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David E. Traub, postcard photographer

Armed ForcesArtPhotographyMount Vernon PlaceJohns Hopkins Hospital

David E. Traub, who photographed Baltimore for nearly six decades for the postcard and tourist souvenir business he founded, died of complications from cancer Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Slade Avenue resident was 91.

"His skies are always a perfect blue, the grass emerald green and the harbor waters clean," said a 1993 Baltimore Sun article about Mr. Traub. "In the days when Baltimore's tourist industry might have accounted for not much more than two or three tables a night at Haussner's restaurant, his postcards showed the glories of Mount Vernon Place, Federal Hill and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. He was a one-man promotional agency who never got much recognition."

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Sydney Traub, an attorney who from 1931 to 1939 represented the old 4th District in the City Council. His mother, Ida Traub, was a homemaker. Mr. Traub lived on Brookfield Avenue in Reservoir Hill and attended Robert E. Lee School No. 49.

He was a 1938 City College graduate. He then earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

At his 1935 bar mitzvah, Mr. Traub received his first camera, a 35-mm Argus. He recalled joining the City College Camera Club and shooting the City-Poly annual football game from the sidelines.

"I guess I caught the bug when I got press credentials," he said in the 1993 article.

His son, Sidney Traub, said his father, who was fascinated by railroads and their routes, applied and got a job with the old Pennsylvania Railroad before World War II. He worked at Penn Station. When he joined the Army a few years later, he used his knowledge of transportation to route troops. He left military service as a lieutenant colonel.

"I'd been in the service and dropped by the PXs and noticed the postcards that were being sold were kind of ancient," Mr. Traub said in 1993. "The soldiers were all wearing the style of hat that predated World War II. So I brought out a military line, and they began to sell and gradually expanded into Baltimore and some of the other Maryland cities and counties."

He made some cards of the old Bainbridge Naval Training Station in Cecil County and of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

He also purchased and reproduced photographs by Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine. Mr. Traub later bought a heavy Graflex camera and carried it to Fort McHenry and the balcony of the Lexington Market to take shots of vendors and their stalls.

In the 1993 interview, Mr. Traub said that in the 1950s, Baltimore had few tourists and sales were not large. He worked out of a two-car garage at his Mount Washington home.

He said his postcards sold best at the old Read's drugstore at Howard and Franklin streets, then part of U.S. 40 through Baltimore, and at the old Greyhound bus station at Howard and Centre streets.

"I used to be sort of ridiculed about publishing Baltimore postcards. Friends would question the whole enterprise," Mr. Traub said in 1993.

Over the years Mr. Traub added a line of local souvenirs and always called on the owners of shops that sold his merchandise. He was later joined in the business by his son, who is also a photographer and lives in Belcamp, and a daughter, Barbara Traub, also a photographer, who lives in San Francisco. The business later became D. Traub & Son.

Mr. Traub credited the July 1976 Tall Ships' visit to Baltimore as the point when people started to realize the city's potential as a tourist destination.

"We really sold cards that summer. Since 1980, when Harborplace opened, the demand has been constant," he said.

Mr. Traub's son said that while the Inner Harbor postcards are brisk sellers, his father had sentimental favorites.

"My father loved the Washington Monument and Mount Vernon Place. It was his personal favorite," said Sidney Traub. "He would chide me if our stock of that subject ran low. He was more proud of his historical views. I think he photographed every imaginable locomotive in the B&O museum."

The son said his father also liked spending time with merchants and making calls on small-business owners, even as postcard sales fell off and T-shirts sold more briskly.

"He developed tremendous relationships with our customers," his son said, adding that his father enjoyed driving to Hagerstown and Frederick to meet with gas station owners who had racks of postcards for sale. "There was a time when he would fill multiple racks in the old downtown McCrory's in Annapolis at least every month with 10,000 cards."

Family members noted that Hopkins Hospital was one of the first subjects he depicted. It was also the final building he photographed two years ago when he was 89.

"In his photographs for the cards, he wanted a good and accurate representation," said Sidney Traub. "He would be out photographing on a clear day just after a front had blown through."

He was a member of Beth Am Congregation.

Services were held Wednesday at Sol Levinson & Bros.

In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Carol Kastner; a sister, Frances Rubenstein of Baltimore; and three grandsons.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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