Thursday, January 4, 2007

From Riga to rivets

Take a good look at those Levi’s brand jeans you’re wearing. See those rivets that help prevent the pockets from ripping off? If you’re amazed by the genius of those rivets, you have a Jewish tailor from Riga to thank.
Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria, founded Levi Strauss & Co. in 1853 in San Francisco. Among his customers for fabric was a Jewish tailor named Jacob W. Davis (1834-1908), who had immigrated to the United States from Riga, now the capital of Latvia. Born Jacob Youphes, he changed his surname to Davis when he arrived in America. Davis ran a shop in Reno, Nevada. Davis, according to a history of the first blue jeans posted on the Levi’s Web site, had a customer whose pockets frequently ripped. The tailor hit upon an idea: reinforce the pockets with rivets.
The reinforced pockets worked and soon many in Reno wanted work pants made by Davis. To protect his idea, Davis teamed up with Strauss to obtain a patent.
Strauss hired Davis to oversee production in his company’s San Francisco facility, a position Davis held until his death in 1908. The Davis family still is involved in the garment business.

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