Marie Langer (1872-1955) was an Austrian rock climber, a medal winning ski racer and alpinist. She ran and managed the first dedicated climbing gear shop in Vienna from around 1906 to the 1930’s.
Mizzi’s city shop offered all the latest equipment for the alpinist and skier, including well-designed and fashionable women’s outfits for the mountains, which she advertised as “Sporty and Functional”. Her catalogs showing women in the lead inspired a generation of women alpinists in an era when few national alpine clubs allowed women to join their associations. The main Klettergarten (local crag) in Vienna is named after her.
The pre-war years in the Eastern Alps was a time of heroic climbs up previously unimaginable limestone cliffs, the sheerer and more spectacular the better. Spires and peaks were often eponymously named by their first ascentionists, who became local and national heroes. The Mizzi Langer shop in Vienna supplied many of these climbers with all the gear they needed.
Few of the illustrated Mizzi Langer catalogs survive today, but their pages contained not only all the latest equipment for sale, but also tips on the most modern skiing and climbing techniques. Gustav Jahn, an accomplished alpinist and artist, captured the alpin zeitgeist with his seasonal illustrations: beautiful pristine ski fields in the winter, and the mountain experience in the summers. The Mizzi Langer catalogs were highlighted in the 1905 Mittielungen (a noted exemption of an “understandable rule” of the German-Austrian Alpine club not to endorse businesses), thanks to the artwork of Gustav Jahn, and technique articles by noted adventurers Hanns Barth and M. Zdarsky (footnote).
Footnote: Zdarsky was also probably the inventor of the Zdarsky tent, the first hanging tent for steep ice and snow routes (2-point). The early Chouinard catalogs also followed this format of tools and information (today, collectors pay over $300 for the 1972 Chouinard catalog, which described and illustrated both the tools and techniques of clean climbing).
The Austrian National Library has preserved Mizzi Langer’s shop advertisements in the monthly periodical “Der Gebirgsfreud” (The Mountain Friend), which reported on a range of mountain activities from 1890 to 1941.
The climbing gear listed in 1910:
• Rappel slings with ring (Abseil-Schlingen und Ringe)
• Pitons (Mauerhaken)
•Marking Papers (Marklerungsblätter). These were sheets of red paper strips, which were left at key spots of the ascent to mark a trail for descent. A package of 50 were provided free for customers.
•Foldable candle lanterns (Laternen) were essential alpine equipment for early alpine starts and late night descents.
From 1911-1915, the Mizzi Langer ads become less frequent but with many other Sporthausen advertisments.
From 1911-1918, the magazine appears to be more focused on mountain photography than alpinism, with the Karl Romako shop the largest climbing equipment advertiser:
In 1918, the Mizzi Langer full-page ads are back, nearly identical to the 1910 ad. Pitons continue to be listed, and Bergstöcke added to the climbing specific gear. This same ad ran monthly during the summer months from 1918-1920. Note the poor quality of reproduction in 1918 (end of WWI) and the reversion to old German script (modern script restored in 1919).
In 1921, the climbing action shot is back in the Mizzi Langer ads; however, specific mention of pitons disappears; instead, primarily clothing, footwear, ice axes, aluminium cookers, and “all other equipment for mountain climbers”.
August, 1927: one of the last full-page Mizzi Langer ads in the monthly Gebirgsfreund magazine, a majestic scene of two men with a big mountain challenge ahead. No specific gear listed.
Although pitons had been adopted from other industries, or manufactured for climbing purposes by local blacksmiths, the ready availability of store-bought hardware equipped a new generation of climbers who expanded the standards of big walls of the era, the focus of the next chapter in this series.