City postcard photographer makes good impressions

JACQUES KELLY

March 24, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

David Traub portrays our town in the glossiest of hues.

His skies are always a perfect blue, the grass emerald green and the harbor waters clean. There's never a piece of trash blowing on Thames Street. The people back in Williamsport or Cleveland get good impressions of Baltimore through the lens of Mr. Traub's camera.

There's scarcely a postcard sold today of a Baltimore scene that doesn't bear the inscription "Published by D. Traub & Son." It has been that way since the 1950s, when this man from Mount Washington began his life's work.

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.

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

Today, his business has grown into a full-scale, wholesale souvenir operation that features key chains, coffee mugs, plates, caps, T-shirts and, of course, those little cards that sparked the Traub empire.

Today Mr. Traub, who is 70, works with his son Sid at a downtown office. Sid Traub also takes many of the photographs for the postcards. Occasionally another Traub, daughter Barbara, shoots the picture-perfect scenes.

At first, the business was strictly a one-man office that operated out of a double-car garage on South Road in Mount Washington. The senior Traub's first efforts were scenes of Aberdeen and the old Bainbridge Naval Training Station.

"I'd been in the service and dropped by the PXs and noticed the postcards that were being sold were kind of ancient," he recalls. "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."

In the 1950s, while Mr. Traub made a living, there was not a great demand for his postcards because the city had yet to establish itself as a center of tourism. His postcards sold best at the old Read's drugstore at Howard and Franklin streets, which was then part of U.S. 40 through Baltimore, and at the old Greyhound bus station at Howard and Centre streets.

Mr. Traub credits the July 1976 Tall Ships' visit with awakening the city to its potential as a tourist town.

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

Inner Harbor postcards are some of his best sellers, but the harbor was always a strong subject. Views from Federal Hill of the downtown skyline sold well 35 years ago, as did pictures of the Washington Monument and Mount Vernon Place.

Mr. Traub has solid Baltimore credentials. Sydney Traub, his father, represented the 4th District in the City Council from 1931-39.

David Traub grew up on Brookfield Avenue in Reservoir Hill. He went to Public School No. 51 at Linden Avenue and Konig Street, then joined the city's top young scholars at School No. 49 on Cathedral Street. He graduated from City College and, at age 20, earned a degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Traub got his first camera -- a 35-millimeter Argus -- as a bar mitzvah present in 1935. He used it as a member of the City College Camera Club and it got him on the sidelines of the annual City-Poly football game.

"I guess I caught the bug when I got press credentials," he says.

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