Book Release: “Portrait Of An Automobile Dealer” Third Edition

In September 2012, I created a self-published book version of this blog, entitled “Portrait of An Automobile Dealer”. In short, it’s an updated and chronologically ordered version of this blog. A second edition was published in place of the first edition, which was released in 2013. Now, after five years, the third, and final edition, is available through Blurb.com print-on-demand bookstore. Overall, since the second edition, “Portrait Of An Automobile Dealer” Third Edition has expanded to 224 pages and is enhanced by over 600 photographs, some of them more than 100 years old, taken by Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. The third edition again has loads of small updates, including a new chapter: “Celebrating a Legacy”.

In this book, readers will find an historic timeline that showcases the company’s 95-year history, how Reed Brothers Dodge came into being, and how the company overcame the inevitable changes and challenges throughout almost a decade of being in business. “This book is of interest not only to those of us who remember Reed Brothers Dodge, but to others who wish to get to know Rockville as it was before they arrived”, said Jane C. Sween, former librarian at the Montgomery County Historical Society.

The author puts the former Dodge dealership in perspective by demonstrating that the dealerships influence continues to this day on the site of its former location, now the Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments. “Honoring the rich historical legacy of this site was extremely important to us,” said Tom Keady, President & Chief Executive Officer of The Bainbridge Companies. “With the sculpture and the floor plan names, our residents and visitors feel a real connection to the site’s past, and we pay tribute to Reed Brothers Dodge’s role in creating a vibrant Rockville.”

Blog creator and book author, Jeanne Gartner, received the 2016 Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development. The book is an “exemplary effort to inform, establishing a virtual commemoration of a landmark, which lacks surviving tangible form”, noted Peerless Rockville.

The book “Portrait Of An Automobile Dealer, Third Edition” is available through Blurb.com print-on-demand bookstore. If you would like to check out the hard copy book or purchase a copy, please visit: http://www.blurb.com/b/7746815-portrait-of-an-automobile-dealer-third-edition

As a special thank you to all the readers of this blog, this book has been placed online for everyone to enjoy for free. A complimentary eBook available for Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPad, Android devices, and Mac or PC computers is also available through Blurb: http://www.blurb.com/b/7746815-portrait-of-an-automobile-dealer-third-edition?ebook=614233

Note: It’s worth noting that Print-On-Demand (POD) books, are usually more expensive per copy than a book printed via offset printing. That’s because offset printing (the method used for most mass-produced books found in bookstores) requires a minimum order of 500-1,000 copies. Print on demand, on the other hand, needs only a minimum order of one copy. The smaller scale and different workflow results in a higher cost per book, since the books are only printed when they are ordered. This book is not marked up for profit; but sold at base price.

Dodge Hamtramck Plant 106 Years Ago

Dodge Hamtramck Plant (Dodge Main) circa 1920

Dodge Hamtramck Plant (Dodge Main) circa 1920

Lewis Reed received his mechanical training at the Dodge Main Hamtramck Plant, in addition to the Hudson Motor Car factory in Detroit, Michigan, the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, and the Washington Auto College. In 1910, Horace and John Dodge contracted with Albert Kahn to build the 5.1-million-square-foot Dodge Main complex with the idea of building their own automobile. This dream came true in 1915 with the introduction of the Dodge Brothers motorcar.

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 in 1915 – less than one year after the first Dodge automobile rolled off the assembly line. 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 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.

A mechanical aptitude was necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900′s. When the cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer they were only partially complete and they needed final assembly, so the new dealer quickly became skilled at repair. It was the dealer’s responsibility to assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the showroom. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way.

First Shop Force Reed Brothers Dodge 1916

1916 – The first shop force of Rockville Garage (from left: Lewis Reed, (first name unknown) Long and Philip Reed.

The photos below are a caravan of circa 1920s cars all with Maryland Dealer license plates slowly making their way along a snowbound Goshen Road in rural Gaithersburg. The radiator badge on the front of the car in the below image identifies it as a Hudson. The only indication of where these photos were taken was a small piece of paper tucked behind one of the photos that was labeled “Goshen Road – outside Gaithersburg”.

1920 MD Dodge Dealers

Line of MD dealer cars making their way along Goshen Road. The car at the rear appears to be getting a helping hand to change a flat tire. Photo by Lewis Reed

1920 MD Dealers

Dealer car stopped (stuck?) on snowbound Goshen Road. Note the trailing cars slowly making their way up the hill. Although no tire chains are in evidence, they might have been useful coming up that hill. Photo by Lewis Reed

1920 Maryland Dodge Dealers

Maryland dealer car in a circa 1920 Oldsmobile stopped along Goshen Road outside Gaithersburg. Photo by Lewis Reed

A Father’s Day Tribute

Lee Gartner

In honor of Father’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of my dad who passed away eight years ago on June 13, 2009. He was a young 88 years old and worked up until just two weeks before he died. Ernest Lee Gartner, who married Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, joined Reed Brothers Dodge in 1949.

When Lewis Reed passed away on January 28, 1967, my dad continued the business as Dealer Principal making Reed Brothers Dodge a second generation dealer. Representing the 2nd generation, he took on a new set of challenges. When the state widened the roads in 1970, he purchased 4.37 acres of land from Eugene Casey and relocated Reed Brothers Dodge from its original location at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike to a new state-of-the-art showroom and Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep service complex on Route 355 at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland.

In comparison to Lewis Reed, whose dealership survived through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II, Lee Gartner successfully navigated Reed Brothers Dodge through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler, and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. He applied his 30+ years experience with Reed Brothers to meet the challenges of gasoline shortages, high interest rates, severe inflation, and weakening consumer confidence which drove Chrysler into financial crisis. This survival is testimony that he not only conquered setbacks, but often rebounded to reach new levels of success. These are pretty remarkable things.

My dad succumbed to metastatic melanoma on June 13, 2009, just four days after the loss of the family’s Dodge franchise. Though he later ceded control to his sons, he rarely missed a day of work. Until his untimely death, he was a fixture at the dealership and could be seen around just about every day watering flowers, reading his newspaper, walking through the shop, and greeting friends and customers in the showroom. The word “retirement” was not in my dad’s vocabulary. He showed no signs of stepping away from the dealership that he helped build for more than 60 years. He remained Chairman of the Board until his death.

I will always remember my dad as a successful businessman whose persistent energy was always there for family first, but in equal measure for the public he served. He was smart and also honest and dependable – characteristics that kept Reed Brothers Dodge at the pinnacle of auto dealerships throughout his career.

I never had a chance to tell my dad how much I admired him, but I remain proud of him and his accomplishments. Lee Gartner continued what Lewis Reed built from the ground up and helped make Reed Brothers Dodge into a successful family business that lasted almost a century.

I think of you, Dad, every day. For all who read this post, if you are lucky enough to still have your father with you, honor and treasure him, if not, remember him with a happy thought and a prayer for all he gave you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Offutt’s General Store, with a 1919 Dodge Truck Purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge Parked in Front

Offutt's General Store 1919

Offutt’s General Store, with a 1919 Dodge delivery truck purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge parked in front. Photo courtesy of Mary Offutt Stubbs, Edward Offutt’s daughter

Offutt’s General Store and filling station in the building that is now Hank Dietle’s Tavern on Rockville Pike.  Edward Offutt, a landowner, first constructed the building as a general store in 1916 selling groceries, animal feed, penny candy, food and drinks, according to Montgomery County Historical Society records.

The building was constructed in 1916, and first housed a general store, with two gas pumps outside. It was owned and operated by Edward Offutt; he and his family lived in a house next door. The actual bar in the tavern predates the building. In the 1940s, a fire destroyed the original bar. So, the owner at the time — prior to Hank Dietle — traveled to Baltimore to buy a “new” bar. He found one about 100 years old and it was sawed down to fit where it sits today. Tony Huniak, who began going to the tavern in the 1970s, purchased Dietle’s in the 1990s to save the neighborhood bar from closing.

The photo of the original Offutt’s General Store shows a 1919 Dodge Screenside delivery truck purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge parked in front. Notice the screens on the side with roll up canvas covers. Commercial users of these units preferred Dodges because they had an all steel body. Four large visible pumps dispensing That Good Gulf Gasoline can be seen in front. Its Class D beer and wine license, numbered 001, was the first issued in Montgomery County Maryland after the end of Prohibition.

Dodge Brothers did not have a truck line, though Dodge would later be known for their trucks. Horace and John Dodge reluctantly agreed to develop a commercial vehicle in 1917 after their sales associates lobbied for a work truck that could be sold to small businesses that made deliveries of fruit, beer, and other goods. The result was a vehicle based on the first Dodge passenger car. The vehicle eventually became the screen-side Dodge business truck, with a thousand-pound payload, selling for $885.

Reed Brothers Becomes an Original Member of Chrysler

1930s Chrysler radiator "ribbon" emblem

1930s Chrysler radiator “ribbon” emblem

May 28, 1928 marks an important milestone in the history of Chrysler.  It was on this day in 1928 that Dodge Brothers, Horace and John Dodge, became a part of Chrysler. It was on this same date that Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland also became an original member of the Chrysler family.

During 1920, the Dodge Brothers company lost its founding fathers. John Dodge died in January, and his younger brother Horace succumbed the following December. A New York investment banking firm paid the brothers’ widows, in a single cash payment, $146 million for the Dodge Brothers firm. Within three years, the bankers initiated negotiations, and on May 28, 1928, Walter P. Chrysler purchased Dodge Brothers, Inc. for $170 million, making it, at the time, the largest business transaction in history. When the transaction was complete, the Chrysler Corporation had grown five-fold overnight to become the third of Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers.

The first Plymouth was built in 1928 and Plymouths were sold at Reed Brothers until 1969, when the Plymouth brand was given to the Chrysler dealers.

Darnestown Presbyterian Church Dedicated On This Day in 1858

Darnestown Presbyterian Church

Darnestown Presbyterian Church Circa early 1900s. Photo by Lewis Reed

This special post doesn’t have anything to do with Reed Brothers Dodge, but it does have a lot to do with it’s founder, Lewis Reed.

In 1855, the Darnestown Presbyterian Church, which is located at the corner of Turkey Foot and Darnestown Roads, was founded by the generous donation of three acres of land by John Dufief. The church was constructed of stone which was hauled from the local quarry by the men of the congregation. The completed church was dedicated on this day, May 22, 1858. The iron fence along the cemetery at the back of the church was taken from the Rockville Courthouse.

Then, in the late 1860s, Andrew Small, a friend of the Church, granted sums of money to be used to building the parsonage (1868) and to establish and build a private academy (1867). The church was renovated in 1897 and then again in 1953.

Lewis Reed was a well-known photographer in the county and many of his early photographs are now part of the Montgomery County Historical Society photo archives.

Sources:
Darnestown Presbyterian
Maryland State Archives

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