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Fonds F0225 - Boorne and May fonds

Identity area

Reference code



Boorne and May fonds


  • 1883-1907 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

ca. 450 photographs. -- 2 cm of textual records

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

William Hanson Boorne, 1859-1945, was trained as a pharmacist and emigrated to Bird's Hill, Manitoba from Bristol, England in 1884. He moved to Calgary, Alberta the following year and decided to become a professional photographer, having been an amateur one in England. He returned to England to buy photography equipment and to convince his cousin, Ernest Gundry May, 1861-1948, who also had photographic experience, to open a photography studio with him in Calgary. The firm, Boorne and May, opened in 1886 with Boorne as photographer and May as darkroom technician. Boorne began building up a collection of stock photographs by taking photos of the High River cattle round-up in 1886, and Blood sun dance in 1887. In 1889 he took an extensive tour along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) line through Banff and area, the Selkirk Range, the Columbia River area, Fort Steele, the Kootenay area and Vancouver and Victoria. These photos concentrated on railway construction, the development of towns and cities and mountain scenes. Boorne married May Woolridge Hichens and they had at least one child, Edgar Percy, 1890-?. In 1889 May was appointed Clerk of the Supreme Court and the partnership was dissolved. During First World War he was lieutenant-colonel and district assistant to the adjutant general in Ottawa. He married Eliza Mary May Paice in 1888 and they had three children, Gerald, Roderick George, 1889-?, and Norah (Upper). They lived on a ranch west of Calgary. Boorne opened a branch studio in Banff in 1889, and one in Edmonton in 1891. The Calgary headquarters was located on 3rd Avenue SW and it was here that stock photographs, souvenir albums and lantern slides were produced. The portrait studio on 8th Avenue SW was also the retail outlet for the company's products. The company was incorporated as Boorne and May Co. Ltd. in 1892 but by 1893 it was in financial trouble. Boorne sold the Edmonton studio to C.W. Mathers and the other studios folded. Boorne moved to Vancouver and then back to England to work as a chemical engineer. For further information see "Boorne and May, 1886-1889" in the Farm and Ranch Review, October 1960, p. 18-19 and December 1960, p. 16-17; and "William Hanson Boorne and the Rise of his Photography Studio" in Eye on the Future : Business People in Calgary and the Bow Valley, 1870-1900 / Henry C. Klassen. -- Calgary : University of Calgary Press, 2002, p. 357-361.


Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gifts of Mrs. Aldon Appleton, Mr. D.C. Coleman and the Toronto Public Library, 1957-2005, and purchased from Tom Williams Books, 2014.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds consists of traveller's sample book of photographs of mountain scenes, the British Columbia interior, CPR points and railway bridges, tunnels, trains and workers (1889). Includes photographs of native people and a Blood sun dance (1887); of May, his wife, family and ranch (1885-1907); of Boorne, his Manitoba homestead, and the Calgary studio; and experimental photographs (1883-1884). Includes his article, "With the Savages in the Far West", published in the Canadian Photographic Journal, 1893. Also includes a diary of Boorne's cousin Ernest May (1897).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No restrictions on access.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

The material is in English.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

There are numerous Boorne and May photos in other fonds at Glenbow. No finding aid, but many of the photos have been digitized.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

The original prints of Boorne and May families were held by the Roderick G. May estate, but were destroyed in a house fire, ca. 1965.

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Other Boorne and May records are in the Ernest Brown Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and the Notman Photographic Archives in the McCord Museum, Montreal.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Title based on contents of records.


Item list of PD-5 is in red PD binder in processing room cabinet.


NA-387, NA-1753 and NA-1798 are copied from PD-5.


NA-395 are glass negatives.


PA-113 has not been added to the extent as they are mainly copy prints.


The information about the prints being destroyed in a house fire was provided by Brenda Gloster (May's great-granddaughter) in July 1999.


Link added to Archives Photographs on July 24, 2015.

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Tuesday, November 06, 2018




Accession area