Lewis Reed was just a young man when he started selling cars built by brothers Horace and John Dodge in Detroit. In 1914, the Dodge brothers had been producing car components for Henry Ford when they decided they could build their own cars. 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.
In 1914, Lewis Reed became a partner in Rockville Garage with Robert L. and Griffith Warfield. The Warfield brothers had purchased this building in July 1915, from Lee Ricketts and Sons who had the Overland Agency. The business continued to operate under the old name until it was changed at the suggestion of the late Judge Edward Peter shortly after Edgar Reed joined his brother.
This new car showroom is filled with late 1920s Dodge Brothers new car models. The high ceilings and mezzanine floor gives an air of elegance to the showroom and the expanse of windows on the front extends the full width of the building. The showroom faced the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike which gave the dealership maximum visibility to a large volume of cross traffic.
In the background under the arched column is the Bookkeeper’s desk, who at the time was probably Arthur Watkins. The upper floor mezzanine housed the dealership’s Parts Department and storage area. Leo (Pat) Murray started in 1925 and was the Parts Department Manager. Pat worked at Reed Brothers for more than 21 years. To the right of the stairs is Evelyn Beane’s desk, Reed Brothers’ administrative secretary. To the left of the stairs is the Gulf Gasoline service counter displaying various merchandise.
The showroom led to the Service Department at the rear of the building which was how new cars were moved in and out of the showroom. There were 2-3 additional offices in the back of the showroom. One belonged to Edgar Reed (Lewis’ brother) who was generally in charge of the “front end” of the business; new car and truck sales. The other office belonged to Lewis Reed, who was never known to spend a lot of time in his office sitting behind a desk. He could always be found in the “back end” of the business; Service, Parts and Body Shop.
There were no salesman’s desks in the showroom until after World War II. 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 of Poolesville, Rockville, Barnesville and Spencerville demonstrating cars to potential customers. At that time, Reed Brothers was selling about eight new cars a month and most sales resulted from knocking on people’s doors. Three of the four salesmen at the time were Francis O. Day, Raleigh S. Chinn and Benjamin J. Thompson. Benjamin Thompson of Colesville joined Reed Brothers in 1917 as Salesman and stayed for 30+ years. Raleigh S. Chinn of Rockville started as Salesman with Reed Brothers in 1920.
The first shop force of Rockville Garage consisted of Lewis Reed, Phillip Reed and (first name unknown) Long. A mechanical aptitude was necessary to be a dealer in the early 1900’s. When cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer, they arrived partially assembled in railroad boxcars. It was the dealer’s responsibility to unpack and assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the dealership. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way.
Lewis Reed received his automotive training at the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan and the Washington Auto College. Pierce-Arrow was once one of the most recognized and respected names in the automobile industry. For 38 years, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made.
In 1918, Lewis Reed bought out Rockville Garage from the Warfield’s and changed the name to Reed Brothers Dodge.
1915 Rockville Garage First Gas Station – A Single Pump
In 1915, they began selling gas at their original location in Old Rockville at the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. Their first “gas station” consisted of a single pump. Later, (circa 1917) they became an authorized Texaco Filling Station and sold Texaco gasoline, also from a single pump. At some point prior to 1920, Reed Brothers Dodge became a Gulf Gasoline dealer. Reed Brothers Dodge was the first Gulf gasoline dealer in the Washington, D.C. area.
1917 Reed Brothers Dodge Texaco Filling Station
When the United States entered World War I, Lewis Reed worked at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC as a torpedo tester.
As America recovered from World War I, the growing automobile industry began to take shape. Technology began to make its way among all the manufacturers. Dodge capitalized on what it had learned building scout cars for the U.S. Army and the punishment they endured on the European battlefields and applied those great rugged attributes to civilian vehicles. In 1920, it was this durability that really solidified Dodge’s reputation for dependability and propelled the brand to the number two spot United States by producing over 141,000 vehicles.
In 1919, Lewis Reed’s brother Edgar joined him in the business. Reed Brothers Dodge was the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland. Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson, along with Dodge. Later they became Dodge Plymouth dealers.
1918: Rockville Garage Displaying New Cars at Rockville Fair Grounds
An 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. 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. Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson, along with Dodge.
Other Original Employees
Raleigh S. Chinn, Rockville, started as Salesman with Reed Brothers in 1920
Evelyn Beane, Administrative Secretary
Paul F. Wire, Bookkeeper
W. Lester Wilson, Rockville, started in 1918 as Shop Foreman and stayed for 28 years
Alfred Fraley, Redland, started in 1917 as a mechanic and stayed for more than 30+ years
Benjamin J. Thompson, Colesville, started in 1917 as Salesman and stayed for 30+ years
Phillip Reed (a brother), started in 1916 as a mechanic. Phillip was a part of the first shop force and stayed with the company until 1944
Grafton Reed (a brother), worked as a mechanic in 1921
Leo (Pat) Murray started in 1925 and was the Parts Department Manager. Pat worked at Reed Brothers for more than 21 years
Richard C. Burdette, Rockville, mechanic
John Burdette, Gaithersburg, Gas Station Attendant
Marvin Shultz, Gas Station Attendant/Salesman. Stayed with Reed Brothers his entire career
Mary Ann (Slater) Beall, Rockville, Bookkeeper
First Newspaper Advertisement
The advertisement below, distributed by the Oldsmobile Sales Company in the June 29, 1919 edition of the Washington Post is probably the very first advertisement in which the Rockville Garage appeared. Dealers are listed in fine print at the bottom: note Rockville Garage, Rockville, Md, which is highlighted in yellow. Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson, along with Dodge. (click images to enlarge)
In 1921, Dodge Brothers agreed 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 firm.
Reed Brothers Becomes An Original Member of the Chrysler Family
In 1928, Walter P. Chrysler took over after Horace and John Dodge died and Lewis Reed became an original member of the Chrysler family. 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.
The year of the stock market crash that began the Great Depression, nobody could afford to buy cars. Like most other businesses, the Great Depression hit hard and most dealerships had to declare bankruptcy. Reed Brothers had to rely on its Service Department to make ends meet. But, the dealership survived through these lean times.
First Car Invoice
June 22, 1921 was no doubt an exciting day for Mr Henry C. Brown, as that was the day he purchased a brand new 1921 DODGE BROTHERS TOURING CAR from Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage. The car was sold for $1050.00 and signed for by Edgar Reed. The logos on the invoice below are the original Dodge Brothers Motor Cars and Oldsmobile Sales Company logos.
In 1922, Montgomery County was farm country, sparsely populated, automobiles sharing dirt roads with horse-drawn wagons. But it was changing into a proper suburb, and there needed to be a police department. They didn’t have much beyond their badges. Their only training was on riding motorcycles, and there was no office; instead, they met at the steps of the county courthouse. If they needed to cart someone to jail, the prisoner often had to ride along on the motorcycle, handcuffed. Still, there were bootleggers and chicken thieves to chase down, traffic accidents to set them into action. By 1927, the department would more than triple in size, but no other officers would have to learn their job the way this squad did. (Source: Planet Washington, Backlight)