Levi Strauss Biography

Levi Strauss is founder the first company for manufacturing of blue jeans. He was born on February 26, 1829 in Buttenheim, Germany as Loeb Strauss. 1847 he went to New York with his two sisters and mother to join his brothers on dry goods wholesale business. In 1850 he changed his name to Levi and in 1853 he became an American citizen. When California Gold Rush began he decided to go west and to open a West Coast branch of the family dry goods business in San Francisco in early March 1853. He opened his dry goods wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. and sold clothing, bedding, combs, purses, handkerchiefs and bolts of fabric delivered from his brothers in New York. He became a well-known figure in the city being active in the business and cultural life of San Francisco and supporting the Jewish community, he himself being of German Jewish descent.

Levi Strauss

One of his costumers was Jacob W. Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor. Strauss got a letter from him in 1872. In that letter Davis told him about the new way he was making pants from duck and denim. To make them stronger Davis used copper rivets to make them stronger. He also wanted to patent the idea of riveting the clothing because he was afraid that someone will steal the idea. Because he did not have enough money for patent application (some $68) Davis was asking Strauss in the letter, to be his business partner and to share the costs. Strauss agreed and on May 20, 1873 the full US Patent No. 139121 was granted in the name of Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss and Company. That was the birthday of the blue jeans.

Jacob W. Davis already had pretty high demand for "waist overalls", as they were called then, which he fulfilled himself so Levi Strauss new that it would be a good idea to place Davis as a production manager at the shop of Levi Strauss & co. Production was done in the beginning by individual seamstresses from their homes. After that, in 1880s Levi Strauss leased space for his own factory south of Market Street and production moves there. Major product that was manufactured there were famous 501 jeans but Levi and Jacob also produced shirts and overalls.

His other business pursuits were charter member and treasurer of the San Francisco Board of Trade, director of the Nevada Bank, the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Company and the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company. He was also known as a great philanthropist. He gave funds to a number of orphanages, provided funds to build a new railroad from San Francisco to the San Joaquin Valley and for twenty-eight scholarships at the University of California.

He died on September 26, 1902 in San Francisco at the age of 73 and left. His estate was estimated to be around 6 million dollars. Part of it was left to his four nephews while the rest was left to charities.