“Time Travel” Research Tools: Discover Canadian Mail Order Catalogues

Reference specialists at Library and Archives Canada often wish they had a time machine where they could just dial in a year and away they would go!  While this is just fanciful thinking, Library and Archives Canada’s online collection of Canadian Mail Order Catalogues is a “time travel” research tool. This site provides an opportunity to discover English and French mail order catalogues, from a number of different stores, from the 1880s to the 1970s.

These department store catalogues provide a detailed record of many aspects of everyday life over the last century.  They contain everything from household furnishings and furniture, to all manner of clothing and accessories, kitchenware, patent medicines, toys, tools, and sporting equipment.

These catalogues can be used to identify and date collectables and memorabilia; to price household items from a certain time period; to establish the approximate dates of photographs by studying fashion trends; or to research props, sets and costumes for theatre and film. The possibilities are endless.

Whether you browse the catalogues for research purposes or just for fun, we hope that you will enjoy the trip back in time.

Tip

You can navigate each catalogue page by page or search all the catalogues by keyword.  For example, the results of a search for the keyword “hockey” will include a wonderful image of hockey sweaters from the Eaton Automne et hiver 1950–1951 catalogue.

Tidbit

To convert catalogue prices into today’s dollars, the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator [www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/] is a handy tool.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

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