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.
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
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
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!
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.