Collection MG 402 - H.D. "Howdy" McPhail Photograph Collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

H.D. "Howdy" McPhail Photograph Collection

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Level of description


Reference code

MG 402

Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1949-1973 (inclusive) ; 1955-1960 (predominant) (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

8,478 b&w negatives
760 colour negatives
9 colour slides
0.4 m textual and photographic records

Publisher's series area

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Hugh Duncan (“Howdy”) McPhail was born 14 March 1915 near Bankend, Saskatchewan. His early schooling was in Prince Albert, and in 1934 he won a hockey scholarship to Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He attended the University of Saskatchewan from 1938-1942, graduating with a BSc in agricultural economics. Just over a week after writing his final exams, Howdy enlisted in the air force, learning how to fly in a de Havilland Tiger Moth at the Prince Albert Elementary Flying Training School. He served throughout the war, surviving a bail-out over Sweden and flying 28 missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “his unselfishness, splendid record, and high degree of courage…”. Initially a Sask Wheat Pool field man, Howdy established McPhail Airways in North Battleford (later, McPhail Air Services Ltd.) in 1952. During the spring and summer he sprayed crops; offered flying lessons; and began taking aerial photographs of farms and towns throughout the West and extending into BC, Ontario, and the United States. Farm photographs were ordered by the farm owners, often as small prints and in some cases, hand-tinted (a young Allan Sapp was one of the people hired to do this). Products were later expanded to include greeting cards and for images of towns, postcards and calendars. By 1962 he effectively stopped his aerial photography. He continued to operate McPhail Air Services until 1981. He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995; into the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1999; and a park in North Battleford was named in his honour. Howdy died in March 2001. [Source: Bill Waiser, Portraits of an Era).

Custodial history

Scope and content

This collection includes Howdy McPhail’s aerial photographs, predominantly of individual farms and views of towns and cities. Some images are of specific landmarks, scenic views, or fauna. All images are identified and a majority are dated.
The second accession contains examples of printed calendars and postcards that were sold by McPhail, as well as some correspondence and other business documentation.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated to the University Archives and Special Collections by Hugh McPhail.


The collection has largely been left in the “series” organization provided at the time of donation. The collection has been divided into two main series, “Town” and “Farm” images; with each type further divided into various “series,” roughly but not exclusively divided by date or other distinguishing feature. However, these are not exclusive. For example, although one series predominantly includes siding images, these may be found throughout the various “Town” series. The single most complete “series” is that of large format negatives, found within the “Town” series. Images of individuals, airplanes, threshing or crop spraying, specific industries or events (for example, forest or prairie fires) may also be found within the “Town” series. The “show” materials found in Farm Series 7 likely refer to images selected for possible use in a University of Saskatchewan Kenderdine Art Gallery show, and a Dunlop Gallery show, both of which incorporated McPhail’s photographs. Note the four hand-drawn grid maps included in the “show” subseries.

The 2011-089 accession has been organized into the following series:

  1. Calendars
  2. Postcards
  3. Photographs (prints)
  4. Negatives
  5. Receipts/Orders (with photos)
  6. Correspondence
  7. Business Records
  8. Misc.

Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

There are no restrictions.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Saskatchewan. Images will enter the public domain in 2052.

Finding aids

A finding aid is available.

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Further accruals are expected.

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