Died: September 26, 1902 in San Francisco, California
Best known for: Forming the company Levi Strauss & Co., the first company to make blue jeans.
Levi Strauss Photo by Unknown
Where did Levi Strauss grow up?
Levi Strauss was born in the city of Buttenheim, Germany on February 26, 1829. He was the youngest of six children. Growing up in Germany was tough on his family because they were Jewish. Many people there didn't like Jews and made it difficult on Levi and his family.
Moving to America
When Levi was sixteen, his father died from tuberculosis. Since Levi's older brothers were already living in America, his mother decided to move the family there. In 1847, together with his mom and two sisters, Levi boarded a ship and headed to America. They lived in New York City where his brothers had opened a dry goods business.
Learning about Business
While living in New York, Levi worked for his brothers. He learned about the merchant business and how to run a store. At one point he moved to pioneer land in Kentucky and worked as a peddler. He would carry goods on his back from settlement to settlement selling goods.
Moving to California
Levi had heard about the California Gold Rush and thought this would be an excellent opportunity for a new business. In 1853, he boarded a ship and took the long voyage around South America to San Francisco, California. He didn't go to California to mine for gold, he was going to open a dry goods store and make his fortune in business.
Levi Strauss & Co.
Once in San Francisco, Levi opened up a dry goods store called Levi Strauss & Co. One big advantage that Levi had over other stores was that he was able to get supplies from his brothers in New York. He sold all sorts of products including sewing supplies, clothing, canvas for tents, bedding, and tools.
Over the years, Levi's business grew. At first, he mostly supplied goods for gold prospectors, but as the city of San Francisco grew, he began to provide goods for the families that lived in the city as well. He also became a supplier for smaller stores and outposts located outside the city. Levi became a prominent and respected businessman and citizen in the city.
In 1872, Levi Strauss was approached by a Nevada tailor named Jacob Davis. Davis had invented a new way to make durable work pants. He would hammer metal rivets into the pockets to make them last longer. Davis, however, could not make enough of them and he needed help. Strauss hired Davis and began to manufacture the new type of pants in volume. He also patented the rivet process.
At first these new pants were made with canvas, but eventually Strauss began to use a tough material called denim. The denim was dyed blue to hide stains. Strauss called these pants "waist high overalls", but they eventually became known as "Levi's" or "blue jeans." The pants were very popular and soon Levi had built a large factory just to manufacture the pants. He continued to sell other items, but he became famous and made the most money off of his unique pants.
Levi Strauss died in San Francisco on September 26, 1902. He was 73 years old.
Interesting Facts about Levi Strauss
His birth name was Loeb, but he went by Levi.
The Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Levi gave a lot of his money to charity to help out poor people and orphans.
Today Levi's are considered a symbol of American fashion.
He never married and left his business to his nephews.
He never actually wore a pair of Levi's himself. He was a businessman and the jeans were for laborers.