Not only does Kolb Brothers Studio offer a grand view of Grand Canyon from a historic structure and a grand little gift shop and book store, there’s also changing exhibits in the gallery.
“The Kolb brothers are legend at the Grand Canyon for their pioneering spirits and treasure trove of photographs. Ellsworth and Emery arrived at the South Rim in the dawning years of the 20th century, long before the Grand Canyon was designated a national park. Stories of their adventures, their family, and their enduring photography business on the rim are told for the first time in exhibit form and displayed in their historic studio.” http://www.grandcanyon.org/kolb/currentexhibit.asp
Kolb Studio perches on the canyon rim
Ellsworth’s wanderlust brought him west from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and when he ended up at Grand Canyon working as a bellhop for a fledgling hotel on the rim in 1901 he convinced Emery to join him. They purchased a photography studio in Williams and a year later moved the business into a tent at the head of Bright Angel Trail. After another year, in 1904, they built a wood frame studio which they added on to in 1914, 1924 and 1937. (For the Kolb Studio Residence tour click here.)
The Kolb brothers spent as much time as possible exploring and photographing Grand Canyon often putting themselves in obscure and perils positions. They decided a river trip with motion pictures would promote their business and planned what they called “The Big Trip.”
Although neither of the brothers had much boating experience, they and one assistant launched two wooden boats from Green River, Wyoming on September 8, 1911 carrying a hand-cranked motion picture camera. Two months and eight days later they landed at the Bright Angel trail and hiked out. A month later they returned to the water finishing “The Big Trip” in Needles in early 1912. (For a look at Emery’s boat the Edith, and other historic boats, click here.)
With the still photos and movies from their adventures in the canyon and on the river they produced a motion picture that showed for more than 60 years, with Emery narrating, in the auditorium that is now the gallery.
Clockwise: Stereo camera 1903, Scope projector 1920s, Lantern slide camera early 1900s, Seneca view camera 1909, and Panoramic Kodak camera 1903
After Ellsworth lost the business in a coin toss and moved to California, Emery continued to run the studio until 1976. He had a special window made in the building that pointed directly at the Bright Angel trail and took thousands of photos of tourists riding mules down into the canyon. Then developed them to sell as souvenirs when the riders returned.
“This boat was stored in Emery’s garage with a human skeleton inside it. Kolb descendants tell of assembling the skeleton like a puzzle on the dining room table to entertain visiting youngsters. The skeleton remains unidentified, but it is possible that Emery may have acquired it as a representative of the Coconino County coroner’s jury.” (on sign by boat)
Hand painted photo by Emery Kolb 1960
This exhibit shares the story of two adventurous entrepreneurs, Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, who through their photography brought Grand Canyon to many people who might not otherwise see it. The exhibit runs from December 19, 2011 to September 4, 2012 at the Historic Kolb Studio in the South Rim Village at Grand Canyon National Park. Hope you get a chance to visit.