Born. October 19, 1899
Orcas Island, Washington
Died: April 18, 1986
Founder, Eddie Bauer, inc.
Eddie Bauer was an sportsman, merchant, and inventor whose knack for design produced some of the twentieth century's most useful outerwear and recreational equipment. He was among the first to use goose down to line and insulate jackets, and created the flight parka that came to be known as the "Bomber Jacket" worn by thousands of American World War II pilots. His company, which bore his name and used his signature as its logo, began with a tiny storefront in Seattle, Washington, and grew to over six hundred stores worldwide with sales exceeding $1.6 billion.
"To give you such outstanding quality, value, service and guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem."—"The Eddie Bauer Creed"
A Love of the Outdoors
Eddie Bauer was born October 19, 1899, to Jacob and Marie Bauer, Russian immigrants who spoke German. Young Bauer was one of six children who lived in the family's log cabin on Orcas Island. Orcas was part of the San Juan Islands, located off the northwestern coast of Washington. Jacob Bauer was a hunter and farmer, who taught young Eddie to fish and hunt. His legacy was that he taught his son to have a vast appreciation for the outdoors. Marie Bauer helped out on the family farm, sometimes offering visiting hunters a bed for the night. In 1904, the family left Orcas Island and settled at Yarrow Point on Lake Washington.
Bauer's life changed in 1909 when he began working as a caddie at the Seattle Golf Club. The club's wealthy members took a liking to the boy and he often earned extra money completing small jobs for them. In 1913, Bauer's parents separated and Eddie moved to Seattle with his mother. He went as far as the eighth grade, but decided to forego further schooling for a job at the local sporting goods store, Piper & Taft. Working part-time as an errand and stock boy, Bauer also learned many tricks of the sporting goods trade from making fishing poles and lures to refinishing golf clubs and stringing tennis rackets. He spent the rest of his time outdoors hunting, fishing, and target shooting.
By 1917, Bauer had worked his way up to department manager and was given the chance to arrange the store's front window display. One display featured Eddie in a competition to string the most tennis rackets within a certain period of time. In a little over three hours, he strung twelve rackets in a row using a special vise grip he had built himself. Bauer's performance was not only great advertising for Piper & Taft, but for his athletic and handyman skills.
On His Own
Deciding to strike out on his own, Bauer rented fifteen feet of space for $15 a month, with the intention of stringing rackets for local tennis enthusiasts. He called his business Eddie Bauer's Tennis Shop and promised a fast turnaround time and quality service. Since tennis was seasonal Bauer used the winter months to catch up on his hunting and fishing. Within a year he had earned a whopping $10,000.
Since his rent was going to go up, Bauer took his business prospects elsewhere. With his $10,000 and a matching bank loan, he opened a small store called Eddie Bauer's Sports Shop in 1920. In addition to customizing and repairing tennis rackets, Bauer also added fishing, trapping, and golfing equipment and accessories to his product line.
Bauer's outdoor interests grew with every year. Over time he mastered mountain climbing, saltwater fishing, and the little known badminton backyard game. With each new pursuit, Bauer thought of ways to make the sport better, experimenting with the size, weight, or shape of a game's equipment. This curiosity and drive paid off handsomely in the decades to come.
During the early 1920s, Eddie married and divorced, but little is known of the union. His second marriage, however, provided him with a lifelong companion, a woman who proved his equal in all things outdoors. While out testing some new gear for his shop, Eddie met Christine Heltborg, a champion skeet shooter. She was known by the nickname "Stine," and the two married in February 1929.
Bauer Hits the Big Time
Eddie and Stine had one child, a son, Eddie Christian Bauer. Happy both personally and professionally, Bauer's creative genius took serious flight in the 1930s. A shuttlecock for badminton was patented in 1934 and became the game's standard equipment, while another invention, a down-filled jacket called the Skyliner was patented and became a big seller in 1936. Bauer soon realized quilted down insulation was the wave of the future, and over the next several years he designed and patented a number of garments for extreme weather conditions. By this time, Bauer's namesake business had outgrown several small locations and expanded to accommodate Seattle's outdoorsy crowd by offering a wide range of apparel and equipment.
In the early days of Eddie Bauer's Sporting Goods shop, Bauer used to close up the store every Labor Day and not reopen until the following February so he could camp, fish, and hunt during the fall and winter months.
World War II (1939-45) brought Eddie Bauer his greatest fame, when the sportsman designed a coat for the military called the B-9 Flight Parka. This jacket, worn by American fighter pilots, became known as the Bomber Jacket and was both instantly recognizable and the height of fashion. Eddie sold fifty thousand of the jackets and, after the war ended, put together a catalog that he sent to military men and women across the nation. The mail-order business took off as the retail store began to experience losses.
In the early 1950s, suffering from a recurring back injury, Bauer decided he needed a partner to keep his business alive. He turned to William Niemi, an avid outdoorsman. The two men had met through their wives, who were friends.
Bauer's son joined the family business in 1960, along with partner Niemi's son, William Jr. The Bauers, however, cashed out eight years later, selling their interest in the company to the Niemis for $1.5 million. Bauer Sr. was free to spend his days in the great outdoors; he and his wife Stine had taken up dog breeding as well. In early 1986, Stine Bauer died of cancer. Eddie Bauer died just weeks later in Bellevue, Washington. Some would say he died of a broken heart, although medically it was a heart attack that caused his death.
The Eddie Bauer name lived on, becoming one of the most famous companies of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With his name on an ever increasing range of products, from T-shirts and blankets to sofas and SUVs, Eddie Bauer accomplished more than most businessmen: he ultimately created a way of life.
For More Information
Satterfield, Archie. The Eddie Bauer Guide to Backpacking. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1983.
___. The Eddie Bauer Guide to Cross-Country Skiing. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1983.
___. The Eddie Bauer Guide to Family Camping. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1982.
Sigler, Cam, and Don Berry. The Eddie Bauer Guide to Fly Fishing. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1985.
Spector, Robert. The Legend of Eddie Bauer. 1994, Reprint. Lyme, CT: Greenwich Publishing Group, 1995.
Bowers, Katherine. "Eddie Bauer's Online Appeal." Women's Wear Daily (March 23, 2001): p. 11.
"Eddie Bauer." Puget Sound Business Journal (April 29, 1991): p. 18.
"Eddie Bauer's Secret Weapon for Attracting, Developing, and Keeping Talent." Employee Benefits News (November 1, 2000): n.p.
Kim, Nancy J. "Bauer Hits the Recovery Trail." Puget Sound Business journal (August 14, 1998): p. 1.
McKinney, Melonee. "Megabrands Need to Combine Past, Present and Future to Survive." Daily News Record (May 26, 2002): p. 22.
Moin, David. "Bauer's Fersch Retires." Women's Wear Daily (January 2, 2002): p. 3.
Williams, Linda. "Return to Basics May Revive Eddie Bauer." Puget Sound Business Journal (August 21, 1992): p. 1.
Eddie Bauer, Inc. [On-line] http://www.eddiebauer.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).
"Bauer, Eddie ." Leading American Businesses. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/trade-magazines/bauer-eddie
"Bauer, Eddie ." Leading American Businesses. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/trade-magazines/bauer-eddie
Eddie Bauer (1899-1986) was the founder of there tail stores and mail order company which bore his name. An avid outdoors man, Bauer parlayed his interests into a successful business based on quality products and serving consumer satisfaction.
Eddie Bauer was born on October 19, 1899, on Orcas Island, located in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state. His parents, Jacob and Mary Catherine Bauer, were Russian-German immigrants who operated an Italian plum farm. Eddie was the youngest child in the Bauer family. Orcas Island was a sportsman's paradise, with abundant supplies of fish and wildlife. As a child, Bauer was interested in the natural world that surrounded him. His father encouraged these interests. Young Eddie wanted to own his equipment for hunting and fishing. When he was eight years old, he received his first hunting rifle, an 1890 Winchester .22 Special Caliber. To make money, Bauer worked as a golf caddy and did odd jobs, beginning at the age of ten.
Founded Sporting Goods Store
In 1913, Bauer's parents separated. He and his mother relocated to Seattle, where Bauer worked in a local sporting goods store, Piper & Taft. He continued to pursue his hunting and fishing hobbies, and began playing tennis as well. Bauer hoped to have his own store and spent two years studying part time to achieve this goal. In 1920, he opened a sporting goods store in Seattle, with a $500 loan that his father co-signed. It was called Eddie Bauer's Tennis Shop. Bauer designed a special vice for stringing tennis rackets that was quite popular among his customers, and soon developed a reputation for his expert stringing. Eddie Bauer's Tennis Shop was only open during the tennis season. Bauer spent the rest of the year pursuing his own sportsman activities.
Eventually, the shop changed its name to Eddie Bauer's Sports Shop, and sold equipment for all kinds of outdoor activities, including golf. In 1922, Bauer attracted customers by giving them an unconditional guarantee, unheard of in that era. The creed for his business was, according the Eddie Bauer website: "To give you such outstanding quality, value, service and guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem." Customer satisfaction remained important to him throughout his career.
Bauer married the former Christine "Stine" Heltborg on February 21, 1929. Like her husband, the beauty shop owner was enthusiastic about hunting, fishing, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The couple had one son, Eddie Christian Bauer.
When Bauer could not find a product he wanted to sell, he designed, manufactured, and distributed it himself. One of the early examples of this practice was fly-fishing ties, which Bauer made by hand. In 1934, he took out a patent in the United States and Canada on what was called the "Bauer shuttlecock." This invention spread the game of badminton all over North America.
Designed Insulated Jacket
Personal necessity led Bauer to design one of his best known products, the first quilted goose-down insulated jacket. He designed this jacket after contracting hypothermia while wearing wool in the rain on a winter fishing trip in 1936. Bauer remembered some of the light but warm goose down-filled clothing his uncle from Russia had told him about. That uncle served as a Cossack soldier in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904. Anthony and Diane Hallett quoted Bauer in the Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurs: "I remember my dad saying that if it hadn't been for those down-lined coats the Cossacks wore, my uncle would have froze to death." Bauer patented his design, after making jackets for his friends. The so-called "Skyliner jacket" became extremely popular with those who spent a significant amount of time outdoors, especially sportsmen and climbers. Soon, Bauer held 16 patented designs for quilted apparel, including a sleeping bag. Bauer continued to develop new and innovative products until his retirement.
Bauer's product line expanded to include women's wear (of which his wife was in charge), sleeping bags, tents, skis imported from Norway, hunting and fishing equipment, and boots.
Supplied American Forces
During World War II, Bauer's parkas, backpacks, pants, and sleeping bags were standard issue for American troops. Bauer was able to solve several problems for the military. There had been a sleeping bag shortage until Bauer stepped in. He eventually sold the armed services over 100,000 sleeping bags. The U.S. Army commissioned Bauer to make what came to be known as the B-9 flight parka.
After the war, veterans who had worn one of the 50,000 jackets in combat, wanted to buy more. They knew exactly where to purchase these jackets because Bauer insisted that his company's label be included on all of his products. With this customer base, Bauer began a highly successful mail order business in 1945. His original mailing list included 14,000 names of soldiers who had worn his clothing, supplied by the American government.
Despite a thriving mail order business, Bauer's retail establishment was suffering, and the company almost went bankrupt several times. Bauer, whose health was affected by years of overwork and a serious back injury, was forced to take on William Niemi as a partner. This local businessman reorganized the store and soon improved the cash flow. Niemi and a revitalized Bauer decided to focus most of their efforts on mail order catalogs. By 1953, catalog sales totaled $50,000. Three years later, the total was $500,000.
Bauer continued to supply his equipment for significant events, including the American K-2 Himalayan Expedition and several journeys through Antarctica. In 1963, James W. Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest, was wearing an Eddie Bauer parka. His whole expedition used and wore Bauer's products.
Bauer and Niemi included their sons, Eddie C. Bauer and William Niemi, Jr., as partners in 1960. The company continued to prosper throughout the 1960s, based mostly on mail order sales, though the original retail store remained open. In 1968, Bauer retired and sold his share of the business to the Niemi family for $1.5 million. That same year, the second Eddie Bauer store was established, the first of many retail stores that would open in the next three decades. By 1971, the company had become part of General Mills. The Eddie Bauer Company continued to build retail stores and expand its line of merchandise. By the time of Bauer's death, there were 39 retail stores and two million mail order customers. Bauer died of a heart attack in Bellevue, Washington on April 18, 1986, two weeks after his wife died of pancreatic cancer.
Name Lived After Death
Eddie Bauer's name lived through the constant expansion of retail stores, merchandise lines, and mail order business. By 1988, there were 61 stores, all bearing Bauer's name. That year the company was bought by Spiegel from General Mills for $260 million. Bauer's name continued to appear on products for the home, many kinds of clothing, as well as specially designed automobiles and sports utility vehicles. By 1999, there were 530 Eddie Bauer stores throughout the world. The company continues to emphasize Bauer's 1922 customer satisfaction policy and unconditional guarantee.
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Fucini, Joseph J. and Suzy. Enterpreneurs: The Men and Women Behind Famous Brand Names and How They Made It, G.K. Hall, 1985.
Hallett, Anthony and Diane. Entrepreneur Magazine: Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurs, John Wiley, 1997.
Journal of Commerce, November 13, 1996.
New York Times, April 26, 1986.
About Eddie Bauer,http://www.eddiebauer.com/about/framecompanyoverview.asp? (February 21, 1999). □
"Eddie Bauer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/eddie-bauer
"Eddie Bauer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/eddie-bauer
American sportswear and lifestyle company
Founded: in 1920 by Eddie Bauer, in Seattle, WA. Company History: Patented quilted goose down jacket, 1936; developed B-9 Flight Parka, 1942; Bauer sold company to partner William Niemi, 1968; company sold to General Mills, 1971; Ford produced first Eddie Bauer Edition vehicle, 1983; Spiegel purchases company, 1988; 100th store opening, 1989; formed partnerships with Lane Company for furniture, 1997; Giant Bicycle, Signature Eyewear, and Cosco, Inc., all 1998; stores in all 50 states, 2000. Company Address: 15010 NE 36th Street, Redman, WA 98052, USA. Company Website: www.eddiebauer.com.
On EDDIE BAUER:
Spector, Robert, The Legend of Eddie Bauer, New York, 1995.
"Eddie Bauer Makes Employees' Health Its Business," in Hospitals & Health Networks (Chicago) 70, 1996.
Faust, Leslie, "At Eddie Bauer You Can Work and Have a Life," in Personnel Journal (Costa Mesa, CA) 76, 1997.
Van Yoder, Steven, "Retailers Target Hidden Costs of On-the-Job Injuries," in Stores (New York), December 1999.
Cuneo, Alice Z, "Eddie Bauer Gets Update to Battle Dwindling Sales," in Advertising Age, 14 August 2000.
"Eddie Bauer Launches Website," in Home Textiles Today, 11September 2000.
Cole, Wendy, "SUV Strollers," in Time, 29 January 2001.
Sloane, Carole, "Eddie Bauer Home Plans New Stores, Catalogue Growth" in Home Textiles Today, 12 March 2001.*
The Eddie Bauer Creed: To give you such outstanding quality, value, service and guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem.
The Eddie Bauer Guarantee: Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund.
—Eddie Bauer, 1920***
It is possible to live an entirely Eddie Bauer existence. Whether dressing for work or leisure, Eddie Bauer has you covered. Literally. With few exceptions, nearly everything in a casual or business casual wardrobe is available for men, women, and children. The company's Lifestyle division offers selections from the sheets on your bed (and the bed itself) to bathroom shower curtains, towels, and accessories; furnishings (even wallpaper) for your living room, home office, and children's rooms, to the outdoor furniture on the deck. Parents might purchase a stroller, car seat, or a full line of camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, packs, as well as outdoor and beach furniture.
Eddie Bauer luggage allows you to travel in style while visiting an Eddie Bauer store in every state of the U.S., and in Germany and Japan. A collaboration with Signature Eyewear offers sunglasses for driving your Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer or Expedition or cycling away on an Eddie Bauer bike. Eddie Bauer corrective glasses might be in order when sitting down in front of your Eddie Bauer Special Edition Compaq Presario notebook computer. All the better for shopping online at, you guessed it, www.eddiebauer.com. Eddie Bauer will help you match an outfit, figure out your size, and remind you of your anniversary. While doing all this, Eddie Bauer supports education, gives to the community, empowers women, sponsors the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team, PGA and LPGA players, an Iditarod musher, and Eddie Bauer/Global ReLeaf, the Eddie Bauer Tree Project.
Unlike companies named for fictitious characters, Eddie Bauer was the founding father of the successful company bearing his name. Established in 1920 in Seattle, Washington, 21-year-old Bauer opened Eddie Bauer's Sport Shop in the back of a local hunting and fishing store. A great lover of the outdoors, Bauer offered high-quality gear at good prices. His commitment to his customers evolved into the creed and guarantee still honored today. While hunting in the 1930s, an unexpected winter rainstorm waterlogged his woolen clothing and led him to develop a protective outerwear garment. The Skyliner, the first American quilted goose down-insulated jacket, was patented in 1936. It was so successful that Bauer was commissioned in 1942 by the U.S. Army Air Corps to develop the B-9 flight parka. More than 50,000 jackets were manufactured for World War II airmen flying at high altitudes.
Astute at business, Bauer added women's clothing about the same time as the Skyliner. He issued a mail order catalogue in 1945 and began to outfit scientific and exploratory expeditions in the 1950s. Bauer retired in 1968, selling the business to his partner, William Niemi, who sold it to General Mills in 1971. The company shifted its focus from expedition gear and apparel to casual clothing and expanded to 61 stores and $250 million in sales between 1971 and 1988.
Spiegel purchased Eddie Bauer in 1988 and continued the aggressive growth and product development that would result in a huge variety of Eddie Bauer merchandise. The first Eddie Bauer Ford was manufactured in 1984, and in 1997 and 1998, the Lane Company signed on to produce Eddie Bauer Home; Giant Bicycle to produce bikes; Signature Eyewear for eyewear; and the company partnered with Cosco, Inc. to expand Baby by Bauer. An additional 300 stores opened by 1996, catalogues and stores were introduced in both Germany and Japan, size ranges were expanded, and a Web presence was introduced.
As a company, Eddie Bauer has a corporate conscience. Its employees' health and well-being are of genuine concern, and proactive health measures are embraced. The company offers many philanthropic opportunities, from education to community volunteerism. In 1995, Eddie Bauer joined with American Forest to establish the Eddie Bauer/Global ReLeaf project to help restore fire-ravaged forestlands. The project is more than halfway toward completing its goal of planting 2.5 million trees.
The success of Eddie Bauer lies in its ability to provide dependably comfortable, affordable, well-made clothing. Shopping is a pleasant experience, whether in the store, by catalogue, or online, and customer service is alive and well. The casual styles are reflective of an ever relaxing American lifestyle, with a nod toward the company's rugged roots.
"Eddie Bauer." Contemporary Fashion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/eddie-bauer
"Eddie Bauer." Contemporary Fashion. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/eddie-bauer