In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada's population grew dramatically. Mail-order catalogues, primarily affiliated with large department stores in Montreal and Toronto, reached markets in rural Canada.

1882

Carsley's, a department store on the north side of Notre-Dame Street, just west of Saint-Jean in Montreal, introduces the first mail-order catalogue in Canada. By 1894, its "immense mail-order department [is] one of the wonders of the establishment,"

1884

First Eaton's catalogue, called "The Wishing Book" is distributed to visitors at the Toronto exhibition. Timothy Eaton expresses his vision for the catalogue in 1887: "This catalogue is destined to go wherever the maple leaf grows, throughout the vast Dominion. We have the facilities for filling mail orders satisfactorily, no matter how far the letter has to come and the goods have to go."

1890 Read More
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada's population grew dramatically. Mail-order catalogues, primarily affiliated with large department stores in Montreal and Toronto, reached markets in rural Canada.

1882

Carsley's, a department store on the north side of Notre-Dame Street, just west of Saint-Jean in Montreal, introduces the first mail-order catalogue in Canada. By 1894, its "immense mail-order department [is] one of the wonders of the establishment,"

1884

First Eaton's catalogue, called "The Wishing Book" is distributed to visitors at the Toronto exhibition. Timothy Eaton expresses his vision for the catalogue in 1887: "This catalogue is destined to go wherever the maple leaf grows, throughout the vast Dominion. We have the facilities for filling mail orders satisfactorily, no matter how far the letter has to come and the goods have to go."

1890

By 1890, John Murphy's department store in Montréal is active in mail-order from its five-storey building at the corner of Notre-Dame and Saint-Pierre Streets.

1891

Henry Morgan & Company, which has operated a department store since 1845, introduces a mail-order service around 1891, the year in which the store moves to Montréal's new shopping district along St. Catherine Street.

1892

Scroggie's department store in Montréal expands and introduces a mail-order catalogue. The company soon calls itself "The Mail Order House of Eastern Canada."

1893

Simpson's, a Toronto-based department store that has dabbled in mail order since 1885, introduces a full mail-order catalogue and offers free samples.

1896

The Hudson's Bay Company's Winnipeg office publishes a catalogue on the eve of the British company's 226th anniversary.

1897

Woodward's department store in Vancouver introduces its first catalogue.

1898

Zéphirin Paquet who operates a large department store in the lower town of Québec, enters the mail-order business from around 1897 to 1913.

1899

Robert Simpson dies and Simpson's is taken over by three investors, H. H. Fudger, J. W. Flavelle, and A. E. Ames.

1900

Eaton catalogue presents the first Eaton Beauty doll, made by Armand Marseille, Germany.

1904

Following on the publication of a number of specialized catalogues for the Western market, the Klondike Catalogue (1898) and the Settlers' Catalogue (1903), Eaton's opens the Winnipeg store and introduces the Western catalogue.

1908

Twenty years ahead of its Toronto-based competitors, Eaton's and Simpson's, Scroggie's introduces French-language catalogues and offers to send them to customers who had received English ones by mistake.

1909

Carsley's sells its business to A. E. Rae & Company. The store is known as Rea's until 1911 when, after W. H. Goodwin became managing director, it becomes Goodwin's Montreal Limited and then simply Goodwin's Limited.

1910s

As with department store sales staff, the mail-order work force at Canada's largest retail operations consists overwhelmingly of women.

Department stores increase the use of trademarks and brand names to promote customer loyalty. Eaton brands include "EATON," "Eatonia," "Acme," "Cravinette," "Edgerite," "Imperial,""Foundation," "Multiplex," "Braemore," "Lady Fair," "Birkdale," and "Renown."

Across the country, smaller department stores, like J. Flanagan's in Moncton, Christie Grant in Winnipeg (1914), Cairns in Saskatoon (1916), Ramsey's in Edmonton (1916) and Pryce-Jones in Calgary (1911), issue their own catalogues. As well as selling goods, these catalogues serve to remind rural patrons to shop in the stores.

1913

The Hudson's Bay Company discontinues its mail-order catalogue, although customers continued to shop by mail through the Personal Shopper, and through store catalogues in remote locations. With management still based in London, England, the HBC underestimates the growing Western Canadian market and the potential to build upon its networks established through the fur trade.

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white ad for Carsley's Store

Building housing Carsley's store on Notre Dame Street from the S. Carsley, Fall/Winter Catalogue no. 28, 1901–02, p. 2.

Library and Archives Canada

© Library and Archives Canada


Black and white cover of Eaton's 1884 Catalogue

Eaton's Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1884, cover (reproduction).

City of Toronto, Culture Division, T. Eaton Company Collection

1988.56.1205 a,b
© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc


Black and white page of boys suits from Morgan Catalogue

Morgan's Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1893–94, p. 95.

Hudson's Bay Company, used with permission, Ronald Chabot Collection, Lévis

© Hudson's Bay Company, used with permission, Ronald Chabot Collection, Lévis


Colour cover of Eaton's 1905 Spring/Summer Catalogue

W. H. Scroggie's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1905, cover.

McGill University Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections Division

© McGill University Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections Division


Black and white cover of Simpsons's 1893 Fall/Winter Catalogue

Simpson's Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1893, cover.

Hudson's Bay Company Heritage Services, Toronto

©Hudson's Bay Company, used with permission


Colour photo of first Eaton Beauty doll

First doll sold as an Eaton Beauty, manufactured by Armand Marseille, Germany, ca 1900.

Canadian Museum of Civilization, D1371

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation


Black and white cover of Hudon's Bay Company's Fall 1901 Price List

Hudson's Bay Company's Price List No. 39, Fall 1901, cover.

Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba

© Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba


Black and white photo of Women Opening Orders

Stereoscopic image of women opening orders in the Eaton's mail-order department in Winnipeg, ca 1910.

Ronald Chabot Collection, Lévis

© Ronald Chabot Collection, Lévis


Colour photo of Eaton's brands used for sewing in 1910

Eaton's brands used for sewing notions, ca 1910.

City of Toronto, Culture Division, T. Eaton Company Collection

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc.


Colour cover of Hudson's Bay Company 1910-11 Fall/Winter Catalogue

Hudson's Bay Company Fall/Winter Catalogue No. 58, 1910–11.

Hudson's Bay Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba

© Hudson's Bay Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • observe and identify the characteristics of early 20th century lifestyle;
  • compare the evolution of the Canadian and Quebec society over several decades;
  • explain the similarities and differences between past and present society;
  • discuss the main events of the 20th century (economic crisis, World Wars, unionization, feminist movement) and the impact that they had on Canadian and Quebec societies.

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