20    May 20140 comments

Levis: From a quick fix to the world’s best-selling jeans

Levi's jeans are well known throughout the world for their quality and durablility, but do you know the history of how the jeans were were originally created by Levi Strauss for gold miners in the 1800s' California Gold Rush?

In 1853, Levi Strauss, a German Jewish immigrant, moved to San Francisco to open a branch of his brother's wholesale dry goods store. He began selling clothing, blankets, fabrics and other items to small stores throughout the region.

One of his customers, Jacob Davis, was a Latvian Jewish immigrant, in Reno, Nevada. As a tailor, Jacob frequently purchased bolts of denim cloth from Levi Strauss & Co.'s wholesale house. Davis found himself repeatedly reinfocing torn pants, and had an idea to to use copper rivets to reinforce the pants at stress points. He added rivets to the button fly and pocket corners.

Davis knew that the idea would take off, but he didn't have the money required to obtain a patent, so he wrote to Strauss suggesting that they go into business together.

Levi accepted Jacob's offer, and they applied for a patent. On May 20, 1873, they recieved U.S. Patent 139,121 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This date is now considered the official birthday of "blue jeans."

According to company advertising, Levi sold his first jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush, but it's possible that only the original designs by Davis were sold to miners specifically.

They began officially manufacturing denim overalls in the 1870s. They created their first pair of Levis 501 jeans in the 1890s. Back then, it was simply called "XX," an industry term meaning the highest quality. That style that went on to become the world's best-selling item of clothing.

1850 US Census record showing the Strauss household (Levi Strauss' brother). Levi Strauss was 21 at the time (Credit: SuperSearch www.myheritage.com/research).

The company has changed and adpated since then, but the remarkable thing is that it is still a private company, owned by Levi Strauss' descendants.

Are there family businesses in your family? How did they start?

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