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 Timothy Eaton

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Timothy Eaton

  • Birth Mar 1834 Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • Death 31 Jan 1907 Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada
  • Burial Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada
  • Plot 2-4
  • Memorial ID 5513

Entrepreneur. He is remembered as the founder of the T. Eaton Co. Limited department store, one of the most important retail businesses in Canada's history. He was born March 1834 in Clogher, near Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the 4th son of Scottish Presbyterian tenant farmers. When he was only two months old, his father died. He received his primary education from the local National School, followed by a brief period at an academy in Ballymena, from which he was removed in 1847 for reasons unknown. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to a family who owned a general store in the nearby town of Portglenone. His mother died a year later and he completed his apprenticeship in 1852. In 1854 he followed several of his siblings and emigrated to Canada at the age of 20, settling at Georgetown, in southern Ontario. In 1865, with the help of his brothers Robert and James, he established a bakery business in Kirkton, Ontario, which went out of business after only a few months. Undaunted, he opened a dry goods store in St. Marys, Ontario and in 1869 he purchased an existing dry-goods and haberdashery business in Toronto, Ontario. In promoting his new business, he embraced two retail practices that were ground-breaking at the time; first, all goods had one price (no haggling) with no credit given, and second, all purchases came with a money-back guarantee (a practice expressed in what would become the long-standing store slogan of "Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded"). In 1884 he introduced Canada to the mail-order catalog, reaching thousands of small towns and rural communities with an array of products previously unattainable. In these tiny communities, the arrival of Eaton's catalog was a major event. In addition to clothing, furniture, or the latest in kitchen gadgetry, the catalog offered such practical items from milking machines to just about every other contraption or new invention desirable. His retail empire would eventually expand coast to coast after his death, reaching its high point during World War II, when the T. Eaton Co. Limited employed more than 70,000 people. Although he did not invent the department store, nor was he the first retailer in the world to implement a money-back guarantee, the chain he founded popularized both concepts and revolutionized retailing in Canada. He died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of 72. In 1919 two life-sized statues of him were donated by the Eaton's employees to the Toronto and Winnipeg stores in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the company. For years, it was tradition for customers in both Toronto and Winnipeg to rub the toe of the statue for good luck. The Toronto statue is now housed by the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Winnipeg statue sits in the city's new arena, the MTS Centre, in almost exactly the same spot where it stood in the now demolished Eaton's store (albeit one story higher). Museum-goers in Toronto and hockey fans in Winnipeg continue the tradition of rubbing the statue's toe for luck.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 21 May 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5513
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Timothy Eaton (Mar 1834–31 Jan 1907), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5513, citing Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .