This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre where the Winnipeg Jets play hockey. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now. When my family was shopping at Eatons, we would often rendezvous at Mr. Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999. Later the statue was officially deemed a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre.
Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr. Eaton also had a nation wide mail order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.
This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I. Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas. Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. The company had lucrative government contracts as a result of the war but donated those profits to the war effort.
Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat skeptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.
The 3,500 pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department. A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.
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