T. Eaton Company, 1869-1994
Date of Issue
March 17, 1994
Perforation or Dimension
13.5 x 13
Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.
Designed by Louis Fishauf.
Canada's fourth Prestige Booklet will be issued March 17, 1994, presenting a full-colour illustrated history of Canada's fads and fashions as seen through 125 years of the T. Eaton Company. The philosophy coined by Timothy Eaton of "Goods satisfactory or money refunded" revolutionized Canadian retailing in the 1870s, and remains today as one of the most famous and honoured advertising slogans in Canada. After emigrating from Northern Ireland in 1854, Timothy Eaton operated dry-goods stores in rural Ontario with his brother James, before moving to Toronto in 1868. With $6,500, he leased a building at 178 Yonge Street at Queen, and bought the stock of a dry-goods merchant. His store opened on 8 December 1869 with a staff of four. A retail giant had been born! From the outset, Eaton directed his efforts almost exclusively to the needs of women and the working class, long ignored by many traditional merchants. His policy of cash sales and fixed prices was rare. Eaton wrote his own ads and advertising slogans, and his success soon became apparent. By 1882, he was in position to take over the Page Block - several large adjoining stores north of Queen Street - which he tore down and built into one huge store. Its three floors boasted 35 departments, the first electric lights in a Canadian store, the first elevator and the first restaurant-café. Probably one of Eaton's greatest retailing innovations was the introduction of the mail order catalogue. His first was a modest 32-page booklet without illustrations. It became nicknamed "The Prairie Bible" as settlers could purchase many items not available locally. Gradually, illustrations were added and the distribution area enlarged. There is an often repeated anecdote, or tall tale of the West, of a man trying to order a bride from the underwear pages! Many small-town shopkeepers saw the catalogue as unfair competition, but it continued to expand and offer new customer incentives. Eaton would pay the cost of postage for returning unsatisfactory goods, and if the exact item was not available, would send something better for the same price. In 1905, he opened a store in Winnipeg and also inaugurated the legendary Eaton's Santa Claus Parade - believed to be the first Santa Claus Parade in commercial history anywhere in the world. When Eaton died in 1907, the company and its 9000 employees were left in the hands of his younger son Jack, who presided over the Eaton Empire for 15 years. A patron of the arts and a philanthropist, he donated millions of dollars to hospitals, colleges, churches and many other charitable organizations serving the needy. Jack Eaton was never on good terms with either union leaders or newspaper reporters. Union leaders criticized the employees lack of job security, but under his presidency the pay, hours and fringe benefits were thought to be good. He ran a retail operation which was growing financially in many areas, but Jack did not open a single new store, opting instead for buying houses in Britain, the U.S., Europe and Orient. When Jack Eaton died in 1922, none of his children were old enough to assume the presidency. His cousin, Robert Young Eaton, ran the shop for the next 20 years. He believed in expanding into urban areas and soon Eaton's was averaging seven store openings a year right across the country. The deferred payment plan introduced in 1926 was the forerunner of today's charge accounts. In 1942 Jack's son John David took over the company at the age of 33. With the 1955 opening of a store in Charlottetown, Eaton's was represented in all 10 provinces and became "Eaton's of Canada". John David Eaton supported the arts, charities and those in need, introducing an employee medical plan and personally contributing $50 million to the retirement fund. By the 1960s, retailing in Canada was acquiring a new face. Radical changes were needed to keep afloat. Stores were combined, sold or closed and many head office functions were centralized. The catalogue folded in 1976 and a new president, Fredrik, John David's son, took over the reins of power in 1977. Today the giant chain is the dominion of Fredrik's brother George. He oversees the multi-block shopping mall, the Eaton Centre, which is both a retail and Toronto tourist attraction.
Canada Post Corporation. Canada's Stamps Details, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1994, p. 1, 7-9.
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