Two brothers holding a tripod stand in front of the snowy canyon
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb

The Kolb Brothers

Some of the most famous photographs of Grand Canyon and its visitors have been taken by Emery and Ellsworth Kolb. Arriving in 1901 and 1902, the Kolb Brothers made their permanent home at Grand Canyon in 1904 with the opening of their studio perched at the edge of the canyon.

Starting with pictures of mule trains on their way down the Bright Angel Trail and candid shots of tourists on the rim, the Kolbs also explored remote areas of the canyon. Their photographs changed the way people saw and experienced the canyon, giving them visual access to places they never would have seen in their lifetime.

They took the completed movie and still pictures on a tour from coast to coast. Returning to Grand Canyon, they extended Kolb Studio to include a large auditorium where they showed the movie from 1914 until 1976. Once again, they changed the way visitors saw the canyon. The movie, as Ellsworth had hoped, brought out "a record of the Colorado as it is, a live thing, armed as it were with teeth, ready to crush and devour."


After a business dispute in 1913, the brothers flipped a coin for control of the business, with Emery winning the toss and Ellsworth moving to Los Angeles, California. Emery operated the studio and intermittently worked as a guide, consultant, and search and rescuer until his death in 1976. He was the last of the early pioneers, making his home at the canyon for 73 years. He left the legacy of thousands of photographs, hundreds of pieces of photographic equipment, and Kolb Studio.

Visitors today can visit Kolb Studio, seeing a handful of historic Kolb photos and one of Emery's original movie cameras in the Grand Canyon Association bookstore. The auditorium now serves as an art studio, showcasing world class canyon-related artwork. In winter months, rangers offer tours into the Kolb residence for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the daily life of the Kolb family.

Find out more about the Kolb Brothers at the Arizona State University's Nature, Culture, and History at the Grand Canyon website:

Learn more about the Kolb Brothers through these books available at the Grand Canyon Association Bookstore:

Early entrepeneur in front of large white tent in the woods


John Verkamp arrived at Grand Canyon in 1898 to sell souvenirs to visitors from a rented tent over the summer months. He didn't return until after the railroad arrived and the luxurious El Tovar Hotel opened for business. In 1906 he opened Verkamps Curios where he sold Native American jewelry, pottery, rugs, and baskets as well as souvenirs such as postcards and trinkets. The second story of the curio shop was the Verkamp residence, where four generations were raised, becoming an integral part of the growing Grand Canyon community.

The family operated the curio business on the rim of the canyon until September 2008. The National Park Service bought the building and opened Verkamps Visitor Center in November 2008. Visitors today can learn about the Verkamps family and early pioneer history at the canyon through the displays in the visitor center. And staying true to the original curio shop, the Grand Canyon Association still sells souvenirs to visitors.

More information about the history of John Verkamp and his curio shop is available on the Verkamps Visitor Center webpage.


Find out more about Verkamps at the Arizona State University's Nature, Culture, and History at the Grand Canyon website:

Full shot of Mary Colter in an elaborate wicker chair
Architect Mary Colter at age 50
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter

Mary Colter, hired in 1902 by the Fred Harvel Company, was the architect behind many of Grand Canyon's trademark buildings, which highlight her ingenuity and take direct inspiration from the landscape. Colter was a perfectionist, who spent a lifetime advocating and defending her aesthetic vision in a largely male-dominated field.

Last updated: February 12, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



Contact Us