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Levi Strauss

entrepreneur, inventor
Born: February 26, 1829
Birthplace: Buttenheim, Germany

Levi Strauss was the inventor of blue jeans, which became known as “Levis,” a term now so common that it has made its way into the dictionary. Born in Germany, Strauss emigrated to New York City in 1847 when he was 18 and worked as a dry-goods salesman. The next year he moved to the wilds of Kentucky to sell his goods. News of the California Gold Rush led Strauss to San Francisco in 1853, where he sold supplies to the many miners hoping to strike it rich. Strauss himself struck it rich by with his rapidly expanding business, Levi Strauss & Co. His wholesale company sold dry goods, clothing, shoes, and a variety of imported and domestic items.

One of his most popular products was denim work pants, then called “waist-high overalls.” He paid seamstresses in San Francisco to sew them. The pockets of the work pants were reinforced with rivets so that they would not rip—an important feature for the rough and tumble life of a gold miner. In 1886, Strauss added a brown leather patch on the back of his waist overalls. The label, which shows a pair of jeans being pulled between two horses, is still affixed to Levi’s jeans today. Strauss was also a philanthropist who helped support many educational, Jewish, and charitable causes.

Died: September 26, 1902

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