This is a work in progress to compile as comprehensive as possible a listing numbers and titles of individual Kolb Brothers stereographs of Arizona. Each listing will include a brief biographical overview, in addition to the checklist of stereoviews complied to date.
Ellsworth Leonardson Kolb (December 27, 1876–January 9, 1960) and Emery Clifford Kolb (February 15, 1881–December 11, 1976) operated the longest running photographic studio at the Grand Canyon, next to the classic El Tovar Lodge at the head of the Cameron Trail, later renamed the Bright Angel Trail.
The brothers were born in Pennsylvania. The 1900 census lists them as living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ellsworth as a day laborer and younger brother Emery as a machinist. The following year, Ellsworth went west, eventually landing a temporary job as a bellhop at the Grand Canyon Hotel until John Hance’s asbestos mine was hiring additional miners. He invited brother Emery to join him, but while he was en route, the mine closed.
The brothers were intrigued by a photographic studio which was for sale in nearby Williams, the gateway city to the Grand Canyon. They saw opportunities at the edge of the canyon as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway completed a branch line from Williams to Grand Canyon Village and more elaborate accommodations were being built to accommodate a new flood of tourists. The Kolbs purchased the Williams studio for just over $400 and moved the operation to the edge of the canyon, where they leased a space, initially a tent studio, at the head of Cameron’s Trail.
The brothers took pictures of tourists taking the mule rides down the canyon. They processed and printed the images and sold them as the mule train returned to Indian Gardens en route back to the rim. In 1904 they built a permanent two-story wooden studio building just below the rim, with a portion of their studio above the trail to simplify the process.
The rail line from Williams, President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit in 1903, and the completion of the El Tovar Lodge in 1905 focused significant national attention on the Grand Canyon. As a result, tourism increased dramatically, and so did the business at the Kolb Brothers’ studio.
They experimented with a variety of photographic processes to expand their business. Likely in reaction to the success of the Grand Canyon stereo graphs and boxed sets produced by H.C. White, the Keystone View Company, and Underwood & Underwood among others, the Kolbs decided to produce their own stereographs of the canyon. In 1906 the brothers traveled to popular locations throughout the Grand Canyon and produced a series of stereographs on gray curved mounts. Unfortunately, the quality of the Kolb stereographs was not competitive with those marketed by other publishers. The views did not sell well and soon the brothers switched to other efforts.
One of their most successful was a motion picture of their boat tour of the canyon in 1911. The film was shown nationally and ran daily at the Kolb showroom from 1915 to 1976 – the longest continuous run of any motion picture. The Kolb partnership prospered until the early 1920s, but tensions between the brothers were a constant undercurrent. Emery began spending more time with his family after the birth of his only child, Edith, in 1908. The collaboration lasted until 1924, when tension between the brothers drove Ellsworth to leave the canyon.
Ellsworth Leonardson Kolb died in Los Angeles on January 9, 1960. Emery Clifford Kolb spent the rest of his life operating the Kolb studio and showing the movie of their river trip. He passed away on December 11, 1976, at the Grand Canyon.
(from Arizona Stereographs 1865-1930 by Jeremy Rowe, 2014)
If you have additional information about the Kolb Brothers, examples of stereographs that are not on this list, or variant titles for any of the numbers or captions I would appreciate hearing from you. Ideally, I would like to obtain either a Xerox copy or scan for my files as well.
Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.
Please feel free to use this information but please credit this source and reproduce only with full credit information.
1906 BY/KOLB BROS. (ELLSWORTH AND EMERY KOLB )/GRAND CANYON. ARIZ.
DATE: c 1906
MOUNT COLOR: Gray curved mount
3. Jacobs Ladder, 2255 feet below the rim, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
5. The Colorado River at the foot of Bright Angel Trail, 4500 feet below the
Rim, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
9. Perpendicular walls of pipe Creek. Throw your head back and look up 1000
feet. Grand Canyon, Ariz.
17. Looking up Bright Angel Creek from O'Neil's Point, Grand Canyon of Arizona
"After the storm", Grand Canyon, Arizona
Cape Horn, 644 Feet Below the Rim, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
The Colorado River at the Foot of Bright Angel Trail,
4500 Ft. Below the Rim, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
The "Cork Screw" on Bright Angel Trail, 4000 Feet Below the Rim,
Grand Canyon, Ariz.
The first mile of Bright Angel Trail, 1000 feet of precipice, Grand Canyon,
The Glen Canyon boat party on the plateau above Lee's Ferry.
Grand View Point, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
Jacob's Ladder, 2255 Feet Below the Rim, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
Looking West from Rowe's Point. A sixty mile view, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Rowe Point and the North Wall, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
Throwing Into the Colorado from the Plateau, 1300 Feet Above, Grand Canyon,
View from the head of Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, Ariz.
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