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Biographies Unit Biographies

Levi Strauss 1829-1902
Invented Blue Jeans

Levi Strauss came to the United States from Germany when he was eighteen. He worked for his family's business in New York. He traveled about the United States selling cloth, thread, buttons, and other goods for his family's business in New York. During the Gold Rush, Strauss's sister moved to San Francisco and opened a store with her husband. They invited Levi Strauss to join them.

Strauss went to San Francisco, bringing several bolts of cloth to sell for tents and wagon covers. The canvas cloth turned out to be the wrong kind for tents, but perfect for work pants. Strauss's work pants became popular with miners and ranchers. These workers needed clothes that were sturdy enough for rough outdoor work.

When Strauss ran out of canvas, his brothers in New York sent him denim fabric, which was easier to sew. He dyed the denim blue to hide stains from the dirt that miners and ranchers worked in. The pants were later made with copper rivets to make the pockets stronger. The new design, called “Levis,” was a huge success. The blue jeans you wear today are not much different from the ones that Strauss made over 150 years ago. His business grew and he became a wealthy man. He gave away a lot of his money to help people in need.

Comprehension Check

Why did Levi Strauss move to San Francisco?

Critical Thinking

In what ways did Strauss improve his first design for pants?