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Kolb Brothers and Grand Canyon Pictorial Collection

Identifier: PICT-2018-008

Scope and Content

The Kolb Brothers and Grand Canyon Pictorial Collection contains numerous photographs, postcards, stereoview photographs and prints of the brother’s work and travels around the Grand Canyon, as well as some items by John G. Verkamp, H. H. Tammen, J. I. Austen, the Detroit Photographic Co., and one George Lippincott view book.


  • 1903-1991
  • Majority of material found within 1903-1946

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for copyright compliance. For more information see the Photographs and Images Research Guide and contact the Pictorial Archivist.Limited duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.


Ellsworth Leonardson Kolb was born December 27, 1876 in Smithfield, Pennsylvania. Emery Clifford Kolb was born February 15, 1881. The family lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Economic opportunities were scarce in the region, so the brothers migrated to the West in search of work.

Nineteenth century travelers had to disembark from transcontinental trains at Williams or Flagstaff, Arizona. Then, they endured a rough two-day stagecoach trip to arrive at the South Rim of the Canyon. In 1901, the Santa Fe Railroad developed a spur to the Grand Canyon, opening the way for increased commercial tourism.

Ellsworth Kolb arrived at the Grand Canyon in 1901, followed by his younger brother in 1902. They founded a photographic studio at the Bright Angel trailhead. At first, it was nothing more than a small cave in the side of the Canyon wall. Water for processing had to be hauled up from the Colorado River. With a blanket over the entrance, the cave served as a makeshift darkroom and lab until the first permanent structure was begun in 1904. That year the crude darkroom was replaced by a two-story wooden structure built on a 55 by 20 rock shelf ballasted out of the Canyon wall.

The Kolb brothers secured a prominent place in Grand Canyon history in 1912 with the completion of a boat trip down the Colorado River. While not the first to dare the rapids, the Kolbs were the first to record their adventures with a movie camera. After the river trip's completion and a trans-continental movie promotion tour, they returned to the Grand Canyon.

In 1915 the brothers completed a three-story addition (for living quarters) and a small showroom (part of the present auditorium). The addition of the auditorium allowed them to show their river movie to Grand Canyon visitors. The Kolbs also took pictures of people astride the famous Grand Canyon mules as visitors maneuvered their way up and down the Bright Angel Trail. The Kolbs' photography business flourished but their business partnership became strained after Emery married and began to raise a family. In 1924 the partnership dissolved. Ellsworth moved to Los Angeles, where he passed away in 1960. Emery continued to show the river movie, take pictures, and operate a gift shop until his death in 1976 at the age of 95.


uncounted items (3 boxes, 1 folder) : uncounted view books, photographic and photomechanical prints, postcards, stereoscopic prints

Language of Materials



Photographic prints by the Kolb Brothers and others in various formats of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, and surroundings.

Physical Location

Shelved on B2 by Pictorial Collection number. Some items on exhibit, CSWR North.

Related Archival Material

Separated Material

The Grand Cañon of Arizona: through the stereoscope: the Underwood Patent Map system combined with eighteen original stereoscopic photographs, (complete 1908 edition in slipcase with pamphlet, folded map and 18 sterograph print cards) held in CSWR, F788 .U53 1908

Glimpses of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado, by Oliver Lippincott, held in CSWR, F788 .L7

Processing Information

Collection is processed.
Finding Aid of the Kolb Brothers and Grand Canyon Pictorial Collection, 1903-1946
Edited Full Draft
CSWR staff
© 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131