The Life Story of Mr Timothy Eaton.

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Document ID 9509083
Date 01-01-1834
Document Type Family Papers
Archive Private Donor
Citation The Life Story of Mr Timothy Eaton.;Ms Sigi Brough; CMSIED 9509083

On December 8, 1869, Timothy Eaton revolutionized retail.
On opening day of his first Yonge Street store he advertised
the unheard of... "We propose to sell our goods for CASH ONLY.
In selling goods to have only one price." His competitors
Consumers were skeptical, but curious. There had to be a catch.

But there was no catch. His retail strategy was straightforward,
honest and ingenious. No gimmicks. No fine print. No tricks.
Timothy Eaton replaced caution with trust and laid the
foundation for modern retail as we know it today.

Timothy was, by all accounts, a visionary. But his vision
wasn't realised overnight. He made a career of learning,
developing and re-defining his strategy to achieve his goal of
building a great department store. This is the story of one of
Canada's greatest merchants and his legacy.


Timothy Eaton was born the youngest of nine children in
County Antrim at Clogher, Ireland, in 1834. His father
died just two months before he was born, so as soon as he
was able Timothy was quiet and private but he was also

strong in character and willing to defend his beliefs.From very
early on, he was instilled with a strong work ethic, firm
religious beliefs and unyielding confidence in his ability to
decide between right and wrong.When his mother died in 1848,
Timothy was left orphaned. At the time most of his brothers
and sisters had already emigrated to Canada. So at a very early
age he had to be resourceful and self-reliant and his
later successes prove these qualities.


At thirteen, Timothy left school to apprentice at a
fairly prosperous general store in a neighbouring
town. Even though, the days were long, the work was
grinding and his employer severe, Timothy turned it into
a learning experience. Perhaps the most important thing he
learned was the type of employer he wanted to be-fair,
honest, and generous.


In 1854, Timothy sailed to Canada on the Dominion armed
with a little savings, some work experience and a lot of
drive and ambition.  He followed in his family's footsteps,
who had fled Ireland's devastating potato famine. Two
brothers, three sisters, an aunt, an uncle and cousins
helped him make Canada his new home. For the first while
he stayed with his sister Margaret in Georgetown,Ontario
and he earned his keep by helping out on the farm. Some
time later he moved to Glen Williams and embarked on his
first Canadian career as a bookkeeper in a small general
The extension of the Grand Trunk Railway into Georgetown
Guelph and Stratford in 1856 brought promises of prosperity
to the three Eaton brothers. Robert moved to the growing
community of St. Mary's, to establish a dry goods busness
and Timothy and James set up shop, literally, in the small
rural town of Kirkton. The small Ontario farming community
was the perfect spot for the J.& T.Eaton General store and
Post Office that ran out of a log cabin on the banks of
Fish Creek. After four years they decided to join forces
with their brother Robert.

St. Mary's, a bigger and busier centre, ten miles east
of Kirkton, was the perfect stepping stone for Timothy
and James. With his brothers assistance, he set up the
T.Eaton Bakery. It provided him with enough challenge,
competition and incentive to hone his retailing skills.
In fact, it has been said that a competitive market was
one of Timothy's surest ingredients for success. It was
also in St.Mary's where Timothy met his wife, Margaret


By 1868, Timothy had Maximized his opportunities and,
again, he delt the need for greater challenges. On
Margaret's advice, he and his family pressed on to the
big city of Toronto which had a population of 70,000.


When Timothy Eaton bought the stock and goodwill of
William Jennings' little 24'x 60' dry goods store for
$6,500.00, in 1869, it was the start of a retail
revolution in Canada, embracing principles in the
T.Eaton company that still remain today.
Timothy's marketing strategy rejected the "Caveat
Emptor", or "buyer beware" mentality. He gauranteed
"one fair price for all" and "goods satisfatory or
money refunded," eliminating the time consuming and
often unfair buisness of haggling. Whether you were
a naive child or a shrewd buisnessman, you could rely
on the same price, service and outstanding guarantee.
Timothy won the confidence and the support of his
customersand before long, he had firmly planted
himself among Toronto's entrepreneurial giants.
"Eaton preparing to move","Going North"...

It didn't take long for the T.Eaton Co.Ltd. to outgrow
its location, so in January, 1883, Timothy began
constrution at 190 Yonge Street. He involved all of
Toronto with daily advertisements, giving residents
a play-by-play of the new buildings progress. On
August 21st, at 4.00p.m.,he closed the doors at 178
Yonge Street and at 9.00a.m.,the following morning
he opened the doors of Toronto's first department

The new store boasted 25,544 square feet of selling
space spread over four floors. Two hydraulic elevators
a massive boiler room generating heat and electricity
(using Edison's incandescent lamps) created quite a
spectacle for residents and visitors alike. Timothy
employed the latest technological and architectural
designs to enchant and attract his customers. He later
provided concerts and established a Ladies Waiting
Area, for women to relax and refresh themselves after
their long train ride into the city.

Timothy's goal was to provide modern and comfortable
surroundings for his customers-he wanted shopping to
be a pleasure. 190 Yonge Street was comparable to the
sophisticated department stores in England, France and
the United States, and it proved, once and for all,
that Timothy Eaton was on the cutting edge of modern


In 1884, a small, 32 page booklet that listed prices
was circulated at the Industrial Exhibition (later to
become known as the Canadian National Exhibition). This
was Timothy's first catalogue. When he introduced it, he
wanted to attract three types of customers to his store.
Firstly he targeted Toronto residents. He wanted to
increase competitiveness by offering more detailed
information on his merchantise, not nomally found in
regular inserts and handbills. Clearly he wanted to
distinguish his selection from other retailers in
Toronto. Secondly Timothy seen women as important
customers. A ladies Waiting Room and fashion shows
are just two examples of what Timothy did to make
shopping a real "trip" for Toronto's fashionable
women. Thirdly and most significantly for the
people tha lived beyond the reaches of the city,
the homesteaders-the catologue brought the T.Eaton
Company to them.
From Klondike gear for prospectors to wedding rings
to prefabricated houses, Timothy managed to extend
his store into the homes of 100's of 1000's of
families across the country. The catologue became
indispensably linked to Canadians and their

The catologue operation grew and became more
sophisticated over the years. By 1901, Timothy had
acquired a typographical plant and printing company.
A year later, the catologue featured colour. The
simple 32page booklet was contrasted with a high
quality, colourful, 400page volume published twice
yearly to highlight spring and fall merchandise.
In 1903, the Mail Order department moved to 14 Albert
Street and by 1909 had expanded to two more buildings
on Louisa Street. The Eaton's Catologue chronicled the
history of Canadians and identifies their tastes,
interests and social attitudes. It remains an excellent
historical reference for Canada's formitive years.


The success of the Mail Order operation in Winnipeg
prompted Eaton's Western expansion. John Craig Eaton,
Timothy's youngest son, soon recognised that Winnipeg
had developed into a self-supporting city no longer
dependent on eastern suppliers. On July27th, 1904
the first sod was turned and the following, the doors
opened to the five-storey department store located at
the intersection of Portage and Main streets. The
store was so successful that by 1910 an additional 3
storeys were added. The Winnipeg store cemented
Timothy's relationship with Canada. The T.E.Eaton Co.
Ltd. was no longer just a store, but an institution.


In the year following 1883, the Eaton Co. was a
growing concern. Timothy expanded the department store
to Queen Street in 1886 and continued to buy property on
Yonge Street and in the neighbouring side streets in the
centre of the city. In 1889, he installed 12 sewing
machines on the top floor of 198 Yonge Street and
commenced manufacturing for his store. By the turn of
the century, Timothy employed more than 700 employees
operating more than 500 sewing machines and producing
over 4500 complete garments everyday! During the same time
he introduced his own clothing labels-ACME, in 1905 and
TECO in 1907. This gave him the quality control he
expected in his products, and reduced costs were enjoyed
by his customers.

And when Timothy couldn't satisfy his complete selection
at home, he looked to Europe for sophisticated fashions
and fabrics. In 1892, Timothy established a buying office
in London, and in 1898, he turned to Paris for modern
designs. He constantly set new trends in fashion
industry and merchandising. From the start of his
career to the end, Timothy never relaxed his ambition
to expand and perfect.


Only two years younger than Canada itself, the Eaton
Co. has helped to inspire growth in all areas:
manufacturing, construction, transportation, immigration,
and of course retail. Timothy's vision helped to bring
Canada, a fledgling new nation, into the 20th century.
His bold ideas and innovations were unheard of and often
came under attack. However, his strong character and
conviction prevailed and the legacy he left was
impressive. Timothy continued to uphold his incredible
work ethic right up until his death on January 31st,1907.
Many years after his death, he still remains, one of
Canada's greatest entrepreneurs.

             EATON FIRSTS
              IN CANADA

Timothy Eaton, always the
innovative thinker, established
some unprecedented firsts in
Toronto and Canada. He saw
change as progress and progress
as a necessity. Here are some of
Timothy's firsts...

   Timothy Eaton was the
   first merchant to sell his
   goods for one fixed price.

   Timothy Eaton was the
   first merchant to back his
   merchandise with a
   Gaurantee - "Goods
   Satisfactory or Money

   Timothy Eaton established shorter working hours in
   Canada. He ordered the stores to close at 6:00p.m. every
   night except Saturdays in 1880.

   In 1881, Eatons became
   one of the first businesses
   in Canada to be lit by

   Timothy Eaton opened
   his first department store
   at 190 Yonge Street,
   encompassing 35 departments,
   in 1883.

   In 1884, Eaton's first Mail
   Order Catalogue was
   distributed at the Industrial
   Exibition (Canadian
   National Exibition).

   One of the first passenger elevators
   installed in Canada was in The T. Eaton
   & Co. store at 190 Yonge Street, in 1886.

   In 1886, Eaton's became the first retail
   store to operate its own factories.

      MORE FIRSTS...

   Eatons was the first company to introduce employee

   Eaton's was the first company to continue paying wages
   to its employees fighting in World War I and World War II.