Area of Achievement: Business & Industry
Levi Strauss, the man who gave the world blue
jeans, was born in 1829 in Bavaria. Orphaned at 16 years of
age, Levi Strauss decided to join his five brothers and sisters
in the United States.
In 1843, young Levi sailed from Bremerhaven
to New York where his two older brothers, Jonas and Louis,
had already established a successful wholesale textile and
tailoring business. After a stay of two days in New York,
he continued on to the ranch of his uncle, Daniel Goldman
in Louisville Kentucky. There he spent the next five years
learning the language and the ways of his new homeland in
order that he might someday take over his uncle's ranch. But
Levi had dreams of becoming an independent businessman, and
for several years he walked the roads of Kentucky, selling
cloth and notions from the pack on his back.
In 1853 he returned to New York upon hearing
reports of gold being discovered in California. He persuaded
his two brothers to provide him with a supply of silk, cloth,
and a few luxury items which he planned to sell in San Francisco.
In addition he took a supply of canvas intended for the Conestoga
Wagons made by German wheelwrights in Pennsylvania and used
by many gold prospectors to cross the continent.
In 1850 he took a ship for San Francisco.
By the time he reached California he had sold everything to
fellow passengers, except for the canvas.
Levi Strauss made his fortune in the California
Gold Rush as the maker of sturdy pants -- Levi's, the world's
most famous denim jeans.
A tailor who had planned to make tents for
miners, Strauss ended up stitching canvas pants that became
famous for their durability. The "pants of Levi's"
came to be called simply Levi's, and they became one of the
best-selling products in his dry goods store.
He began using fabric from Nîmes, France,
serge de Nîmes (the origin of the word denim), then
added dye to make them blue. In the 1870s he partnered with
Jacob Davis of Nevada to add copper rivets to the pockets.
Levi Strauss & Company became one of
the world's largest manufacturers of casual clothing and Strauss
himself became a wealthy patron of the city of San Francisco.
Strauss was a lifelong bachelor, and after his death in 1902
his nephews took over the company.
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