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Dubin, Arthur D. (Arthur Detmers) (1923-2011) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Dubin, Arthur D. (Arthur Detmers) (1923-2011)
Variant Name: Dubin, Art; Dubin, Arthur
Fuller Form: Dubin, Arthur Detmers

Historical Note:

Architect and railroad, travel and transportation authority Arthur D. Dubin died October 3, 2011.  He was the son of architect Henry Dubin, brother of architect David Dubin, and father of architect Peter Dubin.  After beginning college to study architecture at the University of Michigan, he was drafted in 1942 and then sent from Louisiana by early 1943 to Lake Forest College, a few stops from his Highland Park, Illinois home, to study in the Army Special Training Program there. Teaching architectural drafting at Lake Forest then was the Yale-Harvard-Ecole-trained architect Knight C. Cowles.  By early 1944 Dubin was on his way to the Pacific theater where he was decorated (two Bronze Stars, Purple Heart) for his heroic rescue efforts in the campaigns at Leyte in the Philippines and on Okinawa. After the war he finished his architectural study at Michigan and then joined the family firm in Chicago.

Dubin was best known for his two standard histories of America's high-speed, through de luxe trains, Some Classic Trains (Kalmbach, 1964) and More Classic Trains (Kalmbach, 1974) as well as for his contributions to Kalmbach periodicals Trains and Classic Trains.  He was also known for his formidable collection of railroad books, photographs and other ephemera and realia material amassed since his boyhood in 1930s Chicago and elsewhere (Seattle, San Francisco, New York, etc.  These collections have provided illustrations fro generations of authors of books on railroad travel topics, from Lucius Beebe in the 1950s to Michael Zega and John Gruber in the 1990s.

Arthur Dubin's collections at Lake Forest College include both railroad and transportation related materials and also architecture material.  His train, transporatation, and international travel collections include  over 10,000 photographic prints, slides and transparencies (both historic and modern); hundreds of books; and approximately 30 to 35 linear feet of historic 20th c. architectural articles, transporation ephemera (timetables, brochures, postcards, fabric and paint samples, dining car china, etc.), and correspondence.

From the 1960s to the 2000s Arthur Dubin was active in rescuing and preserving the records of the era of the great long-distance and express trains especially in this country.  He worked with the Pullman-Standard Company particulary to save its priceless  records and artifacts in the 1960s.  Later he dispersed records from various sources, such as the printer Poole Brothers and his own 1930s childhood collecting from travel agents, to the Newberry Library, the California Railroad Museum and the Railroad & Locomotive Historical Society collections there, the Smithsonian Institution, the Indiana Historical Society, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and the Elliott Donnelley Railroad History collection in Special Collections of Lake Forest College's Donnelley and Lee Library.

Dubin was fascinated by the industrial era's rapid reduction in the age-old barriers of time and distance, brought on most notably in 19th c. North America by the transcontinental railroads and trhe development of Pullman sleeping, dining and related cars that allowed for through travel.  As the railroad, bus and ocean-liner era was eclipsed by automobile and airplane more convenient and faster travel,  Dubin preserved the often arcane printed and related remnants of transitional periods and arrangements, such as the cross-country plane (daytime) and train (night) coordinated travel of ca. 1929, a brief moment before the development of longer distance and faster, night-flying planes.  He also preserved material on luxury sleeper long-distance buses in the same period.  Also, Dubin's Chicago was a rail hub, a required stop between east and west, and he collected material on hotels here and globally, respites on journeys, including Chicago's Palmer House on which his firm did renovation work.  Everything fit together in his collecting for this larger story of modern transportation change, and while many of his repositories focused on his rail passenger travel collecting alone, Lake Forest's holdings reflect this broader and deeper cultural interest.


Hevesi, David, "Arthur Dubin, Historian of Railroad's Golden Era, Dies at 88," New York Times, October 13, 2011. 

O'Donnell, Maureen, "Architect/railroad Historian Dubin , ollector of Rare Train Artifacts, Dead at 88," Chicago Sun-Times,  October 14, 2011. 

Tobacman, Jessica, "ARthur Dubin, 1923-2011: ARchitect, Railroad Historian and Music Lover," Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2011.

Note Author: Arthur H. Miller, Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections, amiller@lakeforest.edu

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