Levi Strauss: It’s in the Jeans

The tag from a pair of Levi’s 501s. (Image from denim inc.)

187 years ago today, Levi Strauss was born in what is now Germany.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the man whose name has become synonymous with blue jeans.

At the age of 18, Strauss moved to the United States with his mother and two sisters. They joined his brothers who had begun a dry goods business in New York City.

In 1853, Strauss moved to San Francisco to start a West Coast outlet for the family business.

Strauss was not the inventor of blue jeans, however. They were first created by a tailor named Jacob W. Davis in Reno, Nevada.

In 1870, a customer asked him to make a pair of working pants for her husband who was a lumberjack.

The pants were initially made from cotton duck cloth, which is similar to canvas. He later began making them from denim.

The pants proved so popular that he couldn’t keep up with demand. In 1872, he decided to patent his idea and went to Strauss for financial backing. The patent for “Improvements in fastening pocket openings” was issued in 1873 to Davis and Strauss.

In 1890, the original jeans were given the lot number 501.

Davis oversaw production for Levi Strauss & Company for the rest of his life.

Levi Strauss died in 1906 at the age of 73.

The original 501s have remained largely unchanged, although modern jeans have fewer copper rivets. In 1941, the company removed the rivets on the watch pocket along with one at the bottom of the button fly to conserve metal during World War II. They were never added back.

Our question: What were Levi’s 501 jeans originally known as?’

Today is International Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day, National Pistachio Day and Thermos Bottle Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Victor Hugo, actor Jackie Gleason, and musicians Fats Domino and Johnny Cash.

This week in 1984, the top song in the U.S. was “Jump” by Van Halen.

The No. 1 movie was “Footloose,” while the novel “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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