Levi Strauss

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Levi Strauss
Löb Strauß

(1829-02-26)February 26, 1829
DiedSeptember 26, 1902(1902-09-26) (aged 73)
CitizenshipGerman Confederation (1829–1853)
United States (1853–1902)
Known forFounding the first company to manufacture riveted blue jeans
Founder of the Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss (/ˈlv ˈstrs/ LEE-vy STROWSS; born Löb Strauß, German: [løːp ˈʃtʁaʊs]; February 26, 1829 – September 26, 1902) was a German-born American businessman who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. His firm of Levi Strauss & Co. (Levi's) began in 1853 in San Francisco, California.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Birthplace of Levi Strauss

Levi Strauss was born to a Jewish family in Buttenheim on February 26, 1829, in the Franconia region of the Kingdom of Bavaria in the German Confederation.[3][4] He was the son of Hirsch Strauss and his second wife Rebecca Strauss (née Haas).[5][6]

In 1847, aged 18, Strauss travelled with his mother and two sisters to the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a wholesale dry goods business in New York City called J. Strauss Brother & Co., at 108 Liberty Street in Manhattan.[7][8][9] After arriving in New York, Strauss worked as an itinerant peddler of goods from his brother's store: kettles, blankets and sewing goods.[8][9]

Business career[edit]

Levi's sister Fanny and her husband David Stern moved to St. Louis, Missouri, while Levi went to live in Louisville, Kentucky, and sold his brothers' supplies there.[10] Levi became an American citizen in January 1853.[11]

The family decided to open a West Coast branch of their dry goods business in San Francisco, which was the commercial hub of the California Gold Rush.[12] Levi was chosen to represent them, and he took steamships for San Francisco via Panama,[12] where he arrived in early March 1854 and joined his sister's family.[13]

Strauss opened his wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. and imported fine dry goods from his brothers in New York, including clothing, bedding, combs, purses, and handkerchiefs.[12] He made tents and later jeans while he lived with Fanny's growing family.[14] Tailor Jacob W. Davis of Reno, Nevada was one of his customers; in 1871, having invented a way to strengthen work pants using rivets, he went into business with Strauss to mass-produce them.[15] The next year, Davis asked Strauss to help him apply for a patent, and the patent (one-half assigned to Levi Strauss & Co.) was issued in 1873.[16]


Levi Strauss was never married, and died on September 26, 1902, in San Francisco. His estate was worth about $30 million (equivalent to $855 million in 2023).[1] Levi's nephew Sigmund Stern's only child, Elise Fanny Stern,[17] married Walter A. Haas, the son of Abraham Haas, whose descendants are the current owners of Levi Strauss & Co.[18]


Levi Strauss, a member of the Reform branch of Judaism, helped establish Congregation Emanu-El, the first Jewish synagogue in the city of San Francisco.[19] He also gave money to several charities, including special funds for orphans. The Levi Strauss Foundation started with an 1897 donation to the University of California, Berkeley, that provided the funds for 28 scholarships.[20][21]

The Levi Strauss museum is located in the 1687 house where Strauss was born Buttenheim, Germany.[22] There is also a visitors center at Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters in San Francisco, which features historical exhibits.

In 1994, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[23]


  1. ^ a b Downey, Lynn (2008). "Levi Strauss: a short biography" (PDF). Levi Strauss & Co. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 23, 2011. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  2. ^ James Sullivan, Jeans: a cultural history of an American icon (Gotham, 2007).
  3. ^ Dinkelspiel, Frances (2010). Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California. St. Johns Martin's Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-312-35527-2. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  4. ^ Kellogg, Ann T.; Peterson, Amy T.; Bay, Stefani; Swindell, Natalie (2002). In an Influential Fashion: An Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-and Twentieth-century Fashion Designers and Retailers who Transformed Dress. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-31220-5.
  5. ^ Dietze, Joachim. "Levi Strauss" (family tree). joachim-dietze.de. Rebecca Haas, July 6, 1799–1869 San Francisco. Source: Levi-Strauss-Museum, Buttenheim. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  6. ^ "Died". Daily Alta California (San Francisco). January 8, 1869. Via California Digital Newspaper Collection. cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved March 20, 2019. "In this city, Jan. 6th, Mrs. Rebecca Strauss, mother of Levi Strauss, of this city, aged 69 years, a native of Bavaria."
  7. ^ Carey, Charles W. (2002). American inventors, entrepreneurs and business visionaries. Facts on File. pp. 331–332. ISBN 978-0-8160-4559-4. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Who Made America? | Innovators | Levi Strauss". www.pbs.org.
  9. ^ a b "Levi Strauss, From Immigrant Peddler to International Icon". Village Preservation. February 26, 2021.
  10. ^ Evans, Harold (2004). They made America. Little Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-27766-2. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Feldberg, Michael (2002). Blessings of freedom: chapters in American Jewish history. KTAV Publishing. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-88125-755-7. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "150th anniversary: How Levi's could have been called Jacob's". The Mercury News. May 22, 2023. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  13. ^ Leiman, Sondra (1994). America: the Jewish experience. UAHC Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-8074-0500-0. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  14. ^ Downe, Lynn (2007). Levi Strauss & Co. Arcadia Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7385-5553-9. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  15. ^ Loverin, Jan (2006), "A Nevada Stylist: Your Denim Jeans Are a Nevada Invention" (PDF), Nevada State Museum Newsletter, 36 (3): 4, archived from the original (PDF) on April 29, 2013, retrieved March 12, 2016
  16. ^ U.S. patent 139,121
  17. ^ "Family tree of Sigmund Stern". Geneanet. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  18. ^ "The Philanthropists". American Jerusalem - Jews and the Making of the American West. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  19. ^ Eshman, Adi. "The nearly forgotten Jews who helped make the American West". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  20. ^ "Foundations – Levi Strauss & Co". Levistrauss.com. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  21. ^ Thomas, Grace Powers (1898). Where to educate, 1898–1899. A guide to the best private schools, higher institutions of learning, etc., in the United States. Boston: Brown and Company. p. 10. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  22. ^ Heinz, Joachim (May 23, 2023). "Levi Strauss: Ein Buxenmacher aus Buttenheim". Jüdische Allgemeine (in German). Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  23. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved November 22, 2019.

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