ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Brief History of Levi Strauss & Co.

Updated on February 6, 2013

Levi Strauss & Co. was founded in 1853 by Levi Strauss. Headquartered in San Francisco Ca, the company employs seventeen thousand people worldwide and generates almost $5 billion in revenue. The history of Levi Strauss & Co. is a remarkable story of hard work, innovation and success embodying the very ideals of American business.

Levi Strauss was born in Buttonheim, Germany in 1829 to Hirsch and Rebecca Strauss. In 1847 at the age of 18, young Levi, his mother and two sisters immigrated to New York City to join a wholesale dry goods business run by his two brothers Jonas and Louis. The company was called J. Strauss Brother & Co.

Levi eventually headed to Louisville, Kentucky to sell products for his brothers’ company. In early 1853 he became an American citizen and in March of that same year, he travelled west to San Francisco in order to represent the family business. Opportunities abounded in San Francisco with the city in the midst of the California gold rush. Strauss soon opened his own dry goods wholesale business known as Levi Strauss & Co. He sold clothing, canvas and other dry goods to retailers throughout the region.

Jacob Davis worked as a tailor in Reno, Nevada. He purchased items from Strauss on a regular basis. A customer once asked Davis to make some sturdier pants for her husband. Davis began incorporating metal rivets at the corners of the pockets and the button fly. In 1872, Davis contacted Strauss about his new process for making work pants more durable. He wanted to patent the product, but didn’t have enough money to file the application. Strauss decided to fund the process and the two men would jointly own the patent. In May 1873 U.S. patent 139121 for "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings" was granted opening the way for the production of Levi jeans.

Davis joined Strauss in San Francisco to make these new jeans known at the time as “waist overalls”. They were marketed under the brand name of “XX” since nine ounce XX blue denim was used as the source material. Nine ounce XX was a rugged cotton twill textile made in the Amoskeag Mill in Manchester, New Hampshire. Each pair had one back pocket with Arcuate stitching, a watch pocket, a cinch, suspender buttons and a crotch rivet. The rivets were embossed with the “LS&CO symbol. Blue indigo dye was originally used on the cotton fibers, but later replaced by a synthetic.

In 1886, the Two Horse brand leather patch was used to demonstrate the strength of the overalls and reinforce Levi’s status as the inventor of riveted clothing. The rivet patent expired in 1890 and Levi’s began using the 501 trademark to designate copper riveted waist overalls. Another back pocket was added in 1901.

When Levi Strauss died on September 26, 1902 at the age of 73, the City of San Francisco declared a business holiday so that community business leaders could attend the funeral. His fortune was estimated to be worth around six million dollars. His will provided money to charities serving children and the poor. Since he had no children, he left the business to his four nephews, Jacob, Sigmund, Louis and Abraham Stern.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the headquarters and two factories along with most of the company’s records. The company extended credit to its customers and paid employee salaries until a new factory was built at 250 Valencia Street in San Francisco.

In 1922, belt loops were added for workmen who wanted to wear the overalls with a belt. In 1927, Cone Mills developed a ten ounce red selvage denim for 501 jeans and Levi’s waist overalls became a top selling brand. “Levi’s” was registered as a trademark in the late 1920’s.

The Depression crushed demand for the company’s products, but employees held onto their jobs by working reduced schedules. During this time the cowboy was adopted as the company’s advertising icon.

By 1936 the red Tab was placed onto the right back pocket and the word Levi’s was stitched in white on one side to distinguish it from other clothing manufacturers. The back pockets were eventually sown to cover the rivets in order to prevent the rivets from damaging furniture. Suspender buttons were also removed although snap-on buttons were available as an option.

During World War II the War Production Board mandated the conservation of raw materials which necessitated the removal of the crotch rivet, watch pocket rivets, back cinch and Arcuate stitching. (The Arcuate stitching design was registered as a trademark in 1943.)

In 1947, the post war version of the 501 jeans came off the production line. The cinch was gone, the rivets were put back on the watch pocket and the Arcuate was stitched with a double needle machine giving it a diamond shape.

In the 1950’s, teenagers began referring to Levi’s as “jeans” and the word Levi’s was stitched onto both sides of the red tab. A zippered version was introduced and called 501Z and the leather patch was replaced by a Two Horse patch made of cardstock. Card stock was cheap and held up well in washing machines.

In 1958, Levi jeans were displayed at the World’s Fair in Brussels and in 1959 they were exhibited at the American Fashion Industries presentation in Moscow. By 1960 the word “overalls” was formally replaced by “jeans” in labels and advertising. Pre shrunk jeans were introduced in 1961 and the rivets on the back pockets were replaced with bar tacking.

Sta-Prest, the first wrinkle free slacks, was introduced in 1964 and Levi jeans became part of the prestigious Smithsonian institution. The first Levi’s television commercial was aired in 1966 and by 1967 the “batwing” was adapted as the new Levi’s logo.

Bell bottoms, corduroy and polyester pants were introduced in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In 1971 the word “Levi’s” on the red tab was stitched in white with a capital “L” only and by the 1980’s Cone Mills used 60” looms to produce XXX denim.

Other important Levi milestones include:

- The introduction of 501 jeans for women in 1981.

- The introduction of Dockers and Khakis in 1986.

- The introduction of Never Iron and Thermal Adapt by Dockers in 2004.

- The launch of the Premium Made and Crafted collection in 2009.

- And the introduction of the Alpha Khaki in 2011 which combines the best characteristics of denim and khaki.

With products sold in over one hundred countries around the world, Levi Strauss & Co. continues to be a global icon of American culture, style and fashion!

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Eaglehawk 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Levi Strauss was born in Bavaria Germany in 1829. He was the son of Hirsch Strauss and Rebecca (nee Haass). Levi’s father died in 1845. When Levi was 18, he moved to the United States with his mother and two sisters. They joined his two brothers Jonas and Louis in New York.

    • profile image

      Axis54 

      5 years ago

      i am confused; does Levi have no parents at the age of 18 or have they moved to the united states then?

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Eaglehawk 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks for the input!

    • CarNoobz profile image

      CarNoobz 

      5 years ago from USA

      Interesting hub. Who knew there was such a history behind those button-fly's? hahaha.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)