Levi Strauss was one of the best-known beneficiaries of California's gold rush economic boom. He was born in Bavaria and came to San Francisco in 1850, one of the thousands hoping to stike it rich.
He was trained as a tailor and planned to manufacture tents and wagon covers for the Forty-niners, but found no market for these items. So instead, he used the stout canvas he had brought with him to make very durable pants which miners found perfect for their line of work. He quickly began selling these "wonderful pants of Levi's" as fast as he could make them.
Strauss opened a factory at 98 Battery Street in San Francisco and began adding copper rivets at the stress points in his pants. He then switched from canvas to a heavy blue denim material called “genes” in France, which became "jeans" in America. The company Levi Strauss founded remains one of America's leading apparel manufacturers, and even today, the garment he created, still known as "levis", represents the lifestyle and spirit of the American West: egalitarian, utilitarian and independent.
Following his success in the clothing business, he branched out to serve as a director of an insurance company, a utility company, several banks, and in a variety of charitable organizations. He died in San Francisco in 1902.