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You Probably Have Heard The Name Levi Strauss, ...

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Text Illustration shared by Jeff Kolk, Cross Road Baptist Church

January 2001
Category: Stories
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Text Illustration:
You probably have heard the name Levi Strauss, but do you know the name of Jacob Davis? You know of Levi Strauss because of Levi's blue jeans. Levi made the most of an opportunity given him by a man named Jacob Davis. I got the following story from the Levi's website. Levi Strauss was a dry goods merchant, who came to San Francisco in 1853 at the age of twenty-four to open a west coast branch of his brothers' dry goods business. He had spent a number of years learning the trade in New York after emigrating there from his native Germany. He built up his business into a very successful operation over the succeeding twenty years, making a name for himself not only as a well-respected businessman, but as a local philanthropist as well.

One of Levi's many customers was a man named Jacob Davis, who made his living as a tailor in Reno, Nevada. He regularly purchased bolts of cloth from the wholesale house of Levi Strauss & Co. Among Jacob's customers was a difficult man who kept ripping the pockets of the pants that were made for him. Jacob tried to think of a way to strengthen his trousers, and one day hit upon the idea of putting metal rivets at points of strain: pocket corners, base of the button fly, etc. These riveted pants were an instant hit with everyone, and Jacob began to get worried that someone might steal this great idea. So, he decided to take out a patent on the process, but had trouble scraping together the $68 he needed to file the papers. What he needed was a business partner, and he immediately thought of Levi Strauss.

He wrote to Levi to suggest that the two men hold the patent together. Levi, being an astute businessman, saw the potential for this new product, and agreed to Jacob's proposal. The two men received patent #139,121 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, 1873 (the birthday of what we know as blue jeans). Jacob Davis was in charge of manufacturing once the company opened its two San Francisco factories. Within a very short time, all types of working men were buying up the innovative new clothing, and spreading the word.

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