Levi Strauss was born on February 26, 1829, in the town of Buttenheim, in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany. His father, Hirsch Strauss, was a dry goods merchant, but he died when Levi was just sixteen years old. After his father’s death, Levi worked in his family’s wholesale business, which supplied clothing, blankets, and other goods to the army.
In 1846, Levi’s older brothers, Jonas and Louis, moved to New York City to open their own dry goods business. Two years later, in 1848, Levi joined his brothers in the United States. He became an American citizen and changed his name from Loeb to Levi.
Upon his arrival in the United States, Levi began working in his brothers’ business, J. Strauss Brother & Co. He traveled throughout New York State, selling dry goods to stores and businesses. In 1853, he moved to San Francisco, California, to start his own dry goods business.
San Francisco was booming at the time, thanks to the California Gold Rush. Miners, prospectors, and other workers needed high-quality clothing that could withstand their tough working conditions. Levi Strauss recognized this need and began supplying durable, long-lasting clothing to California’s growing population. He imported high-quality fabric from France and produced heavy-duty pants and overalls that quickly became popular among miners and laborers throughout the state.
In 1872, Levi received a letter from a tailor named Jacob Davis, who had developed a new style of work pants with metal rivets to reinforce the pockets and seams. Davis needed a partner to produce the pants on a larger scale, and he proposed to Strauss that they apply for a patent together. Levi Strauss agreed and provided the financial backing to obtain the patent for the “improvement in fastening pocket openings” on May 20, 1873. This was the inventing of the world’s first blue jeans.
Levi Strauss & Co. began mass-producing blue jeans in the 1870s, and the pants quickly became the go-to workwear for cowboys, miners, and laborers across the United States. Over the years, the company expanded its product line to include other types of clothing, but the blue jeans remained at the heart of the business. The Levi’s brand became synonymous with durability, quality, and American style.
Strauss was not just a successful businessman but also a philanthropist. He supported many charities, including the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home Society and the Eureka Benevolent Society. He also founded the Levi Strauss Foundation, which provides grants to support economic, social, and environmental causes.
Levi Strauss died on September 26, 1902, at the age of 73, in San Francisco, California. His business legacy continues to this day through the Levi Strauss & Co. brand his invention of blue denim has become a fashion icon across the globe. His charitable work also continues to impact the lives of many people today through the Levi Strauss Foundation. Strauss’s upbringing and experiences in the dry goods business laid the foundation for his success as an entrepreneur, and his contributions to society as a philanthropist will always be remembered.