Monday, October 15, 2012

Favorite pair of jeans by Lauri Robinson
We all have them, that one pair of jeans we adore and hope they never wear out—or that we outgrow them. Replacing them is awful! Even if we have a favorite brand, we aren’t guaranteed a new pair will be as perfect as that one pair. No matter what your favorite brand is, we do have one man to thank for creating ‘jeans’.

Born in Bavaria in 1829, Levi Strauss, at the age of 18, moved to America to work for his brothers who had opened a dried goods factory in New York.  During the California gold rush, it was decided Levi would be the family representative to open a West Coast branch of the family business. After gaining his American Citizenship in January 1853, Levi sailed to San Francisco, arriving in March with the plan of manufacturing tents and wagon covers for the gold miners. 

Finding no market for such items, Levi, a trained tailor, sewed the stout canvas he’d brought with him into extremely durable pants. The miners found the clothing tough and resilient, perfect for their line of work.  Word of the “wonderful pants of Levi’s” spread quickly, and sold out as fast as he could make them. 

Strauss opened a factory on Battery Street in San Francisco and within a few years, started using a heavy denim material the French called ‘genes’ instead of canvas.  Thus ‘jeans’ were born in America.  Strauss formed a partnership with a Nevada tailor in 1872 who had started adding copper rivets at the stress point in pants, making them more hard-wearing. The two of them received the US patent for the rivets in 1873.

Levi never married. Besides his success in the clothing industry, he served as a director of an insurance company, a utility company, banks, and a variety of charitable organizations. Upon his death in San Francisco in 1902, four of his nephews, (sons of his sister Franny who had moved to California to work with him) inherited his business.  

Neither jeans nor California are in my next book, Unclaimed Bride, which will be released this week from Harlequin, I just found Levi’s story an interesting tidbit—must be the fall weather. If you have a chance to visit Paty Jager’s blog, this Wednesday, I have more fun tidbits there, along with the opportunity to win an autographed book.  


Jacquie Rogers said...

I've included Levi-Strauss britches in a couple books, but low-key, because I've never been able to find out if they were popular with cowhands in 1885. In my current book, I don't have to worry about it because it's about miners. :)

Gerri Bowen said...

That was interesting, Lauri.

Ellen O'Connell said...

I don't know about anyone else, but for me hearing that Levi Strauss jeans were no longer an American product was one of the saddest things about what has been happening to American manufacturing these last decades. When I first moved to Colorado, my horsey friends couldn't get me out of the gabardine pants I wore and into Levis fast enough - the kind that buttoned with copper buttons.

Lauri said...

I didn't find if they were popular with cowhands or not, either, Jacquie.

Thanks, Gerri.

I know what you mean, Ellen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Caroline Clemmons said...

I knew Levi Strauss' story, but not that he never married. At lease he had his nephews for family continuity. Great post.