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“In My Merry Oldsmobile” …100 Years Ago

Come away with me, Lucille: In my merry Oldsmobile: Down the road of life we’ll fly: Automo-bubbling, you and I….

1918 Oldsmobile

Ethelene Thomas Reed, who married Lewis Reed in 1921, is sitting in passenger seat of a circa 1918 Oldsmobile Club Roadster and her sister, Celeste Thomas Brown, is sitting behind her in the back seat. Photo by Lewis Reed

One of the things I enjoy doing is looking through all of the old photographs in my grandfather’s albums and trying to figure out who and what they are. I came across these two photographs and recognized the passengers, so thought it would be fun to try and identify the car, so I went on a quest. After spending some time viewing images of four brands of cars of the period with a similar appearance, I found it looks a lot like the two-door, four-passenger 1918 Oldsmobile Club Roadster pictured below. Looks the same to me. What do you think?

1918 Oldsmobile Model 45A Club Roadster

Fully restored 1918 Oldsmobile Model 45A Club Roadster – Reference Vehicle

Back in the early part of the last century when the automobile was still new and a novelty, it was often used for Kodak moments. Both old photographs show the same two young women posing in them – one is my grandmother,  Ethelene Reed, who married Lewis Reed in June 1921, and the other is her sister, Celeste Thomas Brown.

Vehicles from that era are fascinating and are often photographed with equally fascinating surroundings. I wonder what the two dapper young men were repairing on the car in the top photo?

1918 Oldsmobile

1918 Oldsmobile Roadster shown with Ethelene and her sister Celeste behind the wheel. Photo taken by Lewis Reed at the Clinton Clay Thomas family farm which was located on Butterfly Lane in Braddock, Maryland.

Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage sold more than just Dodges. 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.

The first advertisement below, distributed by the Oldsmobile Sales Company in the Sunday, June 29, 1919 edition of The Washington Post is probably the very first ad 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.

1919 Oldsmobile Model 45-B Rockville Garage Ad – The Washington Post – Sunday, June 29, 1919, Washington, District Of Columbia

This is a fun little song recorded in 1909. An Oldsmobile must have been quite the toy when this was recorded. From an old single sided VICTOR RECORD COMPANY 78 rpm record. Enjoy!


Dodge Made a Car Just for Women

Dodge La FemmeThe Dodge La Femme stemmed from Chrysler’s marketing department’s observation that more and more women were taking an interest in automobiles during the 1950s, and that women’s opinions on which color car to buy was becoming part of the decision making process for couples buying an automobile. The La Femme was an attempt to gain a foothold in the women’s automobile market.

Dodge introduced the new La Femme option package in 1955: For $143, you could have the Custom Royal Lancer feminized, with rose paint, gold script, and a nauseating shade of Pepto-pink interior complete with rosebuds.

The accessories which came with the car as standard equipment were where things started getting weird. The car came with a calfskin purse in the same shade of pink as the car’s interior. There was a special compartment behind the passenger seat for this purse, where it could sit with the buckle facing outward. This buckle was large enough for owners to have their name engraved on them, and this is what they were encouraged to do. Inside the purse there was a makeup compact filled with pale pink powder, a lipstick holder, a gold-toned cigarette lighter and case, an imitation tortoiseshell comb, a cigarette lighter, a vanity mirror and silk change purse.

These accessories were all finished in gold-color metal and (you guessed it) pink. For those who wanted them, Dodge also offered an umbrella, boots, a cape (seriously?) and a hat, all matching the seat upholstery.

It went nowhere. La Femme became La Flop. Women stayed away in droves and men weren’t about to be seen driving around in the darling Rosebud. The Dodge La Femme was sold for two years in the U.S. — 1955 and 1956

(Line from a long-lost episode of “Leave it To Beaver”)

“Gee Wally…. all the guys are callin’ me a sissy…. a pink and white car and it says La Femme on the side …. I just can’t be driven to school in mom’s new car anymore …. Yeah, Beave …. I know what ya mean …. that’s why I ride with Eddie …. and besides, mom’s not all that thrilled with the car either!”

Info Source: Dodge La Femme Wikipedia

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.

Lewis Reed Photo: 1911 Speedwell Touring

1911 Speedwell Series 11 50HP

Two ladies posing in a 1911 Speedwell Touring car. Photo by Lewis Reed

One of the things I enjoy doing is looking through all of the old photographs in my grandfather’s albums and trying to figure out who and what they are. Unfortunately, the majority of the photos are more than 100 years old and do not come neatly labeled on the back with names, dates, people or places. Anyway, I came across this cool looking car and thought it would be fun to try and identify it, so I went on a quest. The only real clue I had to go on was the “S” on the front of the car.

After some digging, my research has identified the car as a circa 1910 or 1911 Speedwell Touring car — pictured just below is a fully restored 1911 Speedwell Series 11 50HP. Looks the same to me. What do you think?

1911 Speedwell Series 11 50HP

Fully restored 1911 Speedwell Series 11 50HP. In 2011, this car was offered for sale at auction. It was estimated to sell for $195,000-$225,000 but bidding fell short of the estimate and left the auction unsold.

The Speedwell Motor Car Company was an early United States automobile manufacturing company that produced cars from 1907 to 1914. In 1910, the Speedwell cars and the Wright aircraft were produced in the same factory building. Powering the cars was a Speedwell four-cylinder motor that offered 50 horsepower, making it more than capable of sustaining high speeds. The exterior designs of the Speedwell automobiles were inspired from multiple parts of the automotive industry. Speedwell declared bankruptcy in 1915.

Source: Wikipedia – Speedwell Motor Car Company

Lewis Reed Photo: Old Car Wreck

1920s Car Wreck

Photo by Lewis Reed

This photo taken by Lewis Reed in the early 1920s was not picked for its shock value, but for the history it contains of an era long since gone. During the 1920s a drivers license wasn’t needed in most states. It was the wild west when it came to driving. Poorly maintained roads, uneducated drivers, and speeds approaching 40 mph was the perfect combination for some really bad accidents. The photograph sure hits home with just how fragile those early cars were.

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