Levi Strauss Biography & Activities

Read this biography about Levi Strauss, creator of Levi's denim jeans, to learn more about this inventor. Use the suggested activities to extend students' learning about clothing and the Gold Rush.
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Inventor / Entrepreneur

Born: 26 February 1829
Died: 26 September 1902
Birthplace: Buttenheim, Bavaria (now Germany)
Best known as: The creator of Levi's denim jeans

Name at birth: Loeb Strauss

Levi Strauss made his fortune in the California Gold Rush as the maker of sturdy pants -- Levi's, the world's most famous denim jeans. Strauss emigrated to New York from Bavaria in 1847, then made his way to the San Francisco area in 1853. A tailor who had planned to make tents for miners, Strauss ended up stitching canvas pants that became famous for their durability. The "pants of Levi's" came to be called simply Levi's, and they became one of the best-selling products in his dry goods store. He began using fabric from Nîmes, France, serge de Nîmes (the origin of the word denim), then added dye to make them blue. In the 1870s he partnered with Jacob Davis of Nevada to add copper rivets to the pockets. Levi Strauss & Company became one of the world's largest manufacturers of casual clothing and Strauss himself became a wealthy patron of the city of San Francisco. Strauss was a lifelong bachelor, and after his death in 1902 his nephews took over the company.

Extra credit: Strauss endowed 28 scholarships in 1897 for the University of California at Berkeley... The original San Francisco factory was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, then rebuilt. It was closed in 2002; it was sold in 2005 and turned over to the San Francisco Friends School, a private Quaker elementary school... Strauss should not be confused with the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (b. 1908).

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Extension Activities:

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