June 15, 2005
Well, I always thought that I knew the story of Levi’s jeans, how the Bavarian Levi Strauss showed up in Gold Rush San Francisco with a ton of heavy canvas for tent-making, met a miner who needed a pair of pants strong enough to withstand the rigors of gold mining, and the rest was history. Most San Franciscans “know” the same story.
Turns out that we owe that international fashion trend not to Mr. Strauss, but to a Nevada tailor named Jacob Davis, who first had the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce seams. Mr. Davis approached his fabric supplier in San Francisco, Mr. Strauss, asking for his help in establishing a patent, and they formed a partnership. That’s the real story! Whatever their provenance, Levi’s jeans are an essential part of San Francisco’s gold mining past.
The German roots of Levi Strauss are honored in his hometown, at the Levi Strauss Museum in Buttenheim, Germany, and Jacob Davis’ descendants are still living in the San Francisco bay area, running a company which bears his surname: ben davis.