on the same site shortly after the school building was moved.
Barnesville B&O Train Station, 1912
The original station building was torn down in the late 1950s, and for many years there was no shelter at this popular up-county stop. It was finally decided to move to the site a 16-by-22-foot historic metering station owned by the Washington Gas Light Company, with the gas company, the county, and the city and residents of Barnesville sharing the costs. The squarish little structure had a makeover after the move. It was painted inside and out and a wide overhanging roof was added just below the original roof line, giving the building more an authentic “train station” look, and it was re-dedicated on October 10, 1977. Snuggled up against the woods, surrounded by trees and shrubbery in a rural area just south of Barnesville on Route 109 (Beallsville Road), the station today is a pretty sight.
Martin Thompson House, 1907
The home in the photo was owned by James Martin Thompson (1825–1902), Lewis Reed’s maternal grandfather. It was then called “Pleasant Hills”, which was located just opposite of the Thomas Kelly farm. In the early days, it was common practice for a family to give a name to their property. The house was accessed from Darnestown Road by a long tree-lined drive.
Route 28, in Darnestown is depicted in this photo before paving. What is now Route 28 is one of the earliest roads in the county, and was one of the main ways farmers in Poolesville, Darnestown, Dickerson, and Barnesville reached the courthouse in Rockville. Darnestown Road has existed since before the Civil war, and it remained a mud path for years into the automobile age.
Most houses in the Darnestown “Pleasant Hills” area were not very large and most were made of wood rather than brick. According to the 1860 Federal Census, Martin Thompson’s occupations were listed as Carpenter and Farmer living in Darnestown, Montgomery County, Maryland.
This photograph won an honorable mention in a contest sponsored by Rotary International for Lewis Reed.
Germantown Road at Seneca Creek, 1907
This view of Route 118 looking west shows the old one-lane stone bridge over the creek. In the 1930s, many of these old bridges were replaced with concrete bridges, and concrete roads were installed. Today, the rolling hills are covered with trees, and hikers can enjoy the Seneca Creek Ridge Trails, which runs directly through the land in this photograph.
Diamond Avenue in Gaithersburg, 1911
After the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1873, Gaithersburg’s business district had diversified to include John Belt’s mercantile store, reportedly the largest general store in the county. Many of the business owners probably lived above their shops. When constructed in 1903, the Belt building was the most ornate and substantial commercial structure in Gaithersburg.
Etchison’s Drug Store was one of the two first commercial buildings that sprang up near the business center of Gaithersburg. Earlier, two upstairs rooms of the drug store had been occupied as the dental office of Bates Etchison, DDS. Dr. Etchison would on occasion throw extracted teeth out his window, to the curious amazement of young boys below.
The second of the two nineteenth century commercial buildings was the Nicholl’s Harness shop. Nicholls Harness Shop claimed to have the best selection of harnesses and related merchandise in the state. Charlie Foo, a Chinese immigrant, owned and operated a laundry shop. The First National Bank of Gaithersburg opened on the northeast corner of Diamond and Summit Avenues in 1891.
Gaithersburg B&O Train Station, 1911
The station was originally built as the Gaithersburg B&O Railroad Station and Freight Shed in 1884, for the Metropolitan Branch of te Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). A freight house, which currently houses the Gaithersburg Community Museum, allowed farmers to easily ship their products. Over the years, the station buildings gradually fell into disrepair and by the 1960’s were slated for demolition. According to the Gaithersburg city website, they were purchased by the city from the Chessie Systems in 1984 and restored. The Station and Freight House have been listed in the National Register of Historical Places since 1978.
Montgomery County Almshouse, 1912
Before nursing homes, there were almshouses. The Montgomery County Almshouse was built in 1789 to provide for the County’s Indigent. The Almshouse never housed a large number of people. Over the years, the maximum number of residents appeared to range between 20 and 30. Occasionally, the Almshouse sheltered migrants, hitchhikers, or others in need of short-term temporary quarters. The 50-acre tract also included a pauper’s graveyard. As the 19th century began to unwind, women and church groups began founding Homes for the Aged.
Clarksburg Main Street, 1913
By the early 20th Century, Clarksburg was the third largest town in Montgomery County after Rockville and Poolesville. Clarksburg had four general stores, two hotels, and an academy of learning. It also had a blacksmith, a doctor’s office, tanneries, shoemakers, winemakers, tailors, wheelwrights, fertilizer businesses, skilled farmers, master carpenters and two town bands.
Thomas & Company Cannery, 1917
The largest and longest-lived cannery in Montgomery County, the Thomas and Company Cannery operated from 1917 until 1962. While Baltimore had been the center of the canning industry in the 19th century, the outbreak of World War I created a need to rationalize. Frank and Clyde Thomas were leaders in the 20th century canning industry in Maryland. In 1917, the Thomas family opened a cannery in Gaithersburg, the first in Montgomery County. The factory was the focus of local industry and economy, providing an important market for farmers, and employment for local migrant workers.
The factory canned peas, pumpkin and corn, supplied both the local retail market and the war effort during WW I and II. During the war years, the cannery expanded operations and functioned on a three shift schedule to provide vegetables for shipment to troops. After the war, the cannery continued to produce vegetables under the brand names MY-T-NICE, EVER-GOOD, BARBARA FRITCHIE and ON-TOP corn, peas and succotash.
Built along the B & O Railroad to facilitate shipping, the brick cannery had three main parts: the central processing station, the shipping section and boiler plant. The cannery was designated a Gaithersburg landmark in 1987.
Walker Avenue in Gaithersburg, late 1920s
This photo of Walker Avenue in Gaithersburg was taken by Lewis Reed from the steeple of Grace United Methodist Church in the late 1920s. The street is named after John Walker, whose farm became Walker Avenue when he decided to subdivide the front end in 1904. Walker was mayor of Gaithersburg from 1906 to 1908 and again from 1918 to 1924. In June 1913, Walker Avenue was the first street in Gaithersburg to have electric streetlights installed along its full length. This period saw major advances in technology, communication, and transportation. Most of its houses were built between 1904 and 1930.
Thomas Hardware Store, 1928
The above photo was taken by Lewis Reed when the first system of water mains and sewers were installed by the WSSC in Gaithersburg, circa 1926-1928. The store in the background is the Thomas Hardware Store, originally built and operated by Thomas Iraneous Fulks. The water pipes to be laid are resting by the side of the road. The child on the right in the photograph is Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. T. I. Fulks was a businessman and farmer. He worked as a bookkeeper for the Gaithersburg Milling and Manufacturing Company and then opened a hardware store at 219 East Diamond Avenue.
Asbury Methodist Village, late 1920s
Asbury Methodist Home for the Aged, predecessor of the Village, was established in Montgomery County almost 100 years ago. When care for the elders of the community failed, aged citizens with no funds were designated paupers and sent to the Montgomery County Almshouse on Seven Locks Road in Rockville.
Built in 1926 on the 106-acre dairy farm of William Magruder, called Rolling Acres, Asbury Methodist Home for the Aged opened its doors for residents on April 15, 1926, and the first five elderly residents moved in. The community changed its name to Asbury Methodist Village in 1969. Today, Asbury Methodist Village is the largest continuing care retirement community in Montgomery County, Maryland, and the 14th largest in the United States.
Montgomery County F3 Tornado (Aftermath) May 2, 1929
At about 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 1929, northeastern Montgomery County was struck by an F3 tornado, part of a large storm system that caused devastation from Florida to Ohio. The weekly Montgomery County Sentinel reported on May 10th that the “wind storm of cyclonic power . . . was of limited width and serpentine on its course. Everything in its path met with destruction.” These photographs were taken by Lewis Reed “after the tornado of May 2, 1929”.
The damage in the county was limited to the rural Unity area, north of Brookeville. The Sentinel article detailed each affected farm, noting that “thousands of persons from far and near visited the scene for several days to look upon the indescribable wreckage.”
From the Sentinel: “The storm showed its first violence upon the farm of Mr. J. William Benson. There it destroyed every building – the dwelling house, large barn, 117 feet long, including an attached shed, and all other outbuildings.” The farm was unoccupied, but furniture belonging to “a prospective tenant” was destroyed. Mr. Benson’s apple orchard was also significantly damaged, and the article claimed that “many [trees] were lifted into the air, carried over woods and landed several miles away.”
The fire departments of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Sandy Spring responded to the call made by farm worker James Leizear, who “extricated himself from the wreckage” and ran half a mile to a neighbor’s house to summon help.
The Post reported on May 4th that 28 people in Maryland and Virginia had been killed by tornadoes during the storm; most of the casualties were in Virginia, where an elementary school was struck full-force and at least 18 children died. In Montgomery County, the local Red Cross Chapter formed a citizen committee to raise funds “for relief of the sufferers.”
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.
Motorcycle clubs began forming in the early 1900s as manufacturers stressed the social, sporting, and healthy outdoors potential of the motorcycle. Both 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.
Historically, riding motorized bikes, like horses, began as a gentleman’s sport. In the early days of motorcycling, propriety dictated that a gentleman be presentable when he went out for a spin. Full-length boots derived from horseback riding and a sporty cap with goggles were adapted to the new pursuit of motorcycle riding.
Early motorcyclists were often pictured in riding groups. From its beginnings, motorcycling developed very much as a social activity. Gentlemen of the day often used it to spice up their sunny weekends and impress ladies.
This special post doesn’t have anything to do with Reed Brothers Dodge history, but it does have a lot to do with this blog’s author. I am so honored and proud to be featured in this article by The United States Air Force Band in recognition of Women’s History Month & International Women’s Day. To read the full article on the Air Force Band’s website, please visit: https://www.music.af.mil/…/IwAR3g1Fiu5VoK9EkGibCUQFtBE…/
From a distance, it looks and sounds like a regular baseball game: the crack of the bat, the cheering from the bench, the sliding into home plate. But a closer look at the field shows something is very different. They’re playing on a rough grass field, no one is using a batting helmet, fielding glove, or catcher’s mask.
From the 1920s through the 1940s, Reed Brothers had their own company softball team that played on the fields at the Rockville Fairgrounds where Richard Montgomery High School now stands. In 1939, the Rockville Fire Department and Reed Brothers Dodge, two top-ranking teams, inaugurated the Montgomery Softball Association championship series at the newly renovated Welsh Field in Rockville. Situated in the heart of Rockville’s business district, the field was renovated and illuminated in 1939.
Participating teams at the time included Pepco, Takoma Phil-Gas Company, Marine Barracks, Rockmont Motor Company, St Mary’s Boys’ Club, Lawyers and Businessmen, among others.
Note the player with the five finger glove in the photo above. Out of all of these photos, this is the only glove that can be seen on a player. The use of gloves wasn’t original to the first years of the game; needing a padded glove was viewed as pretty wimpy. (According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, one of the first players to wear a glove tried – and failed – to find one that would be invisible to fans.) By the 1880s gloves were accepted equipment, however, and soon inventors and manufacturers were coming up with new and improved gloves (more padding, deeper webbing…)
From the about the 1920s through the 1940s, Reed Brothers Dodge also sponsored a bowling team that competed locally in the Rockville Duck Pin League. Participating teams at the time included Post Office, Chevrolet, Fire Department, Question Marks, Mechanics, Reed Brothers, Holy Rollers, and Potomac.
Did you know that February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day, but also Ferris Wheel Day? This unofficial national holiday is held on this day to honor the birth of the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. What better way to celebrate Ferris Wheel Day than enjoying this old photograph of the Ferris Wheel taken at the Rockville Fairgrounds, courtesy of Lewis Reed. The fairgrounds were just outside Rockville, about where Richard Montgomery High School is today. The Fair lasted four days, from August 21st to the 24th, and drew visitors from local counties, Washington, and Baltimore.
For the singles and the “enough already with the Valentines”, here is your perfect alternative excuse. Go wish all your friends and family a Happy Ferris Wheel Day!