Tag Archives: eaton’s

Who Was Miss Jessie Alexander ? Poetry Slams of the 1800s

Who Was Miss Jessie Alexander ? Poetry Slams of the 1800s
Program for Miss Jessie Alexander’s Recital at the Opera House. October 25, 1892– St. Catherines,ON

What is an elocutionist? Remember how they make you recite things when you went to school? Remember public speaking? That was it– but with more flair and flamboyancy. People ate that up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They also had on some rural areas what one could call then ‘penny readings where amateurs could have a go of it. read-Trouble at The Penny Readings Lanark Count orThe Penny Readings of Lanark County

Timothy Eaton, (read-The Eaton’s Sewing Girls) the department store founder, was so tickled with elocutionist — Miss Jessie Alexander’s recitation of “Friday, Bargain Day” — a humorous piece about two women shoppers storming the bargain counters — that in 1896 he engaged Miss Alexander to recite her piece at a meeting of all his employees. Eaton’s also took it up once notch futhur and offered elocutionist classes.

But, for most professional elocutionists, earning a dollar meant a few nights each year before big-city audiences, and the rest of the time on the small rural town hall and Sunday-school-auditorium circuit. Jessie Alexander recalled in 1916, towards the close of her public career, that she had given recitations in prisons, universities, drawing rooms, hospitals, churches, military camps, mining and lumber camps, barns, school rooms, opera houses, town halls, hotel lobbies and porches, front and back.

It wasn’t an easy life. Miss Alexander toured the West, traveling as often in a caboose as in a coach. She had met William White, superintendent of the CPR western division, following a recital in Winnipeg. She mentioned that one passenger train a day each way across the prairies made it difficult to fill as many engagements as she would wish. White had been so captivated by her performance that he arranged for her to be allowed aboard the caboose of any freight at any time.

Once, while traveling by horse and rig from one Manitoba town to another, she decided to shorten the trip by cutting right across the fenceless prairie. She got lost and long after nightfall drove into a homesteader’s yard. The homesteader led the horse to a Presbyterian manse a couple of miles further on, where Miss Alexander spent the night.

She missed her engagement but when she appeared the following evening the schoolroom was packed. “We waited quite a spell for you last night, then went home,” a member of the missionary society sponsoring the concert told her.

“But we knew you’d show up sooner or later so everyone came back tonight.” It was at that concert that a burly Scot approached her at the conclusion and congratulated her thus:

“I liked your recitin’ fine, and ye’ll be a guid lookin’ wumman when ye fill oot.”

Another time when returning to her hotel from a recital where she had included “McGlashan’s Courtship” in her offerings, and a large, swaying figure loomed up on the board walk and whispered,

“Say, I’ll bet you ain’t no matchoor at the sparking business, eh?” He was closing the gap when sober and more chivalrous characters rescued her.

Even such stars as Jessie Alexander, Owen Smiley, Pauline Johnson, Clara Salisbury Baker or Walter McRaye seldom got paid more than a hundred dollars. Two or three hours of reciting with no prop other than a potted plant on a pedestal table was a greater drain on nervous energies than acting in a play, or in any group w’here each individual is supported by others of the company.

With files from

Historical Clippings

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
06 Oct 1899, Fri  •  Page 8
Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
06 May 1893, Sat  •  Page

The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
03 Jan 1917, Wed  •  Page 1
lanark county town hall

Jessie Alexander, of Toronto, one of Canada’s top elocutionists, was always sure of an encore when she gave:

I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again,

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches

And all our poor selfish grief,

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,

And never put on again.

She could also be sure of scoring with a Riley whimsy, such as:

What makes you come here fer, mister,

So much to our house — say.

Come to see big sister,

An Charlie says ‘at you kissed her,

And he ketched you, t’other day.

Jessie Alexander
NotesJessie Alexander co-authored a play, “The Fairy Poodle,” with Margaret Bell.
Birth date1873 and died 1955
BirthplaceToronto, ON

The Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
23 Nov 1907, Sat  •  Page 1

Weird and Thrilling Concert in Carleton Place? The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Tennessee University

Mrs Jarley and her Waxworks Hits Lanark– and they call me strange:)

Mrs. Jarley’s Wax Works -Creepy Entertainment

The Human Seal or Polar Bear Comes to Carleton Place and Almonte

Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Lose –The Great Peters

Killed by Lightening -or Death by Bear Devouring

Debunking a Postcard 1913 — Strange Ephemera

Bring in the Clowns–Really–Bring in the Clowns

Professor Vernon Hypnotist — Lanark County Favourite

The Day the Hypnotist Came to Carleton Place

Clippings and Comments about the Hydro Dam

The Penny Readings of Lanark County

“The Old Eaton’s Penny Bank” Comes to Carleton Place

“The Old Eaton’s Penny Bank” Comes to Carleton Place

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December 2 1949-Montreal Gazette

Janice Martin from Wisteria--When I was a girl, growing up in Montreal, Eaton’s had “The Penny Bank Shop” at Christmas time so children could go and shop for their family without them seeing what they bought. It was a small shop within the store just for children. I know it dates me, but I remember it vividly.

Back in the days before shopping malls flooded the land and when the Bay was still Morgan’s, “going to Eaton’s” meant taking a trip to downtown Montreal. Eaton’s was the Blue Cake counter, the Penny Bank shop, and most of all, Eaton’s was Santa.


It may be hard for anyone younger than 35 to understand what it was like when the arrival of the Eaton’s catalogue came to the door. The Christmas Wish Catalogue and the Santa Claus parade signalled the coming of Christmas for all of us. Every child that I knew understood there was only one real Santa – and that man of Christmas was at Eaton’s.

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My Mother brought me to the Santa Claus parade a few times, and all I can remember at this very moment was the cold, and then bright lights, and crowds inside Eaton’s as we all pushed our way to go meet Santa. I can still see the frosted over windows as we went up the escalator with my stomach churning from a cold drink that we had at the Honey Dew Restaurant.


December 2 1949-Montreal Gazette


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I think I remember Santa’s sidekick Punkinhead– but in my mind he was a strange creature. I never remember the Toyville Express train, which wound around the fourth floor as I can still see as clear as day my mother shaking her head when I “lost” the Honey Dew drink. The orange stain on my red velvet dress still rings prominently with me today.


This next Saturday, December 2nd,  Janice Martin will attempt to re-create the same idea at Wisteria. From 10-3, children between the ages of 5 and 12 will be able to purchase presents for their family members for $5 and $10 tax included. Their purchases will be wrapped for them also.

(613) 253-8097

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Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)




People of Lanark County– Sharon from The Christmas Hut

The Eaton’s Sewing Girls

Memories of Eaton’s

Memories of Woolworths and Chicken in a Van




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The Eaton’s Sewing Girls



Image from Eaton’s – Golden Jubilee (1869-1919) (T. Eaton Co Ltd, 1919).

 On April 30th of 1897 the Almonte Gazette had this small article on their front page:

Eight sewing girls in the mantle department of T. Eaton & Co’s, factory, went on strike because no more than 12 cents was allowed them for making a jacket. They said they could not live on that amount, and who will doubt them ? And yet there are women in Almonte and elsewhere who patronize such a system.

Strikes like this were common in the needle trades in the early twentieth century as men and women sought better wages and working conditions. But, despite some gains, the early labour movement had little sustained success in improving the lot of workers. In the garment industry, conditions remained as deplorable on the eve of the Second World War as when a young and social-minded William Lyon Mackenzie King first investigated sweatshops in 1897.

It wasn’t until ten o’clock in the morning on February 25, 1931, more than five hundred women of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) put down their work, halted their machines, and walked out of garment shops across Toronto.
All my life I will never forget this strike. It was so terrible that the police protected the shops, and they treated the workers like garbage. It was so horrible. I tell you, I remember how they came so close by with the horses. The picketers they treated terrible. They protected the strikebreakers. So you know even [if] you didn’t believe in unions … you believed in unions when you saw what was [happening].



Image from Eaton’s – Golden Jubilee (1869-1919) (T. Eaton Co Ltd., 1919).

The citizens of Toronto interpreted the workers’ wage demands as greedy in the midst of the Depression. After two-and-a-half months, the strike ultimately ended in failure, abandoned at a mass rally attended by a thousand supporters on May 5.

Wages were low and employees were not even allowed to speak to each other while working. Starch filled the air, one worker reporter, making your “throat sore and your nose stuffed up and you felt a wreck.” But if a window was opened, there were serious cold drafts.

Worse than the physical conditions were the “brutal task-masters” who swore at—or sexually harassed—the women, and discriminated in the distribution of piece-work to reward their favourites, or those who did them favours, with additional pay. Slower workers, or those who showed up even five minutes late, might be sent home without pay for indefinite periods. The supervisors used stop-watches and implemented speed-ups when orders increased.

“I would go home nights and I would be so tired I could not eat my supper,” said one woman describing the impact of the speed-ups. “And I would be so tired and stiff going home on the streetcar, I would just dread getting a seat, because if I sat down, I could not get up again, my knees and my legs would be so stiff.”

Files from the Historicist: Sewing the Seeds of Discontent




In 1884 the Eaton’s catalogue had 32 pages. Twelve years later it had grown to 400 pages.

The Eaton’s catalogue was such a valued part of Canadian life that it had a number of nicknames including the “Homesteaders Bible,” the “Family Bible” and the “Wish Book.”

The Eaton’s catalogue seemed to offer all things to Canadians. In the late 1800s an expectant mother could even order supplies for giving birth at home. In the early 1900s the


Eaton’s catalogue offered prefabricated barns and schoolhouses along with various sizes of prefabricated houses

The Eaton’s Christmas catalogue was first published in 1897. The store’s French catalogue first appeared in 1928.

Canadians found practical uses for old Eaton’s catalogues. They were used as shin pads in hockey games; boiled down for their dye to colour Easter eggs; used as readers in classrooms; and rolled up tight and put near the stove to be used as foot warmers in bed.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


Related reading:

Did you Know About the The Venus Family Sewing Machine?

Gypsies Tramps and Thieves

A Story of Sewing Past

Were You the King of King’s Castle in Carleton Place? Linda’s Mailbag

How to Make a Vintage Apron- Aitkenhead Photo Collection

Singer Sewing Machines and Scandals

One Village? One Sewing Needle!

I Found My Childhood in the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue

Memories of Eaton’s

Remember the Regal Catalogue?



When I was setting up the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue room display at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum I was asking Jennifer Fenwick Irwin if she remembered the Regal Catalogue. I can remember my Grandmother and neighbours buying boxes of cards and gift wrap. It seemed every card you got on a special occasion was from the Regal catalogue.

I had no idea Regal was still around until I walked in to the The Artisan Loft & General Store in Smiths Falls today. Owner Cheryl told me there are only 3 people still in the area that sell Regal. According to their site Regal has been around since 1928. William McCartney decided he wanted to manufacture his own greeting cards and with the support of a woman who would later become his wife the card and gift wrapping business began.



In the 40s the Canadian school system got involved using Regal as a source for fundraisers and that is probably the first place I saw a Regal Catalogue in the 50s. I remember the smelly erasers and especially the 100 pairs of earrings. Then there were those gadgets- and they seemed to be made exclusively for them as you couldn’t find them anywhere else except the Regal Catalogue.


The Regal warehouse is not located in every major town like it used to be. Their main warehouse is now in Barrie, Ontario, but Regal lives on. Its nice to see tradition and nostalgia still lives on in that little catalogue. Every season has a memory just like the Regal catalogue. The fact that it is still around means I don’t have to trade my tomorrow for a single yesterday.

If you are driving through Smiths Falls stop in and say Hi to Cheryl at her store. Those Regal catalogues are right by the cash register. Who knew? Don’t forget the Museum open house this Saturday and bring the kids.
The Artisan Loft & General Store
7 Russell St W, (Davidson Business Courtyard)
Smiths Falls, Ontario.

Do You Remember Winter in Carleton Place?





Diane in the back of St. Andrew’s Church 


The Carleton Place Police used to routinely warn kids about playing on the Carleton Place town snow banks. In January 29,1947 the Carleton Place Canadian reported that David Moulton suffered a fractured bone in his left ankle while skiing on Lancaster Hill. (behind the dog park) He was taken to the Rosamond Memorial Hospital in Almonte for treatment and returned home Tuesday night.




Catherine and Wayne Robertson

“We had to walk to school as there were few cars and no buses. We had some bad snow storms- sometimes the roads would be blocked for three or fours days before some of the country folk could get out. Lloyd Hughes, Carleton Place


stoddard hill




Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  25 Feb 1974, Mon,  FIRST EDITION,  Page 5


I Found My Childhood in the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue




Come see the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum’s new Winter Display beginning December 8th  called “Forever Young” with an entire room dedicated to an Eaton’s Catalogue Christmas.


How about a pit stop during the Carleton Place House Tour? The Ginger Cafe will be open and also the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum– Get to see the new exhibit at the Museum before anyone else! ONLY FOR TICKET HOLDERS DECEMBER 5 TH AND 6TH!

The first Eaton’s catalogue was distributed in the fall of 1884 at the annual Industrial Exhibition, precursor to the Canadian National Exhibition. At first orders were filled by mail-order “shoppers” who lined up to be served with other customers at Eaton’s ever-expanding Yonge Street store.


Records of the mail-order department, held at the Archives of Ontario, reveal the rise and fall of the mail-order industry in Canada. The Eaton’s catalogue was mailed into the hearts, the memory and even the literature of Canadians. In Roch Carrier’s “The Hockey Sweater”, the despised Toronto Maple Leaf’s sweater was ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue.


In Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne’s House of Dreams” Anne and Mrs. Rachel argued over the propriety of the Eaton’s catalogue. Catalogues were later printed in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton, and each catered to the special needs of its region.

Catalogue pages were used as readers in many classrooms….. and eventually, the catalogue also found its way into many outhouses. Francophone shoppers were first encouraged to write their orders in French in 1902; a French catalogue first appeared in 1928.


The last Eaton’s catalogue was issued for Spring-Summer 1976.

The Archives of Ontario holds the most complete set of Eaton’s catalogues, including Christmas catalogues and Specialty Catlogues.– Archives of Ontario


Come see the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum’s new Winter Display beginning December 12th  called “Forever Young” with an entire room dedicated to an Eaton’s Catalogue Christmas.

The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum is all decked out for Christmas! We’ve dressed our mannequins in vintage furs made right here in Carleton Place at McFadden’s Furs. We’ve cozied up our exhibit room with warm wool blankets woven locally at the Bates and Innes and the McDonald Woolen Mills. The scent of fresh baking is in the air by the Findlay Oval!

Plan to visit the Museum during our Christmas House on December 12th for hot apple cider and some home baked Christmas cookies. Join in carol singing with members of the Town Singers and then tour our winter exhibition “Forever Young – Staying Warm in a Carleton Place Winter”. Learn about how local kids stayed warm in winter… this exhibit opens December 12 and runs through March 28th 2016.

We are located at 267 Edmund Street at the corner of George Street. Our heritage designated building was built in 1872 as the original Town Hall, and was used as Victoria School until 1968. We are wheelchair accessible at the rear, and have public washroom facilities..




Memories of Eaton’s



One of my top ten childhood memories is the late great Eaton’s Department store in Montreal, Quebec. It didn’t matter what province you lived in–everyone made a trip to some Eaton’s, no matter where they lived- or they got the Eaton’s catalogue. Every few months my Grandmother and I would make the one hour bus trip to the city for wig maintenance. A local hairdresser had burned off a lot of Grammy’s hair with a bad perm when she was still in her twenties. As she aged, her hair thinned out badly and became nonexistent, so she needed ‘Eva Gabor’ to help her out. After an hour of me giggling in the Eaton’s wig dept. we would finally go off to lunch in their cafeteria.


I would sit in hungry anticipation, with my feet dangling off one of their red stools at the lunch counter. The waitresses all seemed to be painfully thin, and looked the worse for wear. Some of them tapped their pencil on the order book impatiently, while you looked through their vast menu to order. The menu was never a challenge for me, as I ordered the same thing. It was always the traditional turkey dinner, with one scoop of potatoes, dressing, and gravy. Of course the mandatory canned green beans were always lying lifeless next to the runny cranberry sauce.

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Sometimes the waitress would whisper to us that it really wasn’t turkey. She admitted that when they ran out, they subbed chicken, but frankly, I could never tell the difference. Then for dessert we would always order layer cake. Eaton’s was THE place where we bought our winter coats every few years. We would ooh and ahh over the expensive ones on the second floor but would finally make our purchase in the basement where there were bargains. After all- there is nothing like a bargain and there was nothing like Eaton’s!


Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac and 5 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada.