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Levi Strauss
Born Löb Strauss
February 26, 1829
Buttenheim, Bavaria, German Confederation
Died September 26, 1902 (aged 73)
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Known for Founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans, known as Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss (February 26, 1829 – September 26, 1902) was a German-Jewish immigrant to the United States who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. His firm, Levi Strauss & Co., began in 1853 in San Francisco, California.[1]




Levi Strauss was born Löb Strauss in Buttenheim, in the Franconian region of Bavaria, Germany, to Hirsch Strauss and his wife Rebecca (Haass) Strauss. At the age of 18, Strauss, his mother and two sisters sailed for the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a wholesale dry goods business in New York City called J. Strauss Brother & Co. By 1850, Strauss was calling himself Levi. [2]

Business career

The family decided to open a West Coast branch of the family dry goods business in San Francisco, which was the commercial hub of the California Gold Rush. Levi was chosen to represent the family, and after becoming an American citizen in January of 1853, he got on a California-bound steamship which left New York for the isthmus of Panama around February 5, 1853. He crossed the isthmus and then caught another steamship for San Francisco, arriving in early March 1853.

Strauss opened his dry goods wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. and imported fine dry goods - clothing, bedding, combs, purses, handkerchiefs - from his brothers in New York. He sold the goods to the small general stores and men's mercantiles of California and the West. Around 1856 Levi's sister Fanny, her husband David Stern and their infant son Jacob moved from New York to San Francisco to join the business.

Levi Jeans

In late 1870 Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor, started making men's work pants with metal points of strain for greater strength. He wanted to patent the process but needed a business helper, so he turned to Levi Strauss, from whom he purchased some of his fabric. [3] On May 20, 1873, Strauss and Davis received United States patent #139121 for using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets of denim work pants. Levi Strauss & Co. began manufacturing the famous Levi's brand of jeans, using fabric from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Levi Strauss died on September 26, 1902 at the age of 73. He never married, so he left the business to his four nephews, Jacob, Sigmund, Louis, and Abraham Stern, the sons of his sister Fanny and her husband David Stern. He also left bequests to a number of charities such as the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum. Levi's fortune was estimated to be around 6 million dollars.[4] He was buried in Colma, California.


Mr. Strauss was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1994.


A Levi Strauss museum is maintained in Buttenheim, Germany, located in the 1687 house where Strauss was born. There is also a Visitors Center at Levi Strauss & Co. world headquarters in San Francisco, which features a number of historical exhibits.


  1. ^ Levi Strauss Company History
  2. ^ 1850 Federal Census for New York
  3. ^ Transcript, Levi Strauss vs. H.B. Elfelt, District of California Circuit Court of the United States Ninth Judicial Circuit, 1874. National Archives, Pacific Sierra Region
  4. ^ "Levi Strauss Dead". Associated Press in Los Angeles Times. September 28, 1902. Retrieved 23 January 2009. "Levi Strauss, one of the last of the oldtime merchants of San Francisco. and one of the best-known men from the most southerly limit of California to Puget Sound." 

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Simple English

Levi Strauss (February 26, 1829September 26, 1902) was a German-born American maker of clothing.

Born as Löb Strauss into a Jewish family in Buttenheim in Franconia, Bavaria, now a part of Germany. In 1847, Strauss, his mother and two sisters moved to New York City to join his brothers Jonas and Louis Löb in their dry goods business. By 1850 he had adopted the name "Levi Strauss".

In 1853, Strauss moved to bustling San Francisco, California, where the California Gold Rush was still in high gear. Levi expected that the mining camps would welcome his buttons, scissors, thread and bolts of fabric; additionally, he had yards of canvas sailcloth intended for tent-making and as covers for the Conestoga wagons that dotted the landscape next to every stream and river in the area.

It was on California Street that Levi and his brother-in-law David Stern opened a dry goods wholesale business called Levi Strauss & Co. Levi was often found leading a pack-horse, heavily laden with merchandise, directly into the mining camps found throughout the region. The story goes that both prospectors and miners, often complaining about the easily torn cotton "britches" and pockets that "split right out" gave Levi the idea to make a rugged overall trouser for the miners to wear. These were fashioned from bolts of brown canvas sailcloth, with gold ore storage pockets that were nearly impossible to split. Levi exhausted his original supply of canvas as the demand grew for his hard-wearing overalls, and so he switched to a sturdy fabric called serge, made in Nimes, France. Originally called serge de Nimes, the name was soon shortened to denim.

In 1872, Levi received a letter from Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor. Davis was one of Levi Strauss' regular customers, who purchased bolts of cloth from the company to use for his own business. In this letter, Davis told Levi about the interesting way in which he made pants for his customers: he placed metal rivets at the points of strain—pocket corners and on the base of the fly. As he did not have the money to patent his process he suggested that Levi pay for the paperwork and that they take out the patent together.

On May 20, 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis received United States patent #139121 for using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets of denim work pants. Levi Strauss & Co. began manufacturing the first of the famous Levi's brand of jeans in San Francisco, using fabric from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Levi Strauss died on September 26, 1902, at the age of 73. He left his thriving manufacturing and dry goods business to his four nephews—Jacob, Louis, Abraham and Sigmund Stern—who helped rebuild the company after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The following year, Jacob Davis sold back his share of the company.

Peter Haas and his family are the primary heirs to the Levi Strauss fortune.

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