Fonds F 708 - P.G. Downes fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

P.G. Downes fonds

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  • Textual record
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Reference code

F 708

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1933 - 2014 (Creation)
    Downes, P.G. (Prentice Gilbert), 1909-1959

Physical description area

Physical description

0.700 m of textual records
555 photographs : prints, b&w
51 photographs : prints, col.
2 computer optical discs : (photographs)
172 photographs : Kodachrome slides, col.; 35 mm
13 photographs : slides, b&w
910 photographs : nitrate and cellulose acetate negatives, b&w

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Prentice Gilbert Downes was born on September 16, 1909 in New Haven, Connecticut to W.P. and Harriet (Street) Downes. He attended Kent School in Kent, Connecticut (1923-1928) and graduated with a degree in psychology from Harvard University in 1933. After graduation, Downes was employed as a teacher by Belmont Hill School, a private boys' school in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Downes was an avid outdoorsman with a strong interest in the history, geography and inhabitats of Northern Canada. Between 1936 and 1947, Downes travelled extensively during the summer months in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. His modes of transportation included rail, air, canoe, and boat. During his travels, Downes kept detailed journals in which he recorded daily events, weather conditions, and details regarding Cree and Chipewyan (Dene) culture and traditions. Downes' writing appeared in various journals and his book, Sleeping Island: The Story of One Man's Travels in the Great Barren Lands of the Canadian North, was published in 1943.

During the Second World War, Downes worked for the United States Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. and was also seconded to Air Force Intelligence. After the war, he briefly resided in Vermont and worked at Harvard before returning to his teaching position at Belmont Hill School in 1947. Downes continued teaching until his death on June 8, 1959.

Downes was a member of the Royal Geographical Society, the American Geographical Society, the Beaver Club, and the Harvard Travellers Club.

Custodial history

Annie Downes, daughter of Prentice G. Downes, donated these records to the Saskatchewan Archives Board in one accession in 2013: 2013-490 (November 5, 2013).

Scope and content

This fonds consists of records created, accumulated and used by Prentice G. Downes relating mainly to his travels by air, rail, boat, and canoe through northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories between 1936 and 1947.

The types of records included are Downes' detailed handwritten journals; correspondence; Downes' 1941 draft of Sleeping Island; material relating to Cree culture and traditions; published and unpublished articles; and photographs.

The fonds also includes the first and second volumes of Distant Summers: P.G. Downes' Journals of Travels in Northern Canada, 1936-1947, edited by R.H. Cockburn. Reproductions of Downes' original photographs made for publication purposes in 1996 or later are included.

No series assignment has been applied to the records in this fonds.

Notes area

Physical condition

Records are in good physical condition.

Immediate source of acquisition


Order imposed by archivist. All file titles provided by records creator except where indicated in square brackets.

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Availability of other formats

The photographs in this fonds are available in multiple formats and were not assigned the same reference code.

Restrictions on access

Records are open for research use.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Use, publication and/or reproduction are subject to terms and conditions of the Copyright Act. Please consult reference archivist for assistance.

Finding aids

SAFA 647 consists of a fonds description, file listings of textual records and item descriptions of photographs.

Associated materials

Three notebooks created by Downes and one photograph of Downes and Richard Finnie are located at the Trent University Archives.

Related materials


No further accruals are expected.

Location note

Location for retrieval: Regina - Hillsdale

Location note

To consult the records, visit or contact the Regina office.

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