February 27th, 2009
Levi Strauss was a German-Jewish immigrant who, in 1853, founded Levi Strauss and Company, the first manufacturer of blue jeans. This picture of his workers was taken outside of his California factory in 1882. Strauss originally moved to San Francisco during the gold rush, where he imported and sold dry goods to miners and settlers in San Francisco.
From spending much time around miners, he eventually learned that their cotton pants were breaking easily. Jacob Davis, a tailor, came to Strauss with an idea to strengthen pants by producing them with copper rivets. Davis needed money to get this project started, and since Strauss and already become somewhat successful in the business of dry goods, he decided to help out Davis, and go into business with him. The product they created were called jeans and they have been extremely popular ever since.
In addition to finding fortune, Strauss remained connected to his Jewish roots. He helped to found the congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and remained an active member of the Jewish community. He always used his wealth to enrich Jewish life. He actively contributed to such groups as the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home and the Hebrew Board of Relief. Strauss’s family, who inherited the company after his death, continued to do so as well. Levi Strauss is seen as a hero in the Jewish community for his achievements in entrepreneurship and philanthropy.