First appearing at the end of the 19th century, mail-order catalogues were made possible by improvements in printing and advertising techniques, and greater reliability of mail distribution services. Customers had already accepted the principle of single-price selling, payable in cash, which had replaced the system of barter, and merchants had begun to publish lists of their products with the retail prices in order to reach customers living outside the big cities. The first Canadian to have a mail-order catalogue printed - in fact, a small booklet with only a few black-and-white illustrations - was Timothy Eaton. Published in 1884, this catalogue revolutionized the retail market in Canada. Other merchants, such as W.H. Scroggie in Montreal, rushed to follow his example.

The catalogues were usually published twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. To make ordering easier, each catalogue included instructions, order forms and envelops. In Quebec, this system quickly grew popular in rural areas, since the department stores offered merchandise that was much more diverse and up-to-date than the main stores in small municipalities.
McCord Museum of Canadian History

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