Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. He attended school in Montgomery County and later went to work for the fore-runner of the IBM Corporation at about the time it was founded in 1913. In October 1915, he founded Reed Brothers Dodge. In 1920, he married the former Ethelene Thomas of Frederick County and moved to Gaithersburg. In 1926, Lewis and Ethelene Reed built a craftsman-style home in Gaithersburg, at what is today 301 North Frederick Avenue. Lewis Reed’s family residence is listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties as the Lewis Reed Residence. He had one daughter, Mary Jane, who was born on September 24, 1922. She later married Ernest Lee Gartner in 1948.
Before becoming interested in automobiles, Lewis Reed was one of the original employees of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became International Business Machines, Inc. He 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. When World War I broke out, Lewis Reed along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He did his bit in World War I by working at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.
Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training would have come into play. Many of the first chauffeurs came from a mechanic’s background — a vital skill in the early days of motoring.
Lewis Reed was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a lay leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was also a charter member and Past President of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. He belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalpha Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.
Before opening his Dodge dealership in 1915, Lewis Reed was one of the earliest and most prolific photographers in Montgomery County. At the turn of the century, before automobiles were even around, he amassed a large library of photographs of buildings, farm carts drawn by oxen, and other historic spots in Montgomery County. He had a darkroom in his house — in the kitchen, to be exact — and worked at night to develop the negatives. Lewis Reed expanded his hobby to include movies, and made them not only of his family, but on his trips to various parts of the world. He also enjoyed pheasant hunting in South Dakota and camping and fishing at Popes Head Creek in Maryland.
Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, donated her father’s photograph collection of 280 glass plate negatives to the Montgomery County Historical Society. Glass plate negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s.
Lewis Reed understood automobiles. He knew how they worked and how to fix them. He loved cars and anything associated with them. Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.
Lewis Reed received his training at the Pierce-Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, and the Washington Auto College. The photo above would have to date to the time when Lewis Reed drove as a Chauffeur and before he started the Rockville Garage in 1914. Based on the time frame he drove as a Chauffeur and its appearance, the car in the above photo appears to be an early Pierce-Arrow limousine. The license plate in the photo below is dated 1914, and I would guess the car to be a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48.
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.
With every car sold was a tool box that had the necessary to tools with instructions on how to dismantle and clean each part of the engine. It was recommended to do so after a certain amount of mileage depending on the make of the car, usually around seven hundred miles. When a tire wore out or was damaged, it was recommended that an expert do it, because it was glued to the rim and it took some doing to get it off. The new tire had to be cut to size for they were not always made to fit.
A mechanical aptitude was also necessary to be a car 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. 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 1923.
Edgar Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on October 17, 1890. Edgar, a life-long resident of Montgomery County was a partner with his brother, Lewis Reed, in the firm Reed Brothers Dodge. He was a veteran of World War I and an active citizen of Rockville. He served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in World War I from February 1918 to August 1919. Previous to his enlistment he had been employed by R.W. Vinson, Rockville druggist for eight years. In 1919, Edgar joined Lewis Reed in the business and the name changed to Reed Brothers Dodge. Edgar was in the automobile business with his brother, Lewis, for 35 years.
Edgar Reed married Rachel White in June 1920 just a few weeks prior to his brother’s wedding. They had no children. As a prominent businessman active in local commercial, civic, and religious institutions, Edgar was a respected community leader. For many years, he served on the Town Council and was Chairman of Stewards at the Rockville Methodist Church. Edgar was an original incorporator and charter member of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department when the fire company was organized in 1921. He was a charter member and Past President of the Rockville Rotary Club and was a director of the Farmers Banking & Trust Company in Rockville until the time of his death.
Edgar Reed, who was the executive of Reed Brothers, handled all of the technicalities of the business and was generally in charge of the new car and truck sales. He was the first President and one of 30 original members of the Dealers Automotive Association of Montgomery County. Edgar passed away on October 24, 1951 after a prolonged illness.
In the early days, motorcycles were a staple of transportation, and both Lewis and Edgar rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Motorcyclists in the 1920s were more likely to wear a tie and sporty little cap than the leather of today.
Photo below: with Lewis Reed taking the photograph (from left: Lewis Reed’s empty motorcycle, Edgar Reed, unknown person, Bernard Hanshew) in front of Greenawalt Drug Store on Market Street in Frederick, Maryland circa 1915.