Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Eaton Family Hanging Out in 1931

I stumbled across this photo today while I was searching through the Toronto Archives online. The image caught my eye, so I checked the caption and did a little Googling. Turns out this is the Eaton family hanging out in 1931. They, of course, are the wealthy relatives of Canada's most famous department store baron, Timothy Eaton, who first founded the family business on Yonge Street back in 1869. The CBC calls them "Canadian royalty."

When Timothy died of pneumonia in the very early 1900s, the department store empire was passed down to his son, Sir John. But Sir John also died of pneumonia, just 15 years later, leaving the business in the hands of his cousin (Timothy Eaton's nephew), Robert Young Eaton. He had come to Toronto from Northern Ireland as a young man to work in his uncle's store. And they say he was very successful in his time at the helm, expanding the Eaton's empire until it was ten times as big as when he took over. (Sir John's widow never liked him much, though: she'd apparently always refer to R.Y.'s branch of the family as the "owner Eatons" and her husband's as the "worker Eatons".) He would serve as the President of the AGO for a while, too. That's his daughter, Margaret, on the left-hand side of this photo. And his wife, Hazel, beside her.

The young fellow without a hat, that's Erskine Eaton. He's Robert Young Eaton's son. He was just 16 or 17 when this photo was taken, but he was already making a name for himself. In this very year, he joined the Governor General's bodyguards. And he was a famous horseman, too, representing the Canadian army in horse shows around the world. He even dated a famous movie star, Toby Wing, who also had flings with Maurice Chevalier, Jackie Coogan and Franklin Roosevelt Jr.

But war loomed. A decade after this photo was taken, Erskine Eaton was on the front lines of the Second World War, storming the beaches of France. He died on one of the most infamous days in Canadian history: August 19th, 1942. He was one of more than 900 Canadian soldiers killed in the raid on Dieppe.


Robert Young Eaton's house in Rosedale went on the market a couple of years ago. The Globe had an article about it here. The Toronto Then and Now blog has a bit of Eaton's family history here. The Montreal Gazette reports on Erskine Eaton's death at Dieppe here. Wikipedia's got a plenty of info about Dieppe here. And a page about Toby Wing here.

1 comment:

  1. A yes, Eaton's. Home of the over worked and underpaid employee.

    When I worked at the downtown Eaton's store in Winnipeg in the mid 1990s, there was a manager who had a Michael Bolton mullet.

    Who was this guy and what were his day to day duties. It seems to me that there were too many managers who walked around with clip boards.