Museum Blog

Henry W. Toll Collection of Grand Canyon Publications

Posted 4/10/2012 12:04 AM by Library | Comments

In 2010 the estate of Henry W. Toll donated to the Museum's Library his collection of materials on the Grand Canyon. The collection includes 180 books, several large atlases, periodicals, catalogs, river runner guides and logs, and postcards. Most are early works, published from the late 1800s to the 1970s, written by historians, geologists, biologists, explorers, hikers, and river runners.  There's the translated diary of Francisco Garces, a Spanish priest who travelled to the mouth of the Colorado River in his quest to convert Indians (On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer, 1775-76, ed. Elliott Coues). A much later but equally exceptional and interesting explorer was Sharlot Hall who journeyed through Northern Arizona in 1911 (her diary:Sharlot Hall on the Arizona Strip, ed. C. Gregory Crampton). As a young man in the 1940s, just another "river rat" then, Barry Goldwater took aDelightful Journey Down the Green and Colorado Riversand recorded it with photos. James White of Trinidad, Colorado floated through the Grand Canyon on crude driftwood rafts, two years before Powell, some say; Powell thought he was a fraud. White's story is told inFirst Through the Grand Canyonby R. E. Lingenfelter, 1958.


The most exciting books of all are those written by J. W. Powell,himself: Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1872; Canyons of the Colorado(1885); Major John Wesley Powell, First Through the Grand Canyon(1915) and many more. Here's a first-hand report fromExploration of the Colorado River:


"From around this curve there comes a mad roar, and down we are carried, with a   dizzying velocity, to the head of another rapid. . .  Away we go, on one long, winding chute. I stand on deck, supporting myself with a strap, fastened on either side to the gunwale [remember, Powell had only one arm], and the boat glides rapidly, where the water is smooth, or, striking a wave, she leaps and bounds like   a thing of life, and we have a wild, exhilarating ride for 10 miles."

Henry Toll, who amassed and contributed this wonderful collection, was a Denver medical doctor and lawyer, and himself a river rat. He was a member of the Powell Society, a self-described "collection of free spirits"-geologists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen from Denver and Boulder-who enjoyed running the Colorado and other rivers of the West. At one point (1969) they "got serious" and published River Runners Guides, used by boatmen for many years. Henry Toll was the contact for this group; shortly after he died in 2008, the group disbanded and donated its treasury to the Museum to take care of Toll's collection.


Henry's wife, Lydia, is also an important figure in the Museum's history, volunteering in various capacities from 1973 until 2005. She was an advocate for outdoor education, and developed the WEBS environmental education program for third graders, a collaboration between the Museum and Balarat, the Denver Public Schools Outdoor Education Center. This program, which began in 1973, is still going today.


Portions of the Toll collection are on exhibit in front of the library, and you can search the entire collection through this link: library catalog.


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