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Unique Color Photos of Historical Covered Bridges

Welcome to our humble website, featuring the colored covered bridge photography of Traugott F. Keller Jr. This begs the question - who is Traugott Keller Jr., and what do these photos represent? First, let's answer the question of just who he was, in a brief essay written by his late son, Traugott F. Keller III...


Traugott F. Keller, circa 1951.

About Traugott F. Keller Jr.

Traugott F Keller, Jr. was born in New York City in 1906, graduated from the Jesuit high school in Brooklyn and then from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. During the depression years he worked as a foreman in subway construction in New York City.  He moved with his family in the 1930s to Cleveland, Ohio where he was involved in construction projects for the New York Central Railroad and later moved to Cincinnati as Project Manager in charge of construction of the General Electric jet engine test facilities.

It was there he acquired his love of covered bridges and from 1951 until he suffered a stroke in the 1970s he spent many weekends traveling to locations  that he discovered as covered bridge sites  or was steered to by friends who knew of his passion.  He photographed the bridges both from an aesthetic viewpoint and with an engineer’s eye for its construction detail. He catalogued each bridge’s architectural and construction detail on 3X5 Cards that, along with the carefully preserved kodachrome slides, have become a history of covered bridges in the numerous states in which he traveled.

The collection was unearthed at the time of his wife Eileen's death in 2001, at which time it was entrusted to the care of his grandson, Paul J. Nickels.  The collection was digitally scanned, and the original slides were donated to the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges (NSPCB), whose purpose is " to promote the preservation of covered wooden truss bridges, to gather and record knowledge of their history, and to collect and preserve pictures, printed, and manuscript materials, and other items of historical or antiquarian interest pertaining to them."

Mr. Keller passed away in 1984 and is buried with his wife in Rocky River, Ohio. His photographs were featured in a rare colored edition of Covered Bridge Topics, the quarterly newsletter of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, in the fall of 2006.

About This Site and Why It is Here...

By Paul J. Nickels

This site exists for several reasons. First, it is a tribute to a man I loved - my grandfather. "Pop," as I and my six siblings called him, was a fixture in our life until the day he died, along with "Gom," his beautiful and beloved wife -- Eileen to him. A patient and reserved man, at least with his grandchildren, I personally spent hundreds of treasured hours with him and my "Gommy" as a young child, often spending the weekend sleeping over at Gom and Pop's. I thought he was the smartest man in the world. With endless patience, he would answer any question I could throw at him. Why is the sky blue? How does a train work? Why do you love Mercury automobiles? What was New York City like? Why do you love newspapers so much? (To this day, I am addicted to them myself, having learned to read the "Cleveland Press" with him while he enjoyed his post-work cocktail with Eileen on a Friday evening.) 

Simply put, he was as good of a grandfather as one could possibly wish for, and the same goes for "Gom" -  who accompanied him on his photographic journeys throughout the years. I, too, had the good fortune to ride along on several occasions, and to this day have a deep love for the gravel-paved byways of the rural Midwest.

So I wanted to honor his memory. I hope I have accomplished that goal.

Another reason is that the photographs on these pages are truly important and unique. First, many, if not most, of the bridges pictured here are now long gone, simple victims of time or, in some cases, malicious intent. Second, my grandfather shot the vast majority of his pictures in color, using Kodachrome slide film; the vast majority of other existing photographs of these bridges are in black and white.

Kodachrome is the trademarked brand name of a type of color reversal film that was manufactured by Eastman Kodak from 1935 to 2009. Kodachrome was the first successfully mass-marketed color still film using a subtractive method, in contrast to earlier additive "screenplate" methods such as Autochrome and Dufaycolor, and remained the oldest brand of color film.

Kodachrome film was manufactured for 74 years in various formats to suit still and motion picture cameras, including 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm for movies and 35mm, 120, 110, 126, 828 and large format for still photography. For many years, it was used for professional color photography, especially for images intended for publication in print media. The film was sold with processing included in the purchase price except in the United States, where a 1954 legal ruling ended that practice.

Kodachrome is appreciated in the archival and professional market for its dark-storage longevity. Because of these qualities, the photographs on these pages, while not perfect, are remarkably vibrant and well preserved.

Please note: Throughout the site, we indicate in each description whether the bridge continues to exist, but we note that while many of the bridges still stand, many have been significantly altered in appearance due to inevitable repairs and reconstruction.

I hope you will enjoy them!

About Using These Photographs

It was my intention in creating this site that my grandfather's important and historical photographs should be available to anyone interested in them. However, I must insist that should anyone reproduce these for any other purpose that permission be obtained by sending email to paul@handsomeprodutions.com, and that in all instances the photographs be fully credited to Mr. Traugott F. Keller Jr. and this website.

A Note of Thanks

I want to thank the board of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges for their enthusiastic reception of my grandfather's work. In particular, I appreciate the work of Joseph D. Conwill, who spent a lot of time reviewing the slides and helping me to understand what I had on my hands. His suggestions and counsel were very helpful. It means the world to me that my grandfather's slides will forever be preserved by the society and available to scholars in the years to come.


Traugott and Eileen Keller on their
daughter Mary's wedding day.

And most of all, I want to thank and remember my grandparents - my "Gom and Pop" - for all of the love they gave me as a child, and the example they set for me in so many ways. They were tremendously influential in my life, and they will never be forgotten.

Paul J. Nickels

 March 2011

   

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