On today’s date, May 20 in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss, and a Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were granted a patent on a special kind of work pants. Made from a tough cloth called “Denim”, these pants were reinforced with metal rivets. This was the birth of the most famous and often worn garments in the world: blue jeans.
Levi Strauss Started Out As An Immigrant
Born in Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1829, Loeb Strauss immigrated to New York in 1847 with his family after his father died. He was working at in his family dry goods store J. Strauss Brother & Co.by 1850 and changed his from Loeb to Levi. But these were exciting times in America with gold having been discovered in California so young Levi decided to head west and seek his fortune with the rest of the
gold-hungry diggers. He set up shop in San Francisco putting together a wholesale dry goods business bearing his own name. But he worked as a representative of the family firm. In this company he fed the need for everything having to do with gold mining: shovels, pick-axes and all manner of dry goods. He also imported fabric and clothing all of which he distributed to the hundreds of small stores in the quickly proliferating communities of settlers and gold miners.
A New Kind of Workpants Were Needed
A man who frequently used bolts of cloth made from denim, was at Latvian Jewish immigrant, one Jacob Davis. This fabric had it’s origins in cities of France. “Gênes” was the french word for Genoa, which may account or the origin for “jeans” in Nimes they attempted to produce a product like the jeans but wound up with a similar twill product which was called “denim” from it’s origins in “de Nimes” (“from Nimes”).
Well it seems that Mr. Davis (left) had a customer who was forever buying cloth to reinforce torn pants. Davis had come up with the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce the points of greatest strain — pocket corners as well as the base of the cotton fly. Davis lacked the necessary funds to afford the cost of a government patent for such an idea. So in 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss, telling him of the idea of copper rivets and asked his financial backing for his rivet reinforced denim work pants. Levi Strauss liked the idea so on today’s date in 1873 they were granted U.S. Patent # 131,121 for the “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”
Of Course There are Always Conflicting Reports…
One paragraph in a Wikipedia source states:
“Popular legend incorrectly states that it was imported from Nimes, France. A popular myth is that Strauss initially sold brown canvas pants to miners, later dyed them blue, turned to using denim, and only after Davis wrote to him, added rivets.Initially, Strauss’ jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers, miners, farmers, and cattlemen throughout the North American West.”
That last sentence has it right, though. Strauss’ jeans became a huge selling favorite among workers of all types throughout the United States. The original name for the jeans: “XX”– was changed to 501 by 1890 and it had become a huge seller. They were the 1920’s best selling work pants in the United States. And eventually it caught on with young people all over the world. So jeans have become an industry and style unto themselves Quite a growth story, isn’t it?