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 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.

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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 80+ 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 in highly regarded history books such as, Montgomery County: Two Centuries of Change by Jane C. Sween, Rockville: Portrait of a City by Eileen S. McGuckian, and Gaithersburg: History of a City. His photographs have been featured in the Norris-Banonis Automotive Wall Calendar, on the national television show, American Pickers, and on television’s most watched history series, American Experience on PBS.

Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of digitally 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 surrealistic, ghost-like effects in his image-making processes.

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.

Rockville Garage Hudson Motor Car Ads (1919-1920)

The advertisements in this post do more than just simply pitch a product, they capture a moment in history. A moment in history when Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage 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.

Hudson introduced the Essex brand in 1919. The Essex was intended to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for budget-minded buyers. The Essex offered one of the first affordable sedans and by 1925 the combined Hudson and Essex sales made Hudson the third largest automobile manufacturer in the United States.

Prior to the advent of television and radio advertising, print media was the most popular form of advertising and most car ads were black and white. The following ads distributed by the Lambert Automobile Company in The Baltimore Sun newspaper advertises the Hudson and Essex automobiles.

In addition to franchise car dealers, there were also factory stores. In the early days, the factory stores did the national advertising. A factory store, also known as a branch store or branch dealer, was a dealership owned and run by the manufacturer. A list of area Dealers was placed in fine print at the bottom of the ads. Rockville Garage, Rockville, Md, is highlighted in yellow on each of these ads.

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 2 March 1919

By the 1920s, Hudson and Essex Motor Car advertisements featured elegant architectural borders with static drawings of their cars; some ads never pictured people during this period.

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 30 May 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 29 Aug 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 25 Jan 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 24 Oct 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 21 Nov 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 17 Oct 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 13 Jun 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 10 Oct 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 1 Feb 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 3 Oct 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 28 Mar 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 30 Sep 1920

1920s Hudson & Essex ads

The Baltimore Sun 5 Mar 1922

A lot of old newspapers have found their way online and with digital archival, it’s easier to take a trip back through old newspapers than ever before. These ads were found on NewspaperARCHIVE.com, the largest historical newspaper database online.

 

Looking Back at the Montgomery County Fair, Whose Origins Stretch Back to 1846

It’s August, which means the Montgomery County Fair is coming soon! (The Agricultural Center’s website is literally counting down the seconds until opening day.) Since the fair will be here soon, I thought it would be fun and interesting to look back at some rare, historical photographs taken by Lewis Reed at the fair, whose origins stretch back 172 years.

All of these photographs are from the first incarnation of the Fair, held by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society (1846-1932) in Rockville and often known simply as the “Rockville Fair.” The current Fair, held at the Gaithersburg fairgrounds, was started in 1949. From the August 25, 1923 Washington Post Rockville Fair Auto Race article, to some of the earliest known photographs of the original grounds, Lewis Reed’s photos show the splendor of the original fairgrounds with its grandstands, to the oval dirt track used for bicycle, harness, and later, car races, and conversion to a baseball field.

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Fair goers in their finest stroll along the midway. Hats were a fashion requirement at the time, as were long flowing dresses and suits. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

The headline of the Washington Post article about the race read, “Auto Races to Clash at Rockville Today”.

World speed records will be placed in jeopardy at Rockville fair this afternoon when half score of professional drivers, including speedway and dirt track auto monarchs, will compete in a seven-event program.

The annual County Fair used to be held for four days in the month of August at the old Fairgrounds of Rockville, Maryland. Families came from every section of the Montgomery County in wagons and carriages, and stayed for the duration of the Fair. Like many fairgrounds, the Rockville Fairgrounds included an oval track. Fairground race tracks, typically one-mile or half-mile dirt racing ovals with wide, sweeping curves and grandstands for spectators, were easily adapted for bicycles, harness racing, and the sport of car racing. The fairgrounds were just outside Rockville, about where Richard Montgomery High School is today. As always, click the photos to get a better look.

Montgomery County Fairgrounds 1910

Fairgrounds in the snow. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Montgomery County Fairgrounds 1910

Chicken House. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville Fair Ground Old Ferris Wheel

Riding the Ferris Wheel at Rockville Fair, circa 1920s. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Fair goers meander through exhibits. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Hundreds of cars parked in the fair parking lot. What is fascinating to me is, with all of these early cars painted in black, how on earth would you find your car? Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

View from the grandstand. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

View from the grandstand. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Families came in wagons and carriages to the Rockville Fairgrounds and stayed for the duration. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Can you hear me now? Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Agricultural and various farm equipment exhibit. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Rockville MD Fairgrounds 1910

Sign on the left side of the building reads, “The Beautiful Caverns of Luray Souvenirs”. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Bicycle Racing

Like many fairgrounds, the Rockville Fairgrounds included an oval track. Fairground race tracks, typically one-mile or half-mile dirt racing ovals with wide, sweeping curves and grandstands for spectators, were easily adapted for bicycles, harness racing, and the sport of car racing.

Rockville Fairgrounds Bicycle Races 1910

This circa 1915 photo of an early bicycle race at the Rockville Fairgrounds gives a sense of just how popular the sport was at the time. Photo by Lewis Reed

Harness Racing

Rockville Fairgrounds Harness Races 1910

Harness race at the Rockville Fair, circa 1910. All those throngs of people had plenty to see. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Fairgrounds Harness Races 1910

This photo shows the grandstand and surrounding areas filled with spectators watching the action, ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Fairgrounds Harness Races 1910

Crowd at the racetrack. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Fairgrounds Harness Races 1910

Bend on the racetrack, circa 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Fairgrounds Harness Races 1910

Harness racers rounding the bend on the racetrack, circa 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Auto Racing

The photos below reveal what auto racing looked like in the days before helmets, seat belts, air bags, and traction control.

Auto races Rockville Fair 1923

Rockville drew huge crowds for auto races. Rockville Fair, August 1923. Photo by Lewis Reed

Auto races Rockville Fair 1923

Dusty Action – 1923 photo of the exciting auto races at Rockville Fair. Five racers are just coming around the bend on this dirt track with their tires spinning up dust in their wake. Photo by Lewis Reed

Auto races Rockville Fair 1923

Two-man race car. Some early race cars included both a driver and a ‘riding mechanic’. One of the key jobs of the second man in a race car was to look backward and alert the driver to what was going on behind him. Photo by Lewis Reed

Early race car drivers were required to have a riding mechanic, otherwise it was voluntary. Riding mechanics, who in addition to being lookouts, kept an eye on tire wear and would even hop out of the car and run back through the infield to get fuel.

Auto races Rockville Fair 1923

More dirt track action. Skinny tires make for slippery turns. Photo by Lewis Reed

Below is a 1923 Washington Post article for an auto race at the Rockville Fair.

1923 Rockville Fair Race Ad

Rockville Fair Race Ad

A football field was designed within the oval of the old Fair racetrack in 1946.

Dirt track racing was one of the main attractions, but the Fair also provided other events such as horse pulls, games of chance, showing of prized livestock and poultry, needlework, homegrown produce, baked and canned goods. A building called the Exhibit House displayed the prize-winning entries of the various categories.

Rockville Garage Displaying New Model Cars at Rockville Fair Grounds, 1918

The Fair also gave automobile dealers the opportunity to display their new models. Below is new car show time as fair goers get their first glimpse at the latest models that Rockville Garage had to offer.

Rockville Garage at Rockville Fair 1918

Anybody for a demonstration drive? Identified by the triangle logo on the grill and the number of passengers seated in it, the car appears to be a 1918 Hudson Super Six Seven Passenger Touring. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Garage at Rockville Fair 1918

Hudson Super Six, Oldsmobile, and Dodge Brothers Motor Cars on display. Lewis Reed in drivers seat of Rockville Garage Service Truck.

Rockville Garage at Rockville Fair 1918

Rockville Garage tent displaying Hudson Super Six, Oldsmobile, and Dodge Brothers Motor Cars at the Rockville Fair Grounds. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Garage at Rockville Fair 1918

At Your Service Rockville Garage. Lewis Reed on the left

Reed Brothers Dodge Baseball Team at Rockville Fair, ca. 1920

Most likely, Rockville’s first experience with baseball was during the Civil War on the fields where Richard Montgomery High School now stands. It was known as “Camp Lincoln” because of the Union encampment there, and Federal soldiers helped popularize the new game they brought from the North. After the Civil War those fields – known as the Rockville Fairgrounds – continued to be a popular place for baseball.

Reed Brothers Dodge had a company baseball team that played on those same fields. The photos below were taken by Lewis Reed on a field at the Rockville Fairgrounds circa early 1920s.

Pat Murray (Parts Department Manager), keeping score. Photo by Lewis Reed

Reed Brothers Dodge Baseball Team, circa early 1920s. Photo by Lewis Reed

Reed Brothers Dodge Baseball Team, circa early 1920s. Photo by Lewis Reed

In 1949, the Montgomery County Agricultural Center (the Fairgrounds) was moved from Rockville to its current location adjacent to the B&O Railroad between Chestnut Street and Perry Parkway.

Source: Montgomery History

1929 Montgomery County F3 Tornado: Aftermath Photos

May 2, 1929 Unity Tornado

Spectators view the destruction at the Benson farm, May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

One of the worst tornadic outbreaks in area history occurred on 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 previously unpublished photographs were taken by Lewis Reed “after the tornado of May 2, 1929”.

May 2, 1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.”

May 2, 1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.”

May 2, 1929 Unity Tornado

Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.”

May 2, 1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

Note: These photographs were undated and unlabeled in my grandfather’s collection. My mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who is seen above when she was almost 7 years old, positively identified these photographs and just about pinpointed the location! She is almost 96 years old! It’s amazing the things you remember from your early childhood.

Information Source: A Fine Collection

Then & Now: New Occidental Hotel Washington, DC

In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now” to see how the location has changed or remained nearly the same through the years. I started doing this as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject. In the following photographs, you can see the difference 100 years can make.

New Occidental Hotel (THEN): The New Occidental Hotel was built by Henry Willard (of Willard Hotel fame) in 1906. If any of 2,500 celebrities — including four presidents — forgot who they were, they could stop by the Occidental Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue and check their picture on the wall. Within a few years the Occidental became known as the place “Where Statesmen Dine”.

After the restaurant closed in 1971, the wall-to-wall collection of paintings and photographs of the famous was auctioned off. The new Occidental Restaurant re-opened at 1475 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, almost on the old site, as part of the Willard Collection of buildings.

Looking from the Treasury Building directly at the United States Capitol, this 1912 photograph taken by Lewis Reed shows the first floor retail shops and the Occidental Hotel, which has an Electric Grill Room, on the left. On the right are office buildings and the Old Post Office. The magnificent Raleigh Hotel held a commanding position on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the Old Post Office Building. The Occidental Hotel was located at 1411 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Occidental Hotel DC

Historic street view of Pennsylvania Avenue. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1912

New Occidental Hotel (NOW): Google Street View from approximately the same perspective in 2018.

New Occidental Hotel

Screenshot of Google Street View 2018

Source: Historic Restaurants of Washington

Lewis Reed’s ‘Ghost’ Photograph

spirit photography

Surrealistic, ghost-like effect of Lewis Reed (right) standing next to a tree in the middle of train track. From Lewis Reed’s Photograph Collection

Lewis Reed had a passion for photography and had the know-how to try out a few of the trick shots that were popular at the time — including creating double exposures that made it look as if there were ghosts in the picture.

When I saw this photograph — which is slick enough to fool anyone not paying attention to detail — I became curious. How on earth did he do that? So I did some research to get some information on what went into this type of photography. This technique often left a telltale vertical line along the center of the image — a fuzzy stripe separating the two exposures.

Supernatural effects were mainly accomplished using double exposure. When developing the photos, a pre-prepared glass plate would be used which already had the image of a person on it. This would be the ‘ghost’. It would then be inserted into the camera in front of an unused plate which was used to shoot the photo. The developed negative comes out with both images on it — an incompletely exposed ghostly image as well as a sitter, looking perfectly unaware.

I think it’s really amazing how Lewis Reed’s early photography shows such versatility and creativity.

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