Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was born in Bavaria to German-Jewish parents. In 1845, Strauss's father died, and his two older brothers left to join the Jewish community in New York City. Two years later, Strauss, with his mother and two sisters, joined them. Levi found work in his brothers' dry goods business. He became an American citizen in 1853 and moved to San Francisco to take advantage of the California Gold Rush. There, he set up a small dry goods store with brother-in-law David Stern. Levi responded to the miners' needs for a sturdy pant that would survive the rough mining conditions, and started making denim fabric.
The business became known as “Levi Strauss & Co." and by 1870, Strauss was a millionaire.In 1873, Jacob Davis, a European immigrant tailor and customer of Levi Strauss, approached him with an idea for a patent. Davis had been using rivets to strengthen the pocket corners of Strauss' denim fabric. Davis told Strauss that if he put up the money for the patent application, Davis would share the patent with him. The deal was struck and the patent was granted to Strauss and Davis in 1873. Levi Strauss & Co. brought the new workpants to market, and, in 1890, began using the lot number “501” to identify the product: the birth of the infamous 501 blue jean! Levi Strauss died at the age of 73 years. He never married, and his nephews inherited the company. Levi Strauss & Co. continues to be privately held by descendants of the family of Levi Strauss. The generosity that Strauss was known for during his life continued after his death. His will contained a number of bequests to San Francisco Bay Area charities which serve children and the poor. In addition, 28 scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley, established by Strauss in 1897, are still in place today.