In 1869, when Timothy Eaton opened his small dry goods store on Yonge Street in Toronto, the term 'department store' was unknown in North America and in Europe. By the 1890s the phrase had entered the language. In Canada, the single biggest factor in that change was Eaton himself, an Irish immigrant with little formula education. Twenty years after it opened, his Toronto store was unquestionably the largest and most successful department store in Canada.
Joy Santink offers a biography of Timothy Eaton which is at the same time a history of the first forty years of the Eaton store in Toronto and an account of the revolutionary changes in the way goods were sold during this period. There were enormous improvements in transportation, communication, and the mass production of goods. Urbanization grew at a tremendous rate; so did the population. This revolution imposed new demands on the retail industry, demands that many merchants at both the wholesale and retail levels chose to ignore.
Timothy Eaton did not make that mistake. He used competitive and sometimes hostile markets as tools, rather than obstacles, in his search for sales.
Drawing on extensive material hitherto unexplored, Santink reveals the full extent to which Eaton succeeded. In the process she explodes of a number of long-held myths about the man and the business empire that became a Canadian institution.
'This is an important contribution to Canadian business history. Joy Santink strips away the myths to reveal the real Timothy Eaton -- a crust, though business genius -- and trace that the complex origin of a great Canadian retailing institution.'