Happy Boxing Day … a day for shopping or giving. Eaton’s department store embodied both during WW1. The Eaton family and company contributed to the war effort in many ways: it delivered on military contracts at cost and John Eaton gave $100,000 to outfit a mobile unit known as the Eaton’s Machine Gun Battery, to name two examples. The company also paid the wages of its employees who enlisted … full pay for married men, half pay for single men. Over 3000 employees enlisted, of whom 315 died. Each enlisting employee’s photo was displayed in the store.
On 15 November 1923, a bronze plaque was dedicated at Eaton’s flagship store in Toronto, “in lasting remembrance of three hundred and fifteen men who, with many of their associates of the T Eaton Company bravely faced peril and hardship in the Great War and who, finally, laid down their lives in the cause of liberty, justice and humanity. 1914 – 1918.” The 10 by 7.5 foot plaque is topped by a banner with “their name liveth forevermore”, from which maple leaves cascade. A female symbolizing Canada holds a wreath over the names.
The plaque was made by Ivor E Lewis and Edward Watson, members of the Eaton’s staff. Copies were displayed in the Winnipeg and Montreal stores. Eaton’s went out of business in 1999. The Toronto plaques were donated to the Canadian War Museum, where they are now displayed.
The Archives of Ontario has an online exhibit about Eaton’s contributions to the war, including the soldiers’ photos. The company’s official account is in Golden Jubilee, 1869-1919, a book to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary.