Levi Strauss was not sole originator of denim jeans. The second man involved is the lesser known Jacob Davis, a fellow immigrant from Riga in the Baltic.
Around 1870, Davis was operating a workshop in Reno, Nevada. He acquired a contract from a local woodcutter to make a pair of very sturdy and over-sized trousers that would live through a heavy work season. He set out to work, and purchased a roll of white cotton duck fabric from a man out in San Francisco by the name of…you guessed it Levi Strauss.
At the time, making trousers out of cotton duck fabric was not unusual. The key moment came when Davis came across a pile of copper rivets that were lying around his workshop. He came up with the idea to fasten them at key stress points in the trousers, forming a more rugged and sturdy pair of pants. He went on to sell over ten more pairs that summer and word quickly spread of his “superior waist overalls” as they called it.
Davis could not expand on his own and he sought out a business partner. He penned a letter in 1872 to one man he trusted and had worked with before, Strauss. On May 20th 1873 the two were granted a patent for the “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”. Although the verbiage seems odd, this patent was essentially the birth of the modern jeans