In 1905, John C. Eaton convinced his father Timothy that there was a growing market in Winnipeg and Western Canada that should be met by a regional catalogue. Eaton's faced competition from a number of western department stores and local stores, but captured a huge share of the market. Until the Second World War, the Toronto and Winnipeg catalogues were different in structure, goods offered, and descriptions, as Eaton's successfully targeted the western market.

In the early 20th century, a number of western department stores published mail-order catalogues. Eaton's and Simpson's produced the largest catalogues. Eaton's replaced its Toronto catalogue with one published by the Winnipeg store in 1905. Simpson's continued to publish in Toronto, but built a warehouse in Regina in 1916 to facilitate shipments to Western Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company published a catalogue from 1896 to 1913, Woodward's from 1898 to 1953, and Army and Navy from 1919 to 1986. The Hudson's Bay Company was managed from England and did not understand the potential for growth in Western Canada so decided not to compete with Eaton's. Woodward's held its own in British Columbia for many years. Army Read More
In 1905, John C. Eaton convinced his father Timothy that there was a growing market in Winnipeg and Western Canada that should be met by a regional catalogue. Eaton's faced competition from a number of western department stores and local stores, but captured a huge share of the market. Until the Second World War, the Toronto and Winnipeg catalogues were different in structure, goods offered, and descriptions, as Eaton's successfully targeted the western market.

In the early 20th century, a number of western department stores published mail-order catalogues. Eaton's and Simpson's produced the largest catalogues. Eaton's replaced its Toronto catalogue with one published by the Winnipeg store in 1905. Simpson's continued to publish in Toronto, but built a warehouse in Regina in 1916 to facilitate shipments to Western Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company published a catalogue from 1896 to 1913, Woodward's from 1898 to 1953, and Army and Navy from 1919 to 1986. The Hudson's Bay Company was managed from England and did not understand the potential for growth in Western Canada so decided not to compete with Eaton's. Woodward's held its own in British Columbia for many years. Army and Navy, being a discount line, did not compete directly with Eaton's and Simpson's. Individual stores also published their own smaller catalogues.

Eaton's in Winnipeg

The Eaton's catalogue was predominant in Western Canada. John C. Eaton, Timothy's son, developed the Winnipeg store and mail-order business. Timothy thought that Winnipeg, the Hudson's Bay Company's base in Canada, was too small to support a second large department store. But, John C. pointed out that Winnipeg's growth rate was faster than Toronto's; at the time, there were half a million immigrants west of Winnipeg, many of whom were Americans used to dealing with Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck.
The first Winnipeg catalogue was published with little fanfare. The cover showed a woman fashionably dressed in a fur coat, drawing back the curtain to reveal the new Winnipeg store. In 1907, mail-order stock was separated from retail and the department moved to the top three floors of the Winnipeg store. In 1909, the department was organized into separate departments and began to purchase its own stock. In 1916, a new building behind the store provided five acres {16 hectares] of space for the mail-order department. A second huge building was built in 1921. Eaton's established distribution centres in Saskatoon in 1915 and Regina in 1917. Other large Eaton's stores opened in the West: Regina in 1926, Saskatoon in 1928, and Calgary and Edmonton in 1929. New branch stores carried a more limited range of goods in smaller centres.

There was a strong relationship between Eaton's stores and the catalogues: The stores had a "Farmers' Waiting Room" for the use of rural shoppers visiting from out of town and invited visitors to the city to see the full range of goods and services that supported the catalogue. The catalogue also provided a "Personal Shopper" who would scour the Winnipeg store for items not found on the catalogue pages.

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white stereoscopic images of Winnipeg Eaton's store

Eaton's Winnipeg store, from a set of stereoscopic images, ca 1910.

Private Collection
c. 1910
© Private Collection


Marketing to Practical, Individualistic Men in the West

A comparison of the Toronto and Winnipeg catalogues reveals that Eaton's adapted itself to the needs of people living in Western Canada. The catalogues were different in format, structure, contents, pricing, and marketing. Unlike the Toronto catalogue, which catered to working women in cities as well as to rural women, the Winnipeg catalogue catered more to rural men and their wives. There were far more single men in the West than women. This emphasis is apparent from a glance at the layout of the catalogue. Initially, Winnipeg placed menswear at the front; even after conforming to the industry norm of opening with ladies' wear, menswear continued to have more prominence on its pages.

Eaton's stated that it understood the preferences of western men. For example, a suit with an unusual dip in the front was remarked upon as being very popular in the West but did not appear in the Toronto catalogue. Phrases such as "Real Men," "The Broncho Shirt," and "The Harvester" were featured in early catalogues. Later catalogues endeavoured to ap Read More
Marketing to Practical, Individualistic Men in the West

A comparison of the Toronto and Winnipeg catalogues reveals that Eaton's adapted itself to the needs of people living in Western Canada. The catalogues were different in format, structure, contents, pricing, and marketing. Unlike the Toronto catalogue, which catered to working women in cities as well as to rural women, the Winnipeg catalogue catered more to rural men and their wives. There were far more single men in the West than women. This emphasis is apparent from a glance at the layout of the catalogue. Initially, Winnipeg placed menswear at the front; even after conforming to the industry norm of opening with ladies' wear, menswear continued to have more prominence on its pages.

Eaton's stated that it understood the preferences of western men. For example, a suit with an unusual dip in the front was remarked upon as being very popular in the West but did not appear in the Toronto catalogue. Phrases such as "Real Men," "The Broncho Shirt," and "The Harvester" were featured in early catalogues. Later catalogues endeavoured to appeal to the western masculine psyche: Phrases such as "More and more Western Men are demanding style and distinctiveness in clothes," "Offering to every Western man," and "A Western Canada Favorite" are common. Eaton's assured patrons that "Your needs — your preferences — your clothing habits — as we know them from our years of supplying men of the West — are our guides in planning this catalogue." Customers were advised of the practicality of Eaton's menswear. Phrases such as "Practical Garments for Practical Men" and "The 'Common Sense' Idea Behind All EATON Men's Clothing" were written to appeal to western buyers.

Clothing for Cold Weather

The Winnipeg catalogues featured more, and more practical, cold-weather clothing. In 1905, the first items in the catalogue were men's overcoats, indicative of the focus on men's clothing for cold weather that was to prevail. The 1907 catalogue described the rigorous winters of the West and advertised coats adapted to withstand severe, cold, and stormy winters. In 1919-20, Winnipeg offered more fur coats, sheepskin coats, overcoats, sweater coats, mackinaws, and norfolks, and fewer cloth coats, stoles, and muffs. Toronto sold raincoats, whereas Winnipeg sold slickers and oilskins. Interestingly, at a time when most coats sold for $20 to $30, Winnipeg carried a Burberrys ulster coat for $82.00! This coat was not available through the Toronto catalogue.

The Winnipeg catalogues recognized that westerners spent more time out of doors. Eaton's told its shoppers: "Outdoor men will appreciate 'Buckskein' for comfort just as the Byrd Expedition did when they used it as official equipment on their last survey of the frozen reaches of the Antarctic," and "Materials are chosen with an eye to Western weather and Western conditions - cut and sized with consideration for the activities of Western life - styled directly to the Western fancy."

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Catalogue page with black and white drawing of a men in suits

Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 97.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum


Overalls as Practical, Patriotic Workwear

Overalls were featured in the Winnipeg catalogues and their virtues described in great detail. Compared to an entire section dedicated to workwear in Winnipeg, Toronto carried only one page of overalls. In the Toronto catalogue, overalls were worn with a white shirt and, in some cases, a tie, whereas in Winnipeg they were worn with work shirts. Both catalogues featured "Federation" overalls, but the Winnipeg catalogue provided details of construction features, such as double seats and knees, strong elastic, and denim suspenders. Some of the Toronto models held props, while the Winnipeg models all held hoes and were shown working. Winnipeg's 1935-36 catalogue included a tribute to overalls: "The rugged pioneers of farm and trail, of mine and forest, placed faith in the overall's utility. Today, as in years gone by, the men of farm, forest, mine and railroad, wear the overall."

During the First World War, western women were encouraged to do their patriotic duty to contribute to the war effort by wearing overalls, as the women in Great Read More
Overalls as Practical, Patriotic Workwear

Overalls were featured in the Winnipeg catalogues and their virtues described in great detail. Compared to an entire section dedicated to workwear in Winnipeg, Toronto carried only one page of overalls. In the Toronto catalogue, overalls were worn with a white shirt and, in some cases, a tie, whereas in Winnipeg they were worn with work shirts. Both catalogues featured "Federation" overalls, but the Winnipeg catalogue provided details of construction features, such as double seats and knees, strong elastic, and denim suspenders. Some of the Toronto models held props, while the Winnipeg models all held hoes and were shown working. Winnipeg's 1935-36 catalogue included a tribute to overalls: "The rugged pioneers of farm and trail, of mine and forest, placed faith in the overall's utility. Today, as in years gone by, the men of farm, forest, mine and railroad, wear the overall."

During the First World War, western women were encouraged to do their patriotic duty to contribute to the war effort by wearing overalls, as the women in Great Britain and France did. A western woman was quoted: "They are a sensible garment, and I wouldn't want to wear skirts again around the farm." The Toronto catalogue also carried a selection of women's overalls but they were not highlighted in the same way. Winnipeg continued to show women in overalls in the 1920s, whereas Toronto did not.

Comfort over Fashion in Women's Clothing

Until the 1930s, the Winnipeg catalogues promoted utility, value, and comfort over style in women's clothing. Toronto featured complete ensembles to show how pieces could fit together and showed more garments for specific purposes. In 1918, the Toronto catalogue claimed to be the "Canadian Woman's Own True Fashion Book," a claim not made by Winnipeg. In the 1920s, the Toronto catalogue was written like a fashion magazine, with an attempt at sophistication. Riding habits were available through Winnipeg before they were introduced in Toronto. When Toronto introduced breeches, there were fewer styles to choose from and they were recommended as sportswear.

Toronto showed housedresses "For the Housewife and Her Helper" and aprons for maids, whereas Winnipeg promoted wash dresses for housewives and nurses. Winnipeg showed more housedresses than did Toronto — the ratio was 14 to 8 in 1923-24 fall-and-winter catalogues. Toronto and Winnipeg described the same housedress differently. Toronto noted, "If you are wearing this pretty Checked Gingham Dress even unexpected visitors will not disconcert you for they will find you neatly and becomingly garbed." Winnipeg asserted: "Made in a style that looks well, and one that you will not tire of." There was no suggestion that a woman on the Prairies would be disconcerted if an unexpected visitor found her in a housedress.

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Two catalogue pages in black and white of Men in Federation Overalls

Advertisement for Federation overalls, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1924, p. 152-153.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta


Catalogue page with black and white drawing of women's housedress

Gingham housedress, style no. 60T-644, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1923-24, p. 96 (detail).

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta


Larger Sizes in the West

Winnipeg consistently showed garments on larger, full-figured women. The same styles often looked different because of the models used. For example, an apron shown in Toronto on a slim, fashionable model, was shown on an overweight, matronly-looking woman in Winnipeg. At the same time, Toronto tended to be more diplomatic, using the phrases "larger sizes" or "extra size," whereas Winnipeg referred to "stout women." In 1919, Winnipeg carried ten dresses recommended for stout figures, compared to only three in Toronto.

One aspect of the catalogue that was markedly different was that of ladies' undergarments. The Toronto spring-and-summer catalogue of 1915 began with stylish models, then showed the more serviceable ones, whereas the Winnipeg catalogue showed serviceable models first.

Toronto said the Nemo "self-reducing corset" is "specially adapted for short, stout women who require a general figure reduction and a moderate degree of abdominal support." Winnipeg illustrated the Nemo against a backdrop of a woman working in the fields and described it as "a particularly go Read More
Larger Sizes in the West

Winnipeg consistently showed garments on larger, full-figured women. The same styles often looked different because of the models used. For example, an apron shown in Toronto on a slim, fashionable model, was shown on an overweight, matronly-looking woman in Winnipeg. At the same time, Toronto tended to be more diplomatic, using the phrases "larger sizes" or "extra size," whereas Winnipeg referred to "stout women." In 1919, Winnipeg carried ten dresses recommended for stout figures, compared to only three in Toronto.

One aspect of the catalogue that was markedly different was that of ladies' undergarments. The Toronto spring-and-summer catalogue of 1915 began with stylish models, then showed the more serviceable ones, whereas the Winnipeg catalogue showed serviceable models first.

Toronto said the Nemo "self-reducing corset" is "specially adapted for short, stout women who require a general figure reduction and a moderate degree of abdominal support." Winnipeg illustrated the Nemo against a backdrop of a woman working in the fields and described it as "a particularly good corset for the housekeeper, as it is so strong, serviceable and comfortable" and an "Excellent model for women who are hard on their corsets."

Toronto introduced pretty lingerie, brassieres, and bandeaus in 1919, before Winnipeg. Winnipeg continued to place more emphasis on corsets than brassieres and bandeaus throughout the 1920s and featured more short and extra-size garments as well as illustrations of larger women.

Stylish or Strong Footwear

The footwear sections of the catalogue were also noticeably different. The "Dairymaid" shoe in Toronto was described as "Suitable for work in the garden. Lightweight and neat appearance," whereas the comparable "Milkmaid" shoe in Winnipeg was recommended "for women who are out of doors much; made from light weight split leather, low heels; very serviceable." Toronto promoted its boots with phrases such as: "Relief for Tender Feet" and "Women's Correct Style Footwear," whereas Winnipeg referred to "Stylish and Serviceable" and "Women's Strong Boots for Farm and House." Women were admonished to choose the right style of footwear for their needs, and to take care of their boots: "It is essential that footwear be used for the purposes for which it is made if you want the best results. Don't wear lightweight dress shoes for farm work; they are not built for this purpose."

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white catalogue page of womens shoes

Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1923-24, p. 155.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta


Children's Clothing

Children's clothing differed in the two catalogues. In many cases, the same goods were available but in different sections of the catalogue. In particular, the Winnipeg catalogues of the 1910s and 1920s showed teenaged children at work, whereas the Toronto catalogue referred more to school and play clothes. Girls' wear was a distinct department in Toronto catalogues, whereas in Winnipeg, girls' clothes were mixed in with young children's or with misses. In the West, teenagers were considered to be men and women. The Winnipeg catalogue devoted more space to boys' overalls and highlighted construction details, as for menswear. Toronto also carried a broader selection of children's shoes (not surprising, as children often went barefoot on the Prairies).

The language used in the catalogues was also different: Toronto referred to a child as "active laddie," "merry-looking chap," and "mischief" and the clothes were "moderately priced," "splendid," "sensible," and "very smart and comfortable." Winnipeg did not use any fancy adjectives to Read More
Children's Clothing

Children's clothing differed in the two catalogues. In many cases, the same goods were available but in different sections of the catalogue. In particular, the Winnipeg catalogues of the 1910s and 1920s showed teenaged children at work, whereas the Toronto catalogue referred more to school and play clothes. Girls' wear was a distinct department in Toronto catalogues, whereas in Winnipeg, girls' clothes were mixed in with young children's or with misses. In the West, teenagers were considered to be men and women. The Winnipeg catalogue devoted more space to boys' overalls and highlighted construction details, as for menswear. Toronto also carried a broader selection of children's shoes (not surprising, as children often went barefoot on the Prairies).

The language used in the catalogues was also different: Toronto referred to a child as "active laddie," "merry-looking chap," and "mischief" and the clothes were "moderately priced," "splendid," "sensible," and "very smart and comfortable." Winnipeg did not use any fancy adjectives to describe the children but described the clothes as "serviceable," "sturdy," "strong-wearing," and "practical."

Homemade Entertainment

The Winnipeg edition carried more musical instruments than its Toronto counterpart. In 1924, Winnipeg carried more accordions than Toronto by 10 to 5, more mouth organs 10 to 6, and violins 7 to 5. In 1926, Winnipeg carried more violins by 11 to 5, more ukuleles 8 to 6, more guitars 5 to 3, and more accordions 13 to 12. Toronto featured more banjos by 8 to 4 and more mouth organs 17 to 2, but Winnipeg featured more expensive models and offered a selection of orchestra instruments. This was perhaps a reflection of the greater necessity to produce homemade entertainment on the Prairies.

The radio was introduced first in the Toronto catalogue. "Talking machine" cabinets were featured in both Toronto and Winnipeg catalogues, but Toronto's was more expensive: $175 compared to $75. A selection of radio equipment was available through both catalogues in the 1920s.

Sporting goods were carried in both catalogues for baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. Toronto carried a more extensive range of sporting goods and fishing supplies, whereas Winnipeg carried more hunting equipment. Toronto carried more canoes and boating supplies, and in the 1930s, a catalogue for cottagers. Binoculars, called field glasses in Toronto, were introduced to both catalogues in the late 1920s. Comparable selections of cameras and photographic equipment were available. The Winnipeg catalogue held photography contests with cash prizes of $2, $3, and $5 in the late 1910s to encourage people to send their film and plates to Eaton's for processing.

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white catalogue page of musical instruments

Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1923–24.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Provincial Museum of Alberta


Farm Machinery

In the 1910s and 20s, an extensive range of vehicles, farm implements and machinery, and tradesmen's tools was available in the Winnipeg catalogues. Winnipeg carried more types of goods, more of each type, and more expensive goods than did Toronto. By the 1930s, the catalogue carried fewer farm implements, a result of the Depression and the limited funds available for major capital expenditures. Winnipeg devoted more space in the catalogues to farm items, frequently using half- or full-page ads for items that Toronto showed in much smaller illustrations. As a result, the Winnipeg catalogues were often noticeably larger than the Toronto catalogues.

Toronto carried no farm implements in 1924, whereas Winnipeg carried a full range. Farm implements were available in the fall-and-winter catalogues and a more extensive line was available in the spring-and-summer catalogues. In the late 1910s, Eaton's also produced a special catalogue that included nearly 100 pages of harness and farm machinery. Mowers, cultivators, harrows, ploughs, disc drills, hay rakes, fanning mills, and portable saw frames were all availa Read More
Farm Machinery

In the 1910s and 20s, an extensive range of vehicles, farm implements and machinery, and tradesmen's tools was available in the Winnipeg catalogues. Winnipeg carried more types of goods, more of each type, and more expensive goods than did Toronto. By the 1930s, the catalogue carried fewer farm implements, a result of the Depression and the limited funds available for major capital expenditures. Winnipeg devoted more space in the catalogues to farm items, frequently using half- or full-page ads for items that Toronto showed in much smaller illustrations. As a result, the Winnipeg catalogues were often noticeably larger than the Toronto catalogues.

Toronto carried no farm implements in 1924, whereas Winnipeg carried a full range. Farm implements were available in the fall-and-winter catalogues and a more extensive line was available in the spring-and-summer catalogues. In the late 1910s, Eaton's also produced a special catalogue that included nearly 100 pages of harness and farm machinery. Mowers, cultivators, harrows, ploughs, disc drills, hay rakes, fanning mills, and portable saw frames were all available.

Winnipeg catalogues showed more evidence of self-sufficiency on the part of farmers as repair parts and tools were common. In 1910, Winnipeg carried blacksmith's forges and a complete blacksmith's outfit, along with a how-to booklet on blacksmithing. Winnipeg carried more supplies for leather and wagon repair and machine oils and lubricants, as well as a full range of veterinary equipment and feed for farmers who cared for their own livestock.

Beekeeping supplies, including live bees, were available through the Winnipeg catalogue, but not from Toronto. In 1927, Winnipeg promoted the business to farmers: "Last year Manitoba produced approximately 5,500,000 lbs. [2.5 million kg] of marketable honey, which was sold at about 13 cents per lb. [per .45 kg.] Did you receive your share from this easily operated, low cost industry? If not, why not get in on this money-making industry — with bees from EATON's?"

Winnipeg carried two pages of poultry supplies compared to three-quarters of a page in the Toronto spring-and-summer catalogues of 1927.

The Imperial Brand

Initially, catalogue items were advertised as having been "Made by a leading Canadian manufacturer." In the East, Eaton's distributed implements under its own name. In the West, after 1909, Eaton's promoted the "Imperial" line of farm implements. The Winnipeg catalogue stated that "Imperial Implements are Specially Adapted to Western Conditions": "Possibly no other article that we catalogue stands out more prominently than does the EATON Imperial Wagon for extra good value. A wagon built to last not just one season, but a great many seasons." The Imperial big gang plough was "The right plow for Western Canada."

Of the Imperial sulky rake, the catalogue said: "If you have hay to rake, whether the crop is light or heavy, there is not a rake sold today that will do the work any better than the Imperial Sulky Rake. It can be operated by any boy or woman who can drive horses. The automatic foot lift makes this very easy."

Eaton's asserted that, "The Imperial Mower is extensively used today from Winnipeg to the coast." Of fencing it said: "The great demand for Imperial Fencing in Western Canada each season."

Windmills were carried in the Winnipeg catalogues: "the red-tipped fans of the 'Imperial' Windmill turning in the breeze as they are seen on so many Western farms to-day." Imperial hand pumps were advertised as an example of goods being adapted for western conditions: "They are made to meet the requirements of the country. Most of them have a set length of 8 feet [2.4 m], that is, the cylinder is 8 feet [2.4 m] below the platform. This is done to avoid the frost, and is an important feature, as many pumps sold in the West are made for the eastern climate, and their set length is too short for our cold Western winters."

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white catalogue page of Imperial agricultural equipment

Imperial hay rake, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 363.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum


Cream Separators

Cream separators frequently warranted full-page promotions in Winnipeg and were consistently more expensive than those offered by Toronto: $58.50 in Winnipeg versus $49.50 in Toronto. In the late 1910s, Eaton's referred to the rapid increase in dairying in Western Canada due to the wonderful pasture, ease of a year-round operation, and continued high prices for milk and butter.

The "Eatonia" cream separator was available through the Winnipeg catalogue before changing its name to the "Imperial." Eaton's claimed that, "If you purchase an Imperial Cream Separator, it is only a matter of time until you increase your herd, because by the use of our separator, the work that was previously a drudgery will be made a pleasure." Toronto carried the same cream separator under the "Eatonia" brand name. The "Vega" cream separator was promoted in the 1930s.

Edgerite Tools

"Edgerite" tools, including lawn mowers, shovels, hay Read More
Cream Separators

Cream separators frequently warranted full-page promotions in Winnipeg and were consistently more expensive than those offered by Toronto: $58.50 in Winnipeg versus $49.50 in Toronto. In the late 1910s, Eaton's referred to the rapid increase in dairying in Western Canada due to the wonderful pasture, ease of a year-round operation, and continued high prices for milk and butter.

The "Eatonia" cream separator was available through the Winnipeg catalogue before changing its name to the "Imperial." Eaton's claimed that, "If you purchase an Imperial Cream Separator, it is only a matter of time until you increase your herd, because by the use of our separator, the work that was previously a drudgery will be made a pleasure." Toronto carried the same cream separator under the "Eatonia" brand name. The "Vega" cream separator was promoted in the 1930s.

Edgerite Tools


"Edgerite" tools, including lawn mowers, shovels, hay knives, and carpentry tools, were promoted in Winnipeg, whereas Toronto carried a more limited selection of tools with a variety of manufacturers' trademarks, including T. Eaton Co. and Acme, but not Edgerite before 1918.

In the 1920s, Winnipeg continued to carry a larger selection of tools. Some tools were available in Winnipeg but not in Toronto. In 1936, Eaton's claimed that, "Thousands of Western workmen have learned to depend on EDGERITE tools in preference to all others." Toronto promoted the use of tools for gardening, as opposed to farm work.

Harness

Both catalogues carried harness but the Winnipeg catalogue carried a more extensive range, including more expensive harness, and emphasized that the harness was western-made for western conditions: "A particular study has been made of the Western farmer's requirements." Harness was given fitting names like "The Nor'west," "Western Ox," "Blue Ribbon Show Harness," "Western Prairie," "Eaton Pioneer," and "Eaton Economy Team."

Winnipeg also carried an extensive selection of horse collars, nose protectors, sweat pads, saddles, and horse care items. Saddles, not available through Toronto in the 1910s, were marketed under names like "Royal Western," "Western Prairie," "Alberta Stock," and "Pride of the West." Some of these goods were manufactured in Eaton's harness factory in Winnipeg, while others were purchased for redistribution. The catalogues indicated that, "We manufacture these collars; only best quality materials used." Cream Separators
Eaton's Spring Summer 1916, p. 359.


Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 359.



Cream separators frequently warranted full-page promotions in Winnipeg and were consistently more expensive than those offered by Toronto: $58.50 in Winnipeg versus $49.50 in Toronto. In the late 1910s, Eaton's referred to the rapid increase in dairying in Western Canada due to the wonderful pasture, ease of a year-round operation, and continued high prices for milk and butter.

The "Eatonia" cream separator was available through the Winnipeg catalogue before changing its name to the "Imperial." Eaton's claimed that, "If you purchase an Imperial Cream Separator, it is only a matter of time until you increase your herd, because by the use of our separator, the work that was previously a drudgery will be made a pleasure." Toronto carried the same cream separator under the "Eatonia" brand name. The "Vega" cream separator was promoted in the 1930s.
Edgerite Tools
Edgerite tools, Eaton's Fall Winter 1936-37, p. 336.


Enlarge image.Edgerite tools, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1936-37, p. 336.



"Edgerite" tools, including lawn mowers, shovels, hay knives, and carpentry tools, were promoted in Winnipeg, whereas Toronto carried a more limited selection of tools with a variety of manufacturers' trademarks, including T. Eaton Co. and Acme, but not Edgerite before 1918.

In the 1920s, Winnipeg continued to carry a larger selection of tools. Some tools were available in Winnipeg but not in Toronto. In 1936, Eaton's claimed that, "Thousands of Western workmen have learned to depend on EDGERITE tools in preference to all others." Toronto promoted the use of tools for gardening, as opposed to farm work.
Harness
Eaton's harness shop, Winnipeg, ca 1910.


Enlarge image.Eaton's Winnipeg harness shop, from a set of stereoscopic images, ca 1910.



Both catalogues carried harness but the Winnipeg catalogue carried a more extensive range, including more expensive harness, and emphasized that the harness was western-made for western conditions: "A particular study has been made of the Western farmer's requirements." Harness was given fitting names like "The Nor'west," "Western Ox," "Blue Ribbon Show Harness," "Western Prairie," "Eaton Pioneer," and "Eaton Economy Team."
Eaton's Spring Summer 1916, p. 351.


Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 351.



Winnipeg also carried an extensive selection of horse collars, nose protectors, sweat pads, saddles, and horse care items. Saddles, not available through Toronto in the 1910s, were marketed under names like "Royal Western," "Western Prairie," "Alberta Stock," and "Pride of the West." Some of these goods were manufactured in Eaton's harness factory in Winnipeg, while others were purchased for redistribution. The catalogues indicated that, "We manufacture these collars; only best quality materials used."

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Black and white catalogue page of Edgerite Tools

Edgerite tools, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1936-37, p. 336.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum

© Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc., Saskatchewan Western Development Museum


Automobile Supplies

Cars were more of a novelty on the Prairies than in Ontario in the early 20th century. Winnipeg suggested using a Ford automobile to power farm machinery, grain grinders, hay presses, wood saws, water pumps, well-drilling outfits, grindstones, and cream separators, rather than a stationary engine. This must not have proven popular because a later advertisement for a "Lay Porta" power outfit that required a truck or a car was advertised in Toronto but not shown in Winnipeg. Toronto carried a greater selection of auto supplies than did Winnipeg but both indicate that this was just a selection. Winnipeg told customers to write for a separate booklet, whereas Toronto said, "[S]end us all your enquiries for auto accessories." The differences in this area became more pronounced over the years as Toronto carried a larger and larger selection of auto parts. The 1924 Toronto spring-and-summer catalogue, for example, featured a full-page advertisement for tires and devoted five pages to auto supplies, whereas Winnipeg only showed one-and-a-half pages.

Con Read More
Automobile Supplies

Cars were more of a novelty on the Prairies than in Ontario in the early 20th century. Winnipeg suggested using a Ford automobile to power farm machinery, grain grinders, hay presses, wood saws, water pumps, well-drilling outfits, grindstones, and cream separators, rather than a stationary engine. This must not have proven popular because a later advertisement for a "Lay Porta" power outfit that required a truck or a car was advertised in Toronto but not shown in Winnipeg. Toronto carried a greater selection of auto supplies than did Winnipeg but both indicate that this was just a selection. Winnipeg told customers to write for a separate booklet, whereas Toronto said, "[S]end us all your enquiries for auto accessories." The differences in this area became more pronounced over the years as Toronto carried a larger and larger selection of auto parts. The 1924 Toronto spring-and-summer catalogue, for example, featured a full-page advertisement for tires and devoted five pages to auto supplies, whereas Winnipeg only showed one-and-a-half pages.

Conclusion

From 1905 to 1940, Eaton's viewed westerners differently than it did Ontarians. The company marketed its goods to men as well as to women, and recognized the pragmatic nature of its western customers. Rural residents, in particular, rarely made it into town, and appreciated the convenience of shopping through the catalogues.

The impact of the Eaton's catalogue in the West has been the subject of much folklore. Referred to as "The Prairie Bible," "The Farmer's Bible," "The Homesteaders' Bible," the "Wishing Book," or simply, "The Book," the catalogue was especially popular in Western Canada. In fact, in the 1920s, two towns in Saskatchewan showed their affection for the catalogues by choosing the names "Eaton" and "Eatonia" in honour of the company.

On the 50th Anniversary of the mail-order business in 1934, the Winnipeg catalogue announced: "The EATON Catalogue is now a Canadian institution in the West, as in the East - an essential factor in the West's day-to-day existence — supplying merchandise for the Farm, the Home, the Individual — all presented under the same EATON guarantee — and all exemplifying that now famous slogan — 'It PAYS to Buy at EATON's!'"

During the Second World War, the country became more urbanized, and the Winnipeg and Toronto catalogues became more closely aligned.

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Colour photo of a tire

Tire made for Eaton's. Eaton's (Toronto) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1930, p. 371.

Used with permission of Sears Canada Inc.

1988.56.47.
© City of Toronto, Culture Division, T. Eaton Company Collection


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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