In remembrance of The Great War during this centenary year, this blog will explore the intriguing social history of that tumultuous time. The first two of my Muskoka Novels – "The Summer Before the Storm" and "Elusive Dawn" – take place from 1914-1918. During my four years of research I accumulated a trunkful of notes, and will illuminate some of the more interesting and unusual tidbits, beginning with the Age of Elegance.
Monday, February 17, 2014
A Different Kind of “Family Bible”
Eaton's Catalogue, 1916
Do you want to buy a piano and some sheet music to play on
it? Have you run out of Campbell’s soups, smelling salts, or Lydia Pinkham’s
potent patent women’s tonics? Need a new kitchen range? Wallpaper? Canoe? How
about an elegant horse-drawn sleigh? Will you choose a $10 or $100 diamond ring
for your sweetheart? You could order just about anything anyone would want or
need from the Eaton’s catalogue. In 1912, you could even purchase a pre-fab
house for $890!
Eaton's Catalogue, 1914
First published in 1884, the Eaton’s catalogue grew in size
and popularity to became a Canadian household staple for over 90 years – often referred
to as the “Family Bible”. Kids on isolated farms or in city homes leafed
through them eagerly to find skates, bicycles, train sets, hockey
sticks, or doll carriages to add to their Christmas wish lists. Women
discovered the latest fashions for themselves and their homes. Men could
deliberate over cameras and rifles, pocket watches and fishing lures.
Cottagers often put in substantial catalogue orders before
heading to the lakes for the summer. By the 1930s, there was a special “Eaton’s
Camp and Cottage Book”, and goods were delivered right to your dock – including
motorboats and pre-fab cottages!
The Eatons themselves were avid cottagers, as mentioned in a
Cottages and all their contents have been sold or passed
down through generations. I wonder how many still have furnishings provided by