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

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

H.D. "Howdy" McPhail Photograph Collection

General material designation

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

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 col. negatives
9 col. slides
0.52 m textual and photographic records

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

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. A second accrual contains examples of printed calendars and postcards that were sold by McPhail, as well as some correspondence and other business documentation. Images used in an exhibition curated by Helen Marzolf were added in 2018. Further accruals of correspondence, order forms, negatives and prints were interfiled in Series B.

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 organization provided at the time of donation. Series A contains the majority of original images; these have been divided into “Town” and “Farm” images; with each type further roughly divided by date or other distinguishing feature. Researchers should be aware of the number of A-Z lists, often roughly organized together by date. Other features may also be identified throughout the images: for example, siding images, large format negatives, and 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” lists. The “show” materials listed in “Farm 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 (see Series C). Note the four hand-drawn grid maps included in the “show” subseries. Materials relating to the business – promotional items, receipts, etc. – may be found in series B; and series C contains images used in exhibitions. Further accruals of correspondence, order forms, negatives and prints were interfiled in Series B.

Series A: Images [2010-032]

  1. Towns
  2. Farms
    Series B: Business Records [2011-089, 2020-047, 2022-014]:
  3. Calendars
  4. Postcards
    a. Large Postcards
    b. Small Postcards
    c. Postcards with Notes
  5. Photographs (prints)
  6. Negatives
    a. Aerials
    b. personal Negatives
  7. Receipts/Orders (with photos)
  8. Correspondence
  9. Business Records
    a. Photo lists
    b. Notebooks
    c. Receipt Books (examples)
    d. Clip Board with notes and sketches.
    e. Photography Paraphernalia
    f. Dexter
  10. Misc.
    a. “Documentation”
    b. North Battleford
    Series C: Materials relating to exhibitions [2018-215]

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.

Associated materials

Related materials


Further accruals are expected.

Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Control area

Accession area