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The Robert W. Limbert Collection



MSS 80

An updated Web version of a guide to the Limbert collection
published by Boise State University in 1992,
with Addendum describing materials added
to the collection in 2001, 2005, and later

Photo 11025

Robert W. Limbert (1885-1933) was a naturalist, explorer, guide, outdoorsman, writer, photographer, lecturer, and promoter. By profession he was a taxidermist, and later the operator of a dude ranch and mountain lodge, but he is best remembered for his exploration of the Idaho wilderness, his promotion of Idaho as a tourist destination, and his photography of the state's scenery and wildlife.  Bob Limbert is most associated with the Sawtooth Mountains, Craters of the Moon, and the Bruneau River Region, but he ranged through all of southern Idaho creating a photographic record that is his lasting legacy. That photographic record and his papers are preserved in the Special Collections Department of Albertsons Library at Boise State University.

Table of Contents

Biographical Sketch

Robert W. Limbert was born in 1885 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He worked for the Smithsonian Institution as a field naturalist for two years before moving to Boise, Idaho, in 1911 to enter the taxidermy business. In 1915, he designed Idaho's medal award-winning exhibition for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and a few years later he began writing about Idaho's scenery and wildlife for newspapers and magazines.

During the 1920s his essays appeared in Outdoor America, Outdoor Life, and National Geographic Magazine. In 1921, after several preliminary visits, he led an exploring party into the vast lava fields of south-central Idaho; the resulting article in the National Geographic brought this little-known area to the attention of the nation and led to its designation as the Craters of the Moon National Monument by President Calvin Coolidge.

Limbert also searched for and found Indian petroglyphs along the Snake River, explored the inaccessible Bruneau River region, and travelled throughout the Sawtooth Mountains, naming mountains and lakes theretofore uncharted. During the 1920s he and his family moved to the Sawtooths, where he worked as a hunting and fishing guide.

At first through the Izaak Walton League and later through other agents, he embarked on national lecture tours, promoting the vacation potential of Idaho with film and slides and (while dressed in western garb) demonstrating his skills at trick roping, shooting, bird calls, and animal sounds.

During the late 1920s he obtained from the U.S. Forest Service a concession to operate a "dude ranch" at Stanley, Idaho. He then established Redfish Lake Lodge, which is still a popular Idaho resort.

Limbert died of a brain hemorrhage in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1933, returning from a speaking tour in the East. He was survived by his wife and four children.


  1. Biographical material within the collection
  2. Casner, Nicholas. "Two-Gun Limbert: the Man from the Sawtooths." Idaho Yesterdays 32 (1988), 2-12.

Scope and Content Note

The Robert W. Limbert collection is divided into two main parts: the papers (manuscripts) and Limbert's photo collection. They span the years 1901 to 1941. Some later biographical material on Limbert has been placed with the collection for reference purposes. Most of the original papers were highly acidic and quite brittle; therefore they were photocopied for preservation purposes. Researchers are asked to use the photocopies rather than the originals.

Robert Limbert's papers document his exploration of the Idaho wilderness, promotion of Idaho as a tourist destination, and photographic studies of Idaho wildlife. The papers include drafts of articles and short stories by Limbert; 4 scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, published articles, programs, and the like; correspondence and business papers regarding the establishment of Redfish Lake Lodge; and miscellaneous papers relating to his taxidermy business. There is, in particular, a great deal of material relating to the Craters of the Moon area.

The collection contains approximately 3000 photos, both loose and in scrapbooks, documenting Limbert's travels in Idaho. These photos preserve views of the state's landscape of the early twentieth century. The Sawtooth Mountains, Craters of the Moon, and the Bruneau River region are particularly well covered. Along with the photos are contact sheets made from negatives in the collection, a number of copper engraving plates, and glass negatives.

A more detailed box and folder list follows.

The great bulk of the collection was donated to Boise State University in 1986 by Robert Limbert's daughter, Margaret Lawrence of Boise, Idaho. She had previously given a portion of her father's papers to the Craters of the Moon National Monument; those papers have been loaned to Boise State University by the National Park Service and are incorporated into this collection.  Margaret Lawrence made further donations to the collection in 2001, 2005, and 2006.


Series List


Items in Series I include Limbert's obituary from the Arco Advertiser (Folder 2) and a number of articles about him (Folder 1). Among the latter are a nine-page typescript extolling his shooting abilities and photocopies of articles about him from Idaho Yesterdays (by Nick Casner, 1988), Omaha Chamber of Commerce Journals (1928), and New York World-Herald (April 15, 1928).

Box 1: Biographical material

See also Addendum for more biographical material added to the collection in 2005


Much of the correspondence in Series II regards the establishment and operation of Redfish Lake Lodge, Limbert's dude ranch-resort in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. He apparently sought the backing of Lewis E. Megowen of Chicago and J.L. Kraft of Kraft Cheese Company; the collection includes a long proposal he sent to Kraft and correspondence back and forth with Megowen. Most of Limbert's letters in this series are typescript drafts or carbons.

Box 1: Correspondence

See also Addendum for more correspondence added to the collection in 2005


The writings on Series III are divided into three groups: drafts of articles, articles in published form, and drafts of short stories. The article and short story drafts are chiefly in typescript form, sometimes in more than one version. Like the rest of the collection, Series III is available to researchers chiefly in the form of photocopies. Retained originals are located in Box 7.

The published articles (in photocopy form) came from several outdoor magazines and are about outdoor, shooting, or Idaho themes. There are seventeen articles in the Outdoor America file; fifteen are Limbert's regular column, "Revolver Shooting"; two are articles about the Sawtooths. Outdoor America was published by the Izaak Walton League. The tourist booklet Unknown Places in Idaho (folder 37), is a 54-page publication issued in 1927 by the Union Pacific Railroad. It was written by Bob Limbert, who also supplied the photographs. The copy in the collection has been loaned to Albertsons Library by Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Limbert's article from the National Geographic Magazine (March 1924) on Craters of the Moon may be found in his Scrapbook 1 (Series VII), in Box 3, Folder 2 of the collection. A letter from David Starr Jordan (1927) identifying the "sea serpent" that washed up onto a California beach as a bottle-nosed whale is included in the file for Limbert's article, "Something from Somewhere" (Box 1, Folder 26).

See also the Addendum for additional writings added to the collection in 2005.

Box 1: Writings

Articles (Drafts)

Articles (Published)

Box 2: Writings Short Stories

See also Addendum  for additional writings donated in 2007


The items in this series consist chiefly of advertisements, programs, and tickets for Limbert's speaking engagements across the country.

Box 2: Speaking Engagements

See also the Addendum for additional papers relating to speaking engagements


The papers in this series document the construction and early operation of Redfish Lake Lodge, Limbert's dude ranch- resort near Stanley, Idaho, in the Sawtooth Mountains. Included is a published brochure advertising the resort; agreements with the U.S. Forest Service; and detailed building materials lists.

Box 2: Redfish Lake Lodge


In addition to the papers listed below, three scrapbooks of magazine clippings of drawings and photos of birds and animals are located in Series VIII (Miscellaneous), Box 5.

Box 2: Taxidermv

See also the Addendum for additional papers relating to taxidermy


Robert Limbert kept four scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, lecture programs, and the like, documenting his activities, chiefly his speaking engagements and marksmanship demonstrations. The items from these scrapbooks have been photocopied and are available to researchers in Boxes 3 and 4. Limbert often shingled clipped articles and other items over one another in the scrapbooks, so the scrapbooks were disassembled to allow photocopying. The original scrapbooks are located in Box 8 and 9.

Box 3: Scrapbooks (Photocopies) (1915-1933)

Box 4: Scrapbooks (Photocopies) (1915-1933)


Among the items in Series VIII are clippings of articles from the Idaho Statesman (1919) about the Indian Chief Nampuh, sometimes called "Bigfoot"; pages from the newsletter of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition about Limbert's Idaho displays; samples of Robert Limbert's business stationary; his son's ham radio log; and a program from Boise State University Library's traveling exhibit about Limbert and the collection (1987).

See also the Addendum for more Miscellaneous papers.

Box 4: Miscellaneous

Box 5: Miscellaneous

Box 6: Miscellaneous

See also the Addendum for more Miscellaneous papers.


The following items, too large to fit unfolded in legal-size file folders, are stored in oversize Box 24 or in map folders in the Special Collections Department's oversize storage drawers.Oversize items added to the collection in 2005 and 2006 as parts of Accession 05-30 and 06-12 have been interfiled in Box 24 and in the oversize map drawers along with the oversize items received with the original donation.  For convenience sake, all are listed below.  The additions are so identified.

Oversize Box 24

Maps and Charts   (Map drawers)

Posters, handbills, etc. (Map drawers)

Collection publicity (Map drawers)

Idaho Statesman Articles  (Map drawers)

Most of the articles cited below are full-page feature articles by Robert Limbert, illustrated with his own photos. Researchers are encouraged to consult microfilm copies in the Library's Microfilm Department instead of these fragile originals. Those marked with asterisks *  were added to the collection in 2005, but they have been interfiled in the map drawers chronologically with all the others.

1917 February 25

1917 Apr 15

*1917 August 19

*1917 September 9

*1921 April 10

 *1921  June 25

*1921 July 24

*1922 February 26

1922 June 18

1922 September 24

1923 March 4

*1926  February 21

1926 October 10

*1926 November 28

1927 May 15

Other Newspaper Pages  (Map drawers)

*1921 May 3

1921 June 6

*1923 April 1

*1923 September 30

 *1923 November 16

 *1924 January 20

*1924  May 6

1924 May 9

*1924 June 6

*1924 June 6

*1924 June 8

*1924 June 20

1926 September 9

1926 December 30


1927 April 29

1928  April 15

1933 June 23

Photo 288


Robert Limbert's photographs, numbering more than three thousand, constitute an important photographic record of the Idaho outdoors in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The Sawtooth Mountains and its many lakes, the Craters of the Moon, the Bruneau River region, and Snake River Indian petroglyphs are particularly well documented. So too are human activities in these regions, particularly in the Sawtooths: hunting, camping, fishing, and horseback riding, among them. Most of the photos of the Craters of the Moon came from Limbert's 1921 exploring expedition; there are also photos documenting the construction of Redfish Lake Lodge near Stanley (1928), the Panama-Pacific exposition of 1915, and Limbert's taxidermy work. There are also photos of Idaho's wildlife, in desert and mountain, and of Limbert's friends and family.

Robert Limbert left both photographic prints and negatives. The negatives, most of which were on glass or unstable nitrate stock, have been copied onto modern safety film. Contact sheets have been made for the convenience of researchers. The original glass negatives have been retained, but the nitrate negatives were destroyed. Many of Limbert's prints are now brittle and fragile; these have been photocopied for reference use. While there is much duplication between the negatives and prints, there are unique items in each set, so both must be consulted for a complete search of the photo collection. Those photos with captions have been so labelled; unfortunately, few photos were captioned. All captions have been photocopied and assembled in a reference notebook for the convenience of researchers.

There is not yet a complete index to every photo in the collection. The photos and negatives have, however, been grouped into broad subject categories, outlined in the lists beginning on page 15.

Photo Summary
Photo numbers Photo type
1-1931 Contact sheets/4 x 5 negatives
10001-11372 Prints, 5 x 7 or smaller
12001-12035 Prints, 8 x 10
13001-13062 Oversize (many colorized)
Unnumbered Albums
  Glass negatives


                   Photo 13008, colorized by Robert Limbert
                   Bruneau River canyon, Idaho


Contact Sheets and Negatives

Contact sheets are arranged numerically in reference notebooks in the Special Collections Department. The following are the subject headings


Photographic Prints

Please consult photocopies in reference notebooks.


Large Photographs

Please consult photocopies in reference notebook.


Photo Albums

There are 4 photo albums in this series, 2 large and 2 small.

Small album A (Box 13)

Approximately 50 photos of taxidermy specimens including cattle, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, deer, elk, mountain lions, birds, small mammals, and bobcats. Not captioned. Many of the photos are represented in the contact sheets.

Small album B (Box 13)

Personal photo album with ca. 225 photos, most of which are captioned. Album inscribed 11R.W. Limbert, Omaha, Neb." Photos appear to date ca. 1900-1910. Includes photos of individuals; scenes from picnics, camping trips, and other outdoor activities; and snapshots from travels in Utah and elsewhere. Places represented include Salt Lake City, Ogden, Devils Gate, and Wasatch Mountains, Utah; Laramie Mountains, Wyoming; Minnesota; and Nebraska.

Large Album A (Box 14)

Approximately 150 uncaptioned photos. Principal subjects: Indian petroglyphs along the Snake River, Map Rock, and desert reptiles. Also includes some taxidermy specimens, scenes in a veterinary office, and models and carvings. Many of these photos are represented by contacts and negatives.

Large album B (Box 14)

Approximately 150 photos, mostly of Limbert's 1921 exploring expedition into the Craters of the Moon. Captioned. Most of the photos are represented by contact prints and negatives. Captions, with photo numbers, are transcribed in the Captions notebook. A small group of uncaptioned photos at the end of the album document a visit to the lava rock cabin of Doc Hisom near the Snake River. Contact print/negative numbers for these photos are listed on page 18, in the Miscellaneous category.


Glass negatives

Approximately 400 glass negatives are preserved in the Robert W. Limbert collection. Copy negatives and contact prints have been made for most of them:

About ninety of the glass negatives have not been matched to contact prints. These are photographs of taxidermy specimens.


During the course of research for the documentary film, Among the Craters of the Moon: The Life and Adventures of Robert W. Limbert (2005), filmmaker Steve Wursta interviewed Limbert's daughter, Margaret Lawrence.  She gave him some additional papers of her father's that she had discovered in her home subsequent to her original donation to Boise in 1986.  Wursta, in turn, with her blessing, presented them to Boise State University as an addition to the Limbert collection.  They are kept in Boxes 21-24 and are described below, in series parallel to the series in the original collection.  One of the most significant additions is a hand drawn map by Limbert of the Cinder Butte area of Craters of the Moon.  It was placed in the collection's Oversize drawer.


This folder includes Limbert’s eighth grade graduation certificate, his marriage license, and a biographical feature article about him.  

Box 21: Biographical Material

Folder 1     Biographical Material 1901-192?


This addendum features two postcards from Limbert to his wife Margaret (whom he called Peggy). The first is from Christmas 1914 when he was in San Francisco, California, and the second is his last postcard to her, which he wrote shortly before he died in 1933. The series also includes a letter to Margaret from her father, Ernest R. Wiggs (1929), and a letter from Limbert to the Sierra Madras [sic] Club of Los Angeles (1927) touting his pack trips into the Sawtooth Mountains.  

Box 21: Correspondence (Addendum)

Folder 2    Correspondence from Limbert (1914-1933)
Folder 3    Correspondence to Limbert (1923-1935)
Folder 4     Letter to Margaret from her father, Ernest R. Wiggs (1929)


This addendum includes typewritten and handwritten drafts of Limbert’s non-fiction articles, published articles, short stories, and poetry. Two of the short stories found within this series are similar (either earlier or later drafts) to short stories within the original collection. The “Red Flannigan” story (Box 22, Folder 11) is akin to “Two Hours to Leave Town” (Box 2 , Folder 6) and “The Red Leaves of Siva” (Box 22, Folder 5) is another version of “Shadows of Shang Foo” (Box 2, Folder 5).   The article “In the Land Called Idaho” (Box 21, Folder 16) was published, in edited form, by the Union Pacific as Unknown Places in Idaho in 1927.  The fragments of the articles “Indian Pictographs” (Box 21, Folder 18) and “National Geographic” (Box 21, Folder 19), as well as the story “Terror in the Dark” (Box 22, Folder 6), have been reconstituted, in photocopy form, from the versos of sheets of paper on which Limbert typed later articles and stories.  There are also unidentifiable fragments of other stories and articles scattered throughout this series on the backs of other typescripts.

Box 21: Writings (Addendum)

Articles (Drafts)

Articles (Published)

  • Folder 36    Big Game at Our Door

  • Miscellaneous

  • Folder 37    Miscellaneous Drafts, Notes, and Fragments

  • Box 22: Writings (Addendum)

    Short Stories



    This series focuses on Limbert’s speaking engagements and publicity tours. It features clippings and brochures. Also included in this series is a lecture “folder,” containing Limbert’s publicity brochures and photographs. Photocopies of the photographs are in Folder 14, as the photographs themselves have been moved to the larger photograph collection.

    Box 22: Speaking Engagements

    Folder  14                    Lecture folder
    Folder 15                     General publicity (1919-1923)


    This series features sketches and notes Limbert made for his taxidermy work.

    Box 22: Taxidermy

    Folder 16                     Sketches and notes


    Research Material

    This series includes research materials, maps, and other miscellaneous papers

    Box 22: Research material

    The research materials include secondary materials and sources Limbert collected as research for his various projects and interests. They include natural history postcards and writing examples from other authors.

    Folder 17                     Natural History, Postcards
    Folder 18                     Natural History, Sketch Clippings
    Folder 19                     Statuary postcards
    Folder 20                     Thematic writing examples by other authors
    Folder 21                     Reforestation Problems in Southern Idaho, H.C. Shellworth
    Folder 22                     For Writing
    Folder 23                     Miscellaneous


    These maps were drawn by Limbert and taken from an envelope he labeled “Places to Look Up.”

    Box 23: Maps

    Folder 1                       Maps ("Places to Look Up)


    The Miscellaneous papers feature a number of items of importance to Limbert. These include Craters of the Moon materials and clippings, advertisements and articles on his movie balls, a brochure advertising his outfitting business, and a draft of the brochure for his Sawtooth Tours.  In 2011, two folders of notes and clippings removed from books once owned by Limbert were added to the collection (Folders 11 and 12), as were two more folders of Limbert-related materials collected by Special Collections staff (Folders 13 and 14).

    Box 23: Miscellaneous

    Folder  2                Craters of the Moon
    Folder  3                Craters of the Moon clippings
    Folder  4                Dances/Movie Balls
    Folder  5                Hunting Big Game in Idaho (brochure)
    Folder  6                Sawtooth Tours (brochure mock-up)
    Folder  7                Motion picture projector instruction manuals
    Folder  8                National forest brochures
    Folder 10               Clippings, Miscellaneous

    Folder 11              Clippings and notes removed from books
    Folder 12              Indian mounds near Boise (Notes discovered in one of his books)


    Folder 13               Limber family research from Lydia Nelson Friedland, 2008-2010
    Folder 14               Obituaries, etc., of Margaret Limbert Lawrence (daughter), 2011

    Box 24: Oversize

    See description of  Oversize materials


    Box List

    Oversize items in map drawers
    Glass negative storage containers

    Special Collections • 1910 University Drive • Boise, ID 83725-1430 • Phone: 208-426-1204 • Email: Archives