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Eaton's Winnipeg and Toronto Catalogues Compared (Page 2)

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Eaton's in Winnipeg | Marketing to Practical, Individualistic Men in the West | Clothing for Cold Weather | Overalls as Practical, Patriotic Workwear | Comfort over Fashion in Women's Clothing | Larger Sizes in the West | Stylish or Strong Footwear | Children's Clothing | Homemade Entertainment | Farm Machinery | The Imperial Brand | Cream Separators | Edgerite Tools | Harness | Automobile Supplies| Conclusion |Further Reading

Stylish or Strong Footwear

  Ladies shoes, Eaton's Fall Winter 
1923-24, p. 155.  

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


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."

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).

   Children's clothes, Eaton's Spring 
Summer 1919, p. 77.   

Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1919, p. 77.

Enlarge image.

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."

   Eaton's Spring Summer 1916, 
p. 167.   

Eaton's (Toronto) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 167.

Enlarge image.
   Boys' overalls, Eaton's Spring Summer 

Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1924.

Enlarge image.

Homemade Entertainment

  Musical instruments, Eaton's Fall 
Winter 1923-24, p. 323.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1923-24.


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.

  Sports equipment, Eaton's Spring 
Summer 1918.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1918.


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.

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.

  Blacksmithing equipment, Eaton's 
Spring Summer 1918, p. 480.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1918, p. 480.


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 equipment, Eaton's 
Spring Summer 1927, p. 310-11.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1927, p. 310-11.


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

  Imperial wagon, Eaton's Spring Summer 
1916, p. 360.  

Enlarge image.Imperial wagon, Eaton's (Winnipeg) Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1916, p. 360.


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."

  Imperial hay rake, Eaton's Spring 
Summer 1916, p. 363.  

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


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."

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.


  Eaton's harness shop, Winnipeg, ca 

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."

Automobile Supplies

  Tire made for Eaton's Spring Summer 
1930, p. 371.  

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


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.


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.

  Eaton's Fall Winter 1934-35, 
p. 3.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's (Winnipeg) Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1934-35, p. 3.


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.


Further Reading

Cole, Catherine C. "Comparative Analysis of the Toronto and Winnipeg Editions of the Eaton's Mail-order Catalogues, 1905-1945." Unpublished report. Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1995. Most research on Eaton's mail order has focussed on the Toronto catalogues as they are readily available on microfilm. Winnipeg editions are available in Western Canadian museums.

The Western Development Museum in Saskatoon has about 350 Eaton's catalogues, including a large collection donated by Eaton's including specialty catalogues for Eaton's houses, radios, groceries and plumbing supplies.

The City of Toronto's Culture Division has a collection of 1600 objects donated by Eaton's, many of which were available through mail order. The T. Eaton Company fonds (F 229) in the Province of Ontario Archives in Toronto contains photographs, company literature, catalogue sales and distribution records, comparisons between Eaton's and other mail-order companies, testimonials and complaints, and information about brands, company organization etc.



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