Religion - The internets fastest growing blog directory Judaism Blog Directory Blogs Directory The Blog Directory BlogCatalog

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Levi Strauss, a German Jewish immigrant from Buttenheim, Bavaria

Levi Strauss from Buttenheim, Bavaria [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Levi Strauss, born Löb Strauß, (February 26, 1829 - September 26, 1902), was a German-Jewish immigrant to the United States who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. His firm, Levi Strauss & Company, began in 1853 in San Jose, California.

Levi Strauss was born on February 26, 1829 in Buttenheim, Bavaria to Hirsch Strauss and his wife Rebecca (Haas) Strauss. His parents named him Löb, but he changed it to Levi after he came to the United States.[2]

The Strauss family was a member of the respected rural French Jewish community in Buttenheim. In the year 1810, a fifth of the inhabitants of Buttenheim were of the Jewish faith. In the 19th century, the Bavarian laws restricted the choice of profession and married partners of the Jews. Additionally they were only allowed to settle down in the community under certain circumstances. Only emigration allowed those particular freedoms. When the situation of the poor was made remarkably worse by general economic conditions the subsequent emigration included many Jews. So by the 1820 many members of the Jewish community in Buttenheim had been gone to emigrate.

On June 4, 1847 the widowed Rebecca Strauss applied for permission to emigrate to the USA. This permission was granted on June 14, 1847. At the age of 18, Strauss sailed for the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a dry goods business in New York City. His mother and two sisters came with him. By 1850, Strauss was already calling himself Levi.

In 1853, Strauss became an American citizen. He moved to San Francisco, where the California Gold Rush was still going on. Strauss expected the miners would welcome his buttons, scissors, thread and bolts of fabric. He also brought along canvas sailcloth, intended to make tents and covers for the Conestoga wagons many miners lived out of.

Strauss opened his dry goods wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. He often led his pack-horse, heavily laden with merchandise, to the mining camps in the Gold Rush country. He learned that prospectors and miners complained about their cotton trousers and pockets tearing too easily.

A Jewish Latvian immigrant named Jacob Davis (born Jacob Youphes) decided to make rugged overalls to sell to the miners. Fashioned from brown sailcloth made from hemp, his trousers had ore storage pockets that were nearly impossible to split. Davis wanted to register a patent, but lacked money. Strauss agreed to help him and they went into partnership.

On May 20, 1873, Strauss and Davis received US patent 139121 for using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets of denim work pants. Levi Strauss & Co. began manufacturing the famous Levi's brand of jeans, using fabric from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Strauss died in 1902 at the age of 73. He was buried in Colma. Strauss had never married and left his thriving business to his nephews Jacob, Louis, Abraham and Sigmund Stern. They rebuilt the company after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The following year, Jacob Davis sold back his share of the company.

No comments: