Kolb Brothers.mp4





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Uploaded on Nov 1, 2010

Precariously perched at the head of the Bright Angel Trail is the rambling house and studio built by Emery and Ellsworth Kolb. These brothers arrived at the South Rim in 1902 in hopes of finding a job. Tourism at the Canyon was in its infancy and so was tourist photography, but Emery and Ellsworth were visionaries. They bought a little photographic studio in Williams and hauled it up to the canyon.

At the time, Ralph Cameron, a prospector and land speculator, controlled access to the Bright Angel Trail. Tourists were charged a dollar a head plus another dollar for each pack animal. The Kolbs worked out a deal with Cameron to erect a tent at the head of the trail.

They would take pictures of tourists headed down the trail and later sell them to the returning adventurers. Business was initially sporadic; but over the years, more and more tourists descended the Bright Angel, and many of them wanted a permanent record of their accomplishment. More than 65,000 images are now stored in the Special Collections Library at Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University.

From the simple tent beginnings, the Kolbs began to build a more substantial house and studio. In 1911-12, they did a boating trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers, duplicating John Wesley Powell's historic route. The Kolbs took with them a motion picture camera and made the first movies of a Colorado River voyage. Upon returning home at the South Rim, an auditorium was added to their house, where they showed the film frequently, sometimes several times a day. Many decades later, Emery would claim, "Our film is the longest running movie of all time." No doubt!

Their film can occasionally still be seen at a kiosk inside their studio, now a bookstore and gallery.

For many years, the water available at the South Rim was not pure enough for developing film, but 3,000 vertical feet down and several miles by trail was a spring at Indian Gardens. Usually Emery got the task of zipping down the trail after taking photos of the mule train at the rim. He would develop the negatives, make the prints, and then hoof it back up to the top. Some days, he made this round trip several times, which must have been good for his health, since he lived to be 95 years old, passing away in 1976.


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