Recently I saw a photo and the caption simply said “142 years ago this man did something that directly impacted most of us” Can you tell me who he is and what did he do?

Thank you.

Nancy Butler




Dear Ms Butler,

The gent in the photo was born Löb Strauss in Buttenheim in the Franconian region of Bavaria on February 26, 1829. In 1847 he, his mother and two sisters moved in with family already in New York to join the family dry good business. In March 1853 he traveled out to San Francisco, where his family had established a dry good business to cater to the rapidly growing Californian population in the wake of the Gold Rush. In 1871 Levi Strauss, as he renamed himself, got together with a customer, Jacob Davis, to market a new type of riveted denim pants that Davis had invented, and which was patented in 1873. Denim was not that new, but the rivets made a major difference and the “waist overalls” that Levi Strauss and Company produced, combined with the demand for such durable clothing in the Wild West, ended up sweeping the country. When Strauss died childless in San Francisco on September 26, 1902, he was worth about $6 million, and his four nephews carried on the business from there. The term “blue jeans” became popular in 1960, by which time Lee had started producing its own in Salina, Kansas, in 1889 and Wranglers had come out in 1946. The rest is history, of which more can be found on Wild West magazine’s Facebook page.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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