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Timothy Eaton was born in 1834 on a farm near Ballymena in Northern Ireland. Timothy's family was quite well off. They lived in one of the few houses that had two stories in their area. Timothy had three brothers and three sisters. His father, John Eaton, died two months before Timothy was born. His mother was an independent and self-reliant woman and she kept the farm running even after her husband's death. For the first years of his life Timothy enjoyed the advantages of living on a prosperous farm.

In 1846 the potato famine struck Ireland. Realizing that the food now grown on the farm would not be enough to support more than one family, Timothy's brothers and sisters traveled into Canada to start a new life. Robert, Timothy's eldest brother went first, then his third oldest brother, James, left. When they had settled into Canada, the three other sisters joined them. Timothy had to stay in Ireland with his mother until he had finished school. When he had reached his early teens, Timothy switched to the Academy in nearby Ballymena. After a year of schooling in the Academy, Timothy knew that what he was learning was of no interest to him. His older brother James suggested that he acquire a trade and then immigrate to Canada to make a large profit. This idea excited Timothy and he decided to be an apprentice in a store.

Timothy was apprenticed to a man named Mr. Smith who owned a small store, which sold the basic necessities. Mr. Smith was a tough man and he never paid much attention to the boy let alone say thank you for the jobs he had done. Despite this, Timothy learned a great deal from his apprenticeship with Mr. Smith. Later on he also invented a few things that would help him while he was working. After being fed up with hauling heavy boxes up an unsteady ladder, Timothy built a pulley sort of device which allowed him with little effort to lift the heavy boxes to the top of the warehouse. He also constructed a gaslight made from coal. This helped him to see at nighttime because the warehouse had hardly any lights.

Timothy worked seven hard years as Mr. Smith's apprentice. When Timothy left Mr. Smith he had a lot of experience and one hundred pounds. Timothy had no doubt as to what he was going to do next. As his brothers and sisters had, Timothy traveled to Canada in 1854, for a bright new future.



In 1856 Timothy had moved into Kirkton, Ontario. There, he set up a general store with his brother James and his sister Sarah. The small store was connected to the post office and Timothy hoped that when people came to collect their mail, they would shop at their store as well. The little store made a good amount of money but in 1860 Timothy had moved his store to St. Mary's and set up shop with his two brothers, Robert and James.

One day in church Timothy caught sight of a new member. She was a lovely young woman and Timothy strived very hard to meet her. He introduced himself to her at a church picnic and learned that her name was Margaret Beattie. They married a year later. Timothy was now twenty-eight and Margaret was twenty-one. Margaret trimmed fashionable hats for Timothy to sell in his store. The hats were a huge success and they made a fair amount of money off them.

In 1869 Timothy and his wife moved to Toronto with new hopes and ideas. They set up a store on 178 Yonge St. in Toronto. It was here that Timothy introduced Canadians to cash sales and one fixed price. In his first advertisement quoted on the bottom is "We propose to sell our goods for cash only" and "In selling goods, to have only one price." Another innovation that Timothy carried out was "Money refunded if Goods are not satisfactory." This shocked both consumers and Eaton's competitors.

The first Eaton's Catalogue was introduced to Canadians in 1884. The catalogue was later nicknamed 'The Farmers Bible' because it allowed Canadians, especially those in pioneer farming communities, to have easier access to a variety of merchandise. As more and more catalogues continued to come out, the popularity of shopping by mail increased. The catalogue was very different than the catalogues that you see today. The cover simply displayed a black and white picture of the Eaton's store on Yonge Street. The catalogue had 32 pages and there were no pictures or long descriptions of what the item was. There was simply a name for the item and the price. The main reason that the Eaton's catalogue was such a success is probably because his offers were just too good to miss. The Eaton's promise, "Satisfaction guaranteed or money refunded" has remained unbroken.


Timothy Eaton was a kind and generous man. He had a sense of responsibility towards his employees. When he spotted one of his clerks trying to accomplish his job sitting down, Timothy asked why. When the clerk answered that he had just undergone surgery, Timothy gave him an extended leave of absence. Also in those times the normal working hours were very long. Timothy arranged that instead of being let off work at 7:00 p.m., they would be dismissed at 6:00 p.m. And on Saturdays, in July and August employees were dismissed at 2:00 p.m.

Timothy Eaton had two lovely homes. The first was located in Toronto. It was a beautiful and quite spacious house but as the years went by, Timothy could feel his attachment to his other home in Muskoka was much stronger. He loved the wonderful scenery of the countryside and the home provided a place of peace and quiet away from the worries and cares of his business.

Timothy enjoyed horseback riding but unfortunately during one of his rides, he was thrown off his horse and he fractured his hip. In January of 1907 Timothy died of pneumonia. Because he was a continuous churchgoer and he helped to build and donated generously to the Trinity Methodist Church, his family built the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. The church was opened in 1913. The church now reminds passergoers of Timothy Eaton and how he contributed to Canada. And of course, we all know that the spirit of Timothy Eaton will live on with his store forever.

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Timothy Eaton Biography
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