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Mail Order Steinway

Dear Piano Lady — My mother, who hails from Winnipeg, said her parents ordered their Steinway piano through the Eaton’s Catalogue in 1948.  Do you think this was possible?  Skeptical in Baden


Dear Skeptical:


In 1948 Winnipeg there were few, if any, piano dealerships around the city.  So, like many Canadians, what did one use when you wanted to purchase something -- anything -- the trusty Eaton's catalogue.


I remember the excitement that ensued in our household when the catalogue arrived, especially the one preceding the Christmas season. Many hours were spent perusing the pages of the catalogue whether looking for pretty dresses to wear to church or birthday parties, toys that may show up under the Christmas tree, major and minor appliances for the home, and my personal favourite -- the women's lingerie section. The various drawings of brassieres and girdles and the all contraptions that women used to have to squeeze themselves into were a huge fascination to me.  The girdles were made of latex and often came in pale pink or pale green, with little holes punched in the front and back so that the girdles could "breathe". I am so glad that growing up in the sixties that I avoided all of those bizarre undergarments. By the time I was old enough to wear a bra, all the feminists were burning theirs.


Many families had an Eaton's Charge Account.  After having done some research, I discovered that you could, in fact, order a Steinway piano through Eaton’s and it was shipped from a warehouse in Toronto.  The price listed in the catalogue in 1948 was $2,500.00.


I have an Eaton's catalogue from 1958 and sadly the only piano one could order from the catalogue in 1958 was "The Kreisler Piano" -- a spinet sized piano made by "Canada's largest piano manufacturer". This piano could be purchased for $589.00 cash or $10.00 down; 23 monthly payments of $28.00 and a final payment of $25.00. The matching bench could be had for $23.50. This information, to my mind, makes the purchase of Steinway for $2,500.00 all the more extraordinary.


In 1948 a loaf of bread cost 14 cents and a gallon of milk was 86 cents. In 1958 a loaf of bread cost 19 cents and a gallon of milk cost $1.01. In 2020 a loaf of bread costs around $3.00, a gallon of milk about $3.80 and a Steinway piano costs around $40,000.


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