Fonds glen-281 - Boorne and May fonds

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Boorne and May fonds

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GLEN glen-281

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  • 1883-1907 (Creation)
    Boorne and May

Physical description area

Physical description

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

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Name of creator


Biographical 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.

Custodial history

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).

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

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


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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.

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No restrictions on access.

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No finding aid.

Associated materials

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. Some Boorne and May photos are also in the Glenbow's online Archives Photographs database.

Related materials


General note

Call numbers PA-113, PA-3650, PD-5, PD-196, NA-33, NA-261, NA-395, NA-387-(7-9, 11-14, 19-26, 28-35, NA-412, NA-1753, NA-1798, NA-3289, M-2485, M-2871, M-9653

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  • English

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