GRAND CANYON, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - This is the story of two brothers who came to the Grand Canyon and did absolutely extraordinary things.

When the Kolb brothers came in here in 1901, Ellsworth came in with the railroad.

[WATCH: How 2 brothers created their own business at Grand Canyon]

A year later, Ellsworth, brash and adventurous, sent for his younger, more conservative brother Emory.

Together, they bought photography equipment and set-up shop, at first, in a tent.

Then they built a two-story wooden structure at the bright angel trailhead, a place where they lived and worked.

In the beginning, the Kolbs made a living taking pictures of the wondrous Grand Canyon. They were daring as nothing was ever too dangerous to shoot.

The Kolbs could shoot photos of the mule-riding tourists going down the canyon, then develop the pictures and sell them to tourists when they came back up the canyon.

In 1912, the brothers, like the rest of the world, were bowled over by moving pictures.

So they decided to shoot film of a boat trip on the Colorado River.

However, neither one of them had ever run the rapids of the mighty river, and neither one of them had ever shot movie film.

The movie is what made these guys because it was like the Imax of its time. So when they came out with these movies, Charlie Chaplin came out with his first movie in 1914 to give you some context. So this movie was a really, really big deal," said James Heywood with the National Park Service.

Ever heard that saying, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger?

That bit of logic seemed to work for the Kolbs, whose daring adventure made headlines around the world.

"When they completed their big trip in January 1912, they wanted to basically take a local building here, a Forest Service building and use it as an auditorium to show the public the motion pictures. The Forest Service was not willing to give the Kolb brothers a facility. So the Kolb brothers had been thinking local but decided to go national. So 1912, 1913, 1914, the winters thereof, they'd go back east to Washington and Baltimore and Philadelphia and New York and Boston, and they'd show these moving pictures and become national figures. So much so, as we indicated, that the National Geographic published an issue about the Kolb brothers in august of 1914," said Heywood.

With every bit of success, the Kolb house and studio got bigger with more additions, including a small, new auditorium where Emory lectured and showed the film.

But the brothers had two very different personalities and often clashed with one another.

The result was Ellsworth and Emory came to a financial agreement and split up.

Ellsworth moved to Los Angeles, and Emory stayed behind, continuing to show his film to tourists.

By now, there were other additions to the Kolb house - it had a living area for Emory's wife and little girl.

"When the National Park Service came here in 1919, they were only 3 years old, and these Kolb brothers were national figures. So there's no way the National Park Service is kicking these guys out."

Emory Kolb fought a long battle with the parks service who wanted to get rid of the Kolb house. Emory finally agreed to sell it to them, but with provisions that he would live there until his death.

Through the years, Emory told his story, changing his role with the times.

"In 1950s and the 60s and 70s, what became the big deal at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? River running. Emory was more than glad to play the role of one of the original pioneers of the river running. So from the 50s and the 60s and 70s, we have basically people coming here to see living history called Emory Kolb," said Heywood.

 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

Recommended for you