The Toys of Our Childhood: Toys From the Late 1800s - Page Banner

During the 19th century the sale of toys was not a common occurrence. Toys were generally available as seasonal items and display and sales at the local hardware store were found only at Christmas.

Toys became more popularised towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century as cities expanded and the number of stores increased.

When we began our search for images of toys for this exhibit, it was natural to turn to the Records of the T. Eaton Company.

Eatons department store has been closely linked to Christmas for several generations of Ontarians and many people vividly remember the Eaton's Santa Claus parade, the elaborate displays in Eaton's Toyland and the annual Christmas catalogue. Those catalogues have provided many of the images included here.

The earliest edition we consulted was the version from 1897. It was fascinating to see not only how toys have changed over the years but also how, in many ways, they have remained the same.

We've also included the text of actual letters written by children to Santa Claus during the 1950s and 1960s.

Cover of 1897  Eaton's catalogue


Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario





"Dear Santa:

I am a little boy, three years old and I would like you to bring me the following things for Christmas, a grader, a shovel, a rocking horse and a pair of skates.

Hoping I am not asking for too much, and that I will hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely
Michael"

Letters to Santa Claus, 1957
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-162-0-569
Archives of Ontario

Christmas Catalogue, 1897 : rocking horse


Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario





Christmas Catalogue, 1897 : sleighs and sleds

Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario

Christmas Catalogue, 1897 : toy dishes

Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario





Christmas Catalogue, 1897 : tricycle

Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario

Christmas Catalogue, 1897: trumpets and tin trains


Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario





Christmas Catalogue, 1897: dolls

Christmas Catalogue, 1897
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-231-0-1
Archives of Ontario

"Dear Santa Claus:

I am sending my order early this year.

Please bring me a high heel doll, a real baking set, and high heels for myself, so that I can play house.

Trusting you have had your polio needle, as I have had mine.

Sincerely
Barbara "

Letters to Santa Claus, 1957
T. Eaton Company Records
Reference Code: F 229-162-0-569
Archives of Ontario