New and Venerable Institutions: Levi Strauss

250 Valencia Street

Bavarian Levi Strauss sailed to the U.S. in 1947. After becoming an American citizen in New York, he sailed to San Francisco in 1853 to set up shop in dry goods. He made a fortune selling durable canvas pants to miners not knowing that blue jeans would one day be familiar even in the most remote parts of the world. His company had a series of headquarters in Strauss' day, beginning on California Street near Kearny. The jeans were manufactured in New York until 1873, when Strauss built the company's first factory in San Francisco. After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, this factory was erected on Valencia Street. With a century and a half of private and corporate business history, the Levi company has survived war and economic depression as its product became the national uniform. Blue jeans are inexorably connected to American culture, from cowboys to bikers to hippies and everyone in between. In 1860, Strauss started using denim fabric. Rivets came in 1872, belt loops in 1922. In 1935 Lady Levi's, the first blue jeans for women, were introduced. The red, stitched-in label was added in 1936. In 2002, the company announced plans to close six U.S. manufacturing plants including the Valencia Street factory. Company representatives said Levi would keep the historic facility for use as a museum, offices, or both.

At the outset of 2004, the company closed its two remaining U.S. manufacturing plants, located in San Antionio, Texas.

Copyright 2002-2004 Hank Donat home