The Start of the Eaton Beauty Doll

Over its 100-year history, the Eaton Beauty Dolls have been treasured by children and collectors alike. The dolls changed each year. Details enable owners to trace the evolution of the dolls within the context of events in 20th-century Canada and to identify them in their own collections.

By 1887, Eaton's catalogue was reaching Canadians from coast to coast. According to William Stephenson in The Store that Timothy Built: "By 1887, barely three years after the start, he could boast it was already a nation-wide enterprise, rivaling his massive store as a money maker." By the end of the 19th century, great improvements in parcel post as well as Eaton's postage-paid policy on orders over $5.00 made ordering from the new catalogues easy.

Some of the early catalogues featured inexpensive chinahead dolls with cloth bodies. The china heads were also available separately; bodies could be made for them at home. Imported dolls that had not been seen previously were sold through the catalogues. Bisque heads were made of unglazed china. "Composition" bodies were made from a paste of fine sawdust, cornstarch, glue, and possibly some other ingredient. Companies had their own formulae.

In the 1890s, dolls with bisque heads and leather bodies became available. Clothing was homemade for the mostly undressed dolls. At the time, girls had few activities available to them and doll costuming allowed them to use their artistic talents and creativity. Young girls practiced their sewing skills by making doll clothes and made elaborate wardrobes. Sometimes they had small trunks in which to store their wardrobes. Girls often played with their dolls until they were 14 or 15 years of age.

In 1900, Eaton's catalogue introduced the first Eaton Beauty doll. The advertisement read: "Eaton Beauty, all jointed, special $1.00; large sizes from $1.50 to $10.00 each." The smallest dolls (20 inches [50.8 cm] tall) were a dollar, a price that was maintained until 1916. For the first five or six years, the bisque heads were shoulderheads (the head and shoulder plate were all one piece) with sleep eyes and curly mohair wigs. The shoulderheads were often made by Armand Marseille in Germany, model 370. The bodies were made of kid leather and were jointed at the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders.
by Evelyn Robson Strahlendorf

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans