Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

Canadian Mail Order Catalogues

Search Help

What is Canadian Mail Order Catalogues?

Canadian Mail Order Catalogues is a database that includes catalogues from a number of different stores, both English and French, from the 1880s to the 1970s.

How does searching work?

There are four ways to search the Canadian Mail Order Catalogues database: simple keyword searching, advanced searching, searching within a catalogue, and browsing.

Simple keyword searching

Simple keyword searching is available everywhere on this website. Type your keyword(s) in the search box and click "Go".

Simple keyword searching searches the indexes of all the catalogues in the database. When you enter more than one keyword, the database will automatically enter the Boolean operator "and" between your terms.

Advanced searching

Advanced searching allows you to refine your search by combining search terms with the Boolean operators "and", "or" and "not".

In addition, you can limit your search to a particular catalogue by selecting a catalogue from the drop-down list provided.

"and" narrows your search. Use the "and" operator between your keywords to find only those items that have all of your search terms. For example:

  1. In the first box, search for the term "dress"

  2. Click beside "and" and enter the term "children" in the second box

This search will return catalogue listings that include the terms "dress" and "children", such as "children's dresses".

"or" expands your search. Use the "or" operator between your keywords to find items with any of the keywords entered. For example:

  1. In the first box, search for the term "blouse"

  2. Click beside "or" and enter the term "skirt" in the second box

This search will return catalogue listings for "blouse" or "skirt".

"not" narrows your search. Use the "not" operator between keywords to find all items containing your first search term, but excluding a second or third term. For example:

  1. In the first box, search for the term "blanket"

  2. Click beside "not" and enter the term "baby" in the second box

This search will return catalogue listings for blankets, but not for baby blankets.

Note: When using Boolean operators to combine three terms, the search logic puts parentheses around the first two terms. For example, to search for both crib blankets and baby blankets:

1. In the first box, search for the term "crib"
2. Click beside "or" and enter the term "baby" in the second box
3. Click beside "and" and enter the term "blanket" in the third box

The database will read this search as "(crib or baby) and blanket". This search will return listings for crib blankets and baby blankets.

Searching within a catalogue

Once you are on a catalogue page display, you can do a search within that particular catalogue. For details see Catalogue page display.

Browsing

To browse through the catalogues in the database, select "Browse Index", "Browse by Date" or "Browse by Company".

"Browse Index" provides a single index that combines the indexes from all the catalogues in the database. You can browse this index by letter or you can enter a term to view index entries beginning with or containing the term. Selecting an index entry will generate a results list of catalogues with matching entries. From the results list, simply select a page number to view the catalogue page.

Note: The entries in the results list may not exactly match the index entry that you selected. The database will search for all index entries containing the same terms as the selected entry. For example, selecting "Shoes - boys" will also retrieve "Tennis shoes - boy's" and "Boy's running shoes".

"Browse by Date" provides a list of catalogues organized by date from the 1800s to the 1970s. Selecting a catalogue will bring you to the page display screen for the catalogue cover.

"Browse by Company" provides a list of catalogues for each of the companies represented in the database. Selecting a catalogue will bring you to the page display screen for the catalogue cover.

Once you are on a page display screen, you can move through the catalogue using the navigation arrows on the left hand side, or do a search within the catalogue by typing a search term in the "Search this catalogue" box.

Results

The results screen provides a list of catalogues with index entries that match your search or browse term(s). The results list is sorted randomly. Each listing includes a catalogue title, with the index entry that begins with or contains your search term, and the page number or numbers on which the item appears. Simply select a page number to view a catalogue page from the results list.

Catalogue page display

Selecting a catalogue page from the results list will take you to the page display. The page display shows the full catalogue page, surrounded by a frame. From the page display, you can navigate or search within the catalogue. In addition, you may download free software called MrSID, which will allow you to manipulate the page image for better viewing (zoom in, zoom out, turn page). If you choose not to download the MrSID plug-in, you will still be able to use a limited version of the MrSID functionality.

On the left hand side of the page there are navigation arrows that allow you to move backwards or forwards through the catalogue, and links to take you directly to the cover page or index. A keyword search box, "Search this catalogue", also appears on the left hand side of the page. Type your keyword(s) into this box to search this particular catalogue.