SEATTLE — Specialty retailer Eddie Bauer, The Original Outdoor Outfitter®, is turning 90. When Mr. Bauer first opened for business in 1920, his “Eddie Bauer’s Tennis Shop” was renting space in a gun shop in downtown Seattle. Within a year he had his own storefront and became renowned as an outfitter and innovator. While he built his business serving hunters and fishermen of the Pacific Northwest, he went on to become America’s premier expedition outfitter during the golden age of Himalayan mountaineering.
Today, Eddie Bauer has approximately 364 stores in the United States and Canada, catalog and online businesses. The company offers premium-quality clothing, accessories and gear for men and women that complement today’s modern outdoor lifestyle. In October 2009, the company launched its First Ascent brand of guide-built gear, signaling a return to the company’s mountaineering roots as an expedition outfitter.
“For the past 90 years, the Eddie Bauer name has meant a lot of things to a lot of people across North America,” said Neil Fiske, President and CEO of Eddie Bauer. “This year, we are happy to celebrate the rich history of the company and the man who not only brought quality, outdoors apparel and gear into people’s homes and closets, but also outfitted some of the world’s greatest adventurers.”
Eddie Bauer, himself, dropped out of school at 14 to go to work. But his lack of formal education didn’t prevent him from producing an impressive string of “firsts” that established his reputation and built his company into an American icon:
First Guarantee In 1922, Eddie put his “100% unconditional lifetime guarantee” into writing. This promise was virtually unheard in the day and became the cornerstone of the Eddie Bauer standard of excellence. Long after he retired, Eddie called his guarantee the greatest of his contributions.
First Labrador Retriever In 1930, Eddie brought the first black Labrador retriever into Washington State. An expert hunter, he became a passionate advocate for the breed. In 1960, he formed Wanapum Kennels to raise champion field trial Labs. In 1974, he was named Retriever Breeder of the Year.
First American Shuttlecocks In 1933, Eddie developed a new badminton shuttlecock and formed Bauer’s Shuttles, Inc., “America’s Oldest Established Shuttlecock Manufacturing Firm.” His first two patents were for his shuttlecock.
First Down Jacket In 1935, after suffering life-threatening hypothermia on a winter fishing trip, Eddie built a prototype down jacket, the “Blizzard Proof.” A year later, he introduced the “Skyliner,” which became the first down jacket patented in America (D119122; 1940).
First Down Flight Suit In 1942, Eddie was asked by the U.S. Army Air Forces to design a “cold weather buoyancy flight suit.” The two main criteria were that it had to keep a flier warm while sitting still for up to three hours in -70°F; and in case the plane was shot down over water, it had to keep a flier with 25 pounds of gear afloat for up to 24 hours. Eddie’s down-insulated B-9 Parka and A-8 Flight Pants passed every test, and saved many lives.
First Mountaineering Parka In 1953, Eddie built his first mountaineering parka, the “Kara Koram,” for the American team attempting the first ascent of K2 in Pakistan. For 30 years, the Kara Koram became the standard of excellence for American climbers.
First Ascent of Gasherbrum I In 1958, Eddie outfitted the American team that made the first ascent of Gasherbrum I in Pakistan. It’s the only one of the world’s fourteen 8000-meter peaks first summited by an American team. For the first time, Eddie built the 1958 parkas using ripstop nylon as the shell fabric. It substantially reduced the weight while retaining significant durability.
First Ascent of Masherbrum In 1960, Eddie outfitted the American team that made the first ascent of Masherbrum in Pakistan.
First American Ascent of Everest In 1963, Eddie outfitted the American Mt. Everest Expedition with down parkas and sweaters, climbing pants, mittens and sleeping bags. On May 1, Jim Whittaker became the first American to reach the summit. On May 22, Barry Bishop, Lute Jerstand, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein also topped out. Unsoeld and Hornbein did it via the previously unclimbed West Ridge.
First Ascent of Mt. Kennedy In 1965, Eddie outfitted the expedition that made the first ascent of Mt. Kennedy in Canada’s Yukon. At that time, it was the highest unclimbed peak in North America. The first man to the top was Senator Robert F. Kennedy, brother of slain American President John F. Kennedy, for whom the mountain was named.
First Ascent of Mt. Vinson In 1966, Eddie outfitted the American Antarctica Mountaineering Expedition. They made first ascents of six peaks in the Sentinel Range, including Mt. Vinson, highest peak on the continent.
First American Ascent of Dhaulagiri In 1973, Eddie Bauer outfitted the American team that first summited the world’s seventh highest peak. The summiteers climbed without bottled oxygen.
First American Ascent of Peak Lenin In 1974, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first American team invited to climb in the Soviet Pamirs. Led by Pete Schoening, the expedition summited Peak Lenin and Peak XIX.
First Ascent of Nanda Devi North Ridge In 1976, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first team to summit Nanda Devi in India via the North Ridge.
First Ascent of Great Trango Tower In 1977, Eddie Bauer outfitted John Roskelley when he was part of the 5-man team to make the first ascent of Great Trango Tower in Pakistan.
First American Ascent of Makalu In 1980, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first American team to summit the world’s fifth highest peak. They climbed without supplemental oxygen or Sherpa support.
First Ascent of Everest East Face In 1983, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first team to summit the East Face of Mt. Everest. No one has successfully done so since.
First Ascent Gear In 2009, in collaboration with a dream team of world-class mountain guides, Eddie Bauer launched its new line of mountaineering gear, First Ascent, from the top of Mt. Everest. The First Ascent guides developed the line from the ground up, leading the design process, then testing the gear under some of the harshest mountain conditions throughout the world. Nothing goes to market without their consent. The team is led by Peter Whittaker, son of acclaimed mountaineer Lou Whittaker and nephew of Jim Whittaker, who wore Eddie Bauer gear on his historic first American ascent of Everest. Also part of the team is Ed Viesturs, the first American to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks without bottled oxygen; Dave Hahn, who has summited Everest 11 times, more than any non-Sherpa; and three accomplished guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), the largest mountain guide service in the U.S.: Melissa Arnot, Seth Waterfall, and Chad Peele. Lou and Jim Whittaker have acted as advisers to the team.
In 2010, Eddie Bauer will be celebrating its landmark 90th anniversary with a special one-day event on February 27, and with product launches and other events throughout the year, including the launch of its First Ascent ski collection this fall. As with its First Ascent mountaineering line, Eddie Bauer is working with backcountry guides to build and test ski gear and apparel in some of the alpine’s toughest conditions. Check out the BornOutThere blog at http://blog.firstascent.com/ to follow ski guides and brothers, Reggie and Zach Crist, and extreme skier, Lynsey Dyer, as they travel the country in search of conditions to put the gear to the test.
To learn more, visit the interactive, multimedia timeline at www.eddiebauer.com/heritage.
About Eddie Bauer
Established in 1920 in Seattle, Eddie Bauer is a specialty retailer that sells sportswear, outerwear, gear and accessories for the active outdoor lifestyle. The Eddie Bauer brand is a nationally recognized brand that stands for high quality, innovation, style and customer service. Eddie Bauer products are available at approximately 364 stores throughout the United States and Canada, through catalog sales and online at eddiebauer.com.
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