facts about Levi Strauss
co-inventor of Blue Jeans in 1873.
AT A GLANCE:
No item of clothing is more
American than the blue jeans invented in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi
Strauss. These two visionary immigrants, turned denim, thread and a
little metal into the most popular clothing product in the world. Waist
overalls, was the traditional name for work pants, which is what these
first blue jeans were called.
DID YOU KNOW?
||Levi Strauss (aka Loeb Strauss)
||First to patent. First
||February 26, 1829 in
27, 1902 in San Francisco, California
||American (of German
waist overalls, jeans, Levi's®
especially pants, that are usually close-fitting and created
from the rugged cotton twill textile that is colored blue with
(US) issued May 20, 1873 for
1829 Loeb Strauss born February 26, 1829 in Buttenheim, Germany
1847 Strauss family moves to New York City where Levi joined his
brothers dry-goods business
1853 Levi moves to San Francisco, California to establishing a dry-goods
business Levi Strauss&Co.
1872 Jacob wrote a letter to Levi suggests that they hold the riveted
pants patent rights together.
1872 on August 8, filed patent application for Improvements in
1873 patent 139,121 awarded to Jacob Davis and one half assigned to
Levi Strauss & Co.
1873 Levi hires Jacob to oversee production of the riveted pants at the
San Francisco plant
1875 Levi and two associates purchased the Mission and Pacific Woolen
1890 the year that the lot number "501®" was first used to designate the
denim waist overalls
1935 Levi's® jeans for women were first featured in Vogue magazine
1936 The red Tab Device was created to help identify Levi's® 501® jeans
from a distance
1960 The word jeans became popular when the baby-boom generation used
the term for the pants
CAPS: Levi Strauss, Jacob Davis, ARY,
jeans, blue jeans, levi's, denim waist overalls, 501, dungaree,
SIP, history, biography,
Levi Strauss, the inventor of the quintessential
American garment - the blue jean - was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria on
February 26, 1829 to Hirsch Strauss and his second wife, Rebecca Haas
Strauss. Hirsch, a dry goods peddler, already had five children with his
first wife, who had died a few years earlier: Jacob, Jonas, Louis, Rosla and
Mathilde. Levi - named "Loeb" at birth - and his older sister Fanny were the
last of the Strauss children; Hirsch succumbed to tuberculosis in 1845.
Two years after his death, Rebecca, Loeb, Fanny and Mathilde emigrated to
New York. There, they were met by Jonas and Louis, who had already made the
journey and had started a dry-goods business, called “J. Strauss Brother &
Co.” Young Loeb soon began to learn the trade himself, and by 1850 he was
known among his family and customers as “Levi” .
When news of the California Gold Rush made its way east, Levi decided to
emigrate to San Francisco to make his fortune: not by panning gold, but by
selling supplies to the throngs of miners who arrived daily in the big city
to outfit themselves before heading off to the gold fields. In January of 1853 he became an American citizen, and in March he arrived in bustling,
noisy San Francisco, establishing a dry-goods business under his own name
and also serving as the West Coast representative of the family’s New York
firm. In 1863 the company was renamed “Levi
Strauss & Co.”. Then in 1866 Levi moved the headquarters to larger
quarters at 14-16 Battery Street, where it remained for the next forty
Levi installed gaslight chandeliers, a freight elevator and other amenities
to the new location. It was the headquarters of the now-prosperous firm; the
Eastern sales office remained with Jonas Strauss in New York. In his
mid-thirties, Levi was already a well-known figure around the city. He was
active in the business and cultural life of San Francisco, and actively
supported the Jewish community. He belonged to Temple Emanu-El, the city's
first synagogue, and was a contributor to the gold medal given annually to
the best Sabbath School student. Despite his stature as an important
business man, he insisted that his employees call him Levi, and not Mr.
He knew that demand would be great for these riveted "waist overalls" (the
old name for jeans), so Levi brought Jacob Davis to San Francisco to oversee
the first West Coast manufacturing facility. Initially, Davis supervised the
cutting of the blue denim material and its delivery to individual
seamstresses who worked out of their homes. But the demand for overalls made
it impossible to maintain this system, and factories on Fremont and Market
Streets were opened.
As the end of the 19th century approached, Levi stepped back from the
day-to-day workings of the business, leaving it to his nephews. David Stern
had died in 1874 and his four sons - Jacob, Sigmund, Louis and Abraham -
came into the business over the next few years. In 1890 - the year that the
lot number "501®" was first used to designate the denim waist overalls -
Levi and his nephews officially incorporated the company, though by this
time he had begun to concentrate on other business and philanthropic
Levi had been a charter member and treasurer of the San Francisco Board of
Trade since 1877. He was a director of the Nevada Bank, the Liverpool,
London and Globe Insurance Company and the San Francisco Gas and Electric
Company. In 1875 Levi and two associates purchased the Mission and Pacific
Woolen Mills from the estate of former silver millionaire William Ralston.
Much of the mill's fabric was used to make the Levi Strauss & Co. "blanket-lined" pants and coats. Levi was a contributor to the Pacific
Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home, the Eureka Benevolent Society and the Hebrew
Board of Relief. In 1895 he and a number of other prominent San Franciscans
provided funds to build a new railroad from San Francisco to the San Joaquin
Valley (a project which unfortunately failed). And in 1897 Levi provided the
funds for twenty-eight scholarships at the University of California,
During the week of September 22, 1902 Levi began to complain of ill health
but by Friday evening the 26th, he felt well enough to attend the family
dinner at the home on Leavenworth Street which he shared with Jacob Stern’s
family. He awakened briefly in the night, and told the nurse in attendance
that he felt "as comfortable as I can under the circumstances.” Then,
peacefully, he died. His death was headline news in the Sunday, September 28
edition of the San Francisco Call. On Monday, the day of his funeral, local
businesses were temporarily closed so that their proprietors could attend
the services. The eulogy was read at Levi’s home by Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger
of Temple Emanu-El; afterward, company employees escorted the casket to the
Southern Pacific railway station, where it was transported to the Hills of
Eternity Cemetery in Colma (now Home of Peace), south of San Francisco.
Levi's estate amounted to nearly $6 million, the bulk of which was left to
his four nephews and other family members. Other bequests were made to the
Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum, the Home for Aged Israelites, the Roman
Catholic and Protestant Orphan Asylums, Eureka Benevolent Society and the
In summing up Levi's life and the establishment of his business, the San
Francisco Call stated: "Fairness and integrity in his dealings with his
Eastern factors and his customers and liberality toward his employees soon
gave the house a standing second to none on the coast." An even more fitting
testimonial was pronounced by the San Francisco Board of Trade in a special
"...the great causes of education and charity have likewise suffered a
signal loss in the death of Mr. Strauss, whose splendid endowments to the
University of California will be an enduring testimonial of his worth as a
liberal, public-minded citizen and whose numberless unostentatious acts of
charity in which neither race nor creed were recognized, exemplified his
broad and generous love for and sympathy with humanity."
The Entrepreneur from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of Blue Jeans from The Great Idea Finder
Jacob Davis Biography from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident,
from animal crackers to the zipper.
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Paperback - 48
pages (1994) / Doubleday
Recounting the fascinating stories behind the accidental inventions of forty
familiar objects and products.
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition
(September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items,
expressions and customs.
Mr. Blue Jeans : A Story About Levi Strauss
Maryann N. Weidt, Lydia M. Anderson
(Illustrator) / Paperback - 64 pages / First Avenue Editions
Basic values shine stronger than the famous copper rivets in the sturdy denim pants
as the story of the Strauss family and company unfolds.
The Blue Jean
by Alice Harris / Hardcover: 144 pages / PowerHouse Books (October, 2002)
The Blue Jean is a long-overdue
appreciation of this iconic piece of clothing, sure to appeal to anyone
who's ever worn a pair of jeans. That means young and old, male and female,
famous and normal alike.
ON THE WEB:
of Levi's Jeans
Sometime during 1873, the first riveted clothing was made and sold. (We're not sure
of the exact date because we lost all our historic records in the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake and fire.)
The Gold Rush of 1848 attracted many adventurers to California. One of
them was a twenty-year-old named Levi Strauss. When he died in 1902,
Levi's estate amounted to nearly $6 million, the bulk of which was left to his four
nephews and other family members.
Levi Strauss the Inventor of Trousers called Denim
Eventually in the 1950s people asked for denim jeans or just as often -
Levi's jeans rather than waist overalls. Other manufacturers began to
produce jeans such as Lee Coopers and Wranglers also became famous.
letter to Levi Strauss
Ben Davis Manufacturing, was founded in 1935. The Davis family has been
involved in the US garment industry since the mid 1800s. Company Founder Ben
Davis' grandfather Jacob Davis was instrumental in the creation of the
original Levi's Jeans. This page displays a copy of the letter Jacob Davis
sent to Levi Strauss in 1972 regarding a partnership in acquiring a U.S.
The official Levi's Web site.
Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual
awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.Featured Levi Strauss for the invention of Blue Jeans.
DID YOU KNOW?:
- An original pair of Levi's jeans is part
of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
- The word, 'jeans,' came from the cotton
workpants worn by sailors from the port of Genoa, Italy, who were
themselves known as Genes.
- The jeans market has grown to be a
$14.6 billion industry
- On May 20, 1873, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss received patent
#139,121 from the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Levi's® 501® jeans are the original
Shrink-To-Fit®, button-fly blue jeans first created in the 1800s. 501®
jeans are the oldest and best selling product of Levi Strauss & Co. The
number 501 was assigned to the jeans around 1890.
- In 1885 a pair of Levi waist overalls cost $1.25. Brand new.
By the turn of the century, the company charged $8.50 for a pair of blue
- In 1997, Levi Strauss & Co. paid $25,000
for a pair of 100 year old jeans (for their museum) found in an old
Colorado mine, which is the oldest known pair of Levi jeans.
- Seven out of 10 Americans say jeans are
their first pick for casual wear.
- Levi Strauss & Co. currently makes 501® jeans in approximately 108 sizes
and 20 finishes/fabrics.
- A typical pair of Levi's® 501® jeans takes about 1 3/4 yards of denim, 213
yards of thread, five buttons and six rivets.
trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type.
This page revised July 28, 2006.
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