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Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World

  • Jewish Community Library 1835 Ellis Street San Francisco, CA 94115 (map)

Free admission with free garage parking on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy streets.

Blue jeans symbolize everything from the Old West to the hippie counter-culture. And perhaps the name most associated with blue jeans is Levi Strauss & Co., creator of this classic garment. Company owner Levi Strauss (1829-1902) left his home in Germany at age 18, and made his way to San Francisco in 1853, where he established a wholesale dry goods business. By the 1860s, Strauss was active in the business and cultural life of San Francisco, and supported the Jewish community, including Temple Emanu-El, the city's first synagogue.  In 1873, he and a partner patented the first blue jeans as work pants.

Historian Lynn Downey researched and wrote this first full-length biography, Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World. She’ll discuss Levi’s life and legacy, which reaches into nearly every aspect of American culture: business, philanthropy, politics, immigration, transportation, education, and fashion.

Lynn Downey is an independent scholar and writer. She was the first in-house historian for Levi Strauss & Co., where for twenty-five years she developed the company’s archive, traveled as its global ambassador, and researched the life of its founder.

Program made possible, in part, by Tricia Hellman Gibbs.