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Levi Strauss & Co.

Founded in 1853 by Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss, Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the world's largest brand-name apparel marketers with sales in more than 110 countries. There is no other company with a comparable global presence in the jeans and casual pants markets. Descendants of the family of Levi Strauss privately hold the company. Shares of company stock are not publicly traded. Shares of Levi Strauss Japan K.K., the company's Japanese affiliate, are publicly traded in Japan. The company employs a staff of approximately 8,850 people worldwide, including approximately 1,000 people at its San Francisco, California headquarters. Levi Strauss, North America region is based in the company's San Francisco, California headquarters. It accounted for $2.4 billion of the company's $4.1 billion in total sales in 2004. The company Levi Strauss founded remains one of the nation's leading apparel manufacturers. Even more impressively, the garment he created, still known as "levis," has long since left the diggings to become not only an emblem of the American West but an emissary of the Western lifestyle, egalitarian, utilitarian, and independent, around the world. Levi Strauss died in San Francisco in 1902. In an age of public ownership and Wall Street capitalization, the firm remains a family business owned and managed by Strauss descendants. The family has maintained Levi’s philanthropic practices. A lifelong bachelor, he left the company to four nephews, whose descendants still control it. Today Levi's are sold around the world, with about $5 billion in annual sales. While Strauss may not have been the "inventor" of the garment known worldwide today as "Levi’s," he was surely responsible for its success. In 1847, at the age of eighteen, Loeb (known as Levi) Strauss emigrated to New York. The discovery at Sutter’s Mill set off the historic California Gold Rush of 1848 and changed the face of America. A fair number of prospectors who panned for gold in northern California’s rivers or who dug mines "struck it rich," although most ‘Forty Niners, as they were known, came up empty handed. A much larger number of fortunes were made from providing goods and services to the miners and other migrants. Levi Strauss was one such entrepreneur. One of the best-known beneficiaries of California's gold rush economic boom was Levi Strauss. One product of those heady times has become an enduring part of American popular culture, Levi’s jeans. Levi Strauss became an American citizen in January 1853. He subsequently joined his two older brothers and Sister Fanny in San Francisco to establish a branch of the family business there. After opening his own shop on Sacramento Street in downtown San Francisco, he brought in Fanny’s husband, David Stern, to help him run the business. By 1866, bolstered by a reputation for honesty and fair prices, Strauss was successful enough to open larger headquarters on Battery Street, in which he installed gaslight chandeliers, a freight elevator, and other modern conveniences. Trained as a tailor, he used the stout canvas he had brought with him to make especially durable pants, which miners found perfect for their close-to-the-ground line of work. He quickly began selling these pants as fast as he could make them. The riveted jean quickly developed a reputation for durability and quality, and Levi Strauss and Company soon employed several hundred sewing workers. In 1890, Strauss incorporated the business with his sister’s four sons and placed them in charge of day-to-day operations. Single his whole life, Levi Strauss turned his company into a family business by sharing it with his nephews, who helped develop Levi Strauss and Company into a worldwide force in retail clothing. In 1873, Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis patented the process of putting rivets in pants for strength, and the world's first jeans, “Levi's® jeans”, were born. Levi Strauss, a man of integrity who built a legendary business by providing a durable, high quality product backed by his own name and his family’s reputation, has left an enduring mark on American and world culture. Strauss made money with one hand and gave it away with the other, endowing 28 scholarships at the University of California and contributing to several San Francisco orphanages. When he died peacefully at home at age 73, the City of San Francisco declared a business holiday so that the community’s business leaders could attend the funeral at Temple Emanu-el. After the service, his employees accompanied the casket to the railway station, where it was put on a train for burial in the Jewish cemetery in Colma, a town south of San Francisco.