Sunday, July 14, 2019

Levi's...from Germany?

Did you know Levi Strauss—the inventor of Levi's jeans—was an immigrant from Germany?

I live about a half hour away from the house he grew up in. It has since been turned into a museum, and today, we took the kids to see it. So how did Levi Strauss go from being a poor kid in Germany to the founder of a wildly successful American clothing company?

He was born in 1829, one of seven children of a Jewish family in Buttenheim, in the Kingdom of Bavaria, in the German Confederation. The entire family lived in only two rooms of the house pictured below; only one room had heat.
The family lived on the ground floor.

Levi's name was originally Löb Strauss, and he left Germany for the US at age 18, due to the occupational and personal restrictions imposed on Jewish people in Bavaria at the time.
Before leaving the country, a notice was published in the local paper--in case anyone thought the family owed them money.

Within three years, he'd changed his name from Löb to Levi, worked to learn English and took on American citizenship. He and his family started a dry goods business, and Levi moved to the west coast to provide goods to people heading out for the California Gold Rush.

One of his customers was Jacob Davis. Davis figured out a new way to use rivets on pants, to make them sturdier, but he didn't have enough money for the patent or to get the business off the ground. He asked Levi to work with him. 
The patent!

By 1890, the famous 501s were being produced under that model number.
These jeans were made in 1890. They already had the stitching on the pocket, which was supposed to resemble an eagle in flight.
old advertisement: "patented riveted clothing"

Later, he left the running of his company to his nephews and worked as a philanthropist, among other things. He passed away in 1902.

Bonus pic
The first Levi's specifically for women weren't produced until 1918. But many farming women wore their husband's.

All pictures by me.

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