This 2018 episode tells Levi's story, which is historically interesting because it touches on a lot of important moments in U.S. history. His business was tied to the California Gold Rush, the U.S. Civil War and American clothing culture.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Enjoy lives, precious moments with your own personal retreat. What moments will you create at Wallace Landscape Associates weep I'd single source, landscape design and build services to create your perfect garden, custom pool or outdoor room to enjoy and share with those you love, Designs, are tailored around your imagination, your lifestyle and your ultimate enjoyment. Your vision. Our quarrel now more than ever destination home, learn more at Wallace Landscape, dot com. This episode is brought to you by mulatto cookies. Look so
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help everybody gets through these times were living in its our host faves play lists. Yet these are just some of our personal favorites ones that we had a particular affinity for an because either stressful and trying times we tried to stick to the ones that weren't, quite as dour, so hopefully they'll give you a little with stay. Safe. Welcome to stuff, you missed in history class, a production of Iheart radio hello and welcome to the pond cast on how we fry and I'm Tracy, we well thin, and today's episode was requested. A proxy one hundred years ago, if you go by way of hyperbole by her the scenario- they're not really one hundred years ago, but if you that way. It was a very long time and I, had it on my list throughout that time, but I am only just now getting to it for a variety of reasons we are talking today about Levi Strauss
and his story is really historically interesting because it touches on a lot of important moments in U S history. So he was an immigrant who ended up in a business that was impacted by and in turn affected the. U S: civil war and american clothing culture. He has a story that tied to the guy rush. He also had a vision for his adopted city of San Francisco that he worked, really hard to achieve so there. Generations would benefit from it and his in many ways is the story of the United States in the nineteenth century, from the perspective of a jewish immigrant who became a captain of industry before get into a story. I will make a confession, which is that until fairly recently crop, we five years this should go. I thought Levi Strauss were two different people that have been a business saying so. Clearly, I miss this in history as because, even though people where
leave eyes in you'd call it Levi Strauss. I didn't realize that was one person's proper name, so I grew up in North Carolina, not all that far away from cone mills witches who made the Denham Fur Levi's fibre ones firm, but two hundred years or something like this is a piece of history that is like I'm a little more stupid. I didn't have confusion about whether Levi Strauss or TB is not my point. at this moment, but in my defence, even though I am a clothes person, I don't think I owned a pair of g of any flavour from about now one thousand nine hundred and eighty five until like two years ago, like that's just never been my things. So that's my excuse, poultry though it may be that I just never examined Levi Strauss. It makes you feel better Hannah Barbara was one person who should know that beef
by now so leave. I was born Lube Strauss on February, twenty six of eighteen, twenty nine in Britain and Germany has Father curse. Strauss was a salesman who sold household goods door to door. His mother's name was Rebecca Hoss, Strauss and she and her screw up and Frank cornea. It's an area in the north of modern Day Bavaria, which was predominantly jewish, Rebecca, was heard of second wife. His first wife male Bouwman Strauss had died at the age of thirty five leaving him with five children, then hearse and Rebecca had two more children together, a daughter and then Lube and Hirsch Rebecca and there, Sir, Children lived in a three room downstairs floor of a true story house. So this was a time when Bavaria's union a to or law, was in effect that had started in the eighteen teens, and this law seems
it offered jewish citizens the opportunity to pursue a number of jobs that had once been forbidden to them, but in return it also created really strict rig patients for their lives, among them, marriage, An immigration of new Jews was severely limited. All Jews had to be registered. to take german names, they can own land and even their language was codified. So all public records had to be kept in German. They could not use Hebrew for those. Someone like Hirsch Strauss, who travelled through the area selling his wares, also served as messengers than as community connectors. During this time and in this profession, curse was sort of exempted from a part of the union edict. working as a peddler which had been a traditional job or jewish men in the area for a long time was no longer considered an acceptable career. But older people like hers who weren't able to pick up a new profession were allowed to keep doing it.
Yeah. It was expected that they would just eventually die off, and so would that profession and all The union edicts eventually inspired emigration, one of them one of the marriage laws that really created a problem was that only the eldest son of any jewish household could get married, and so there were some workarounds lake if another son that was younger, wanted to marry a widow that was acceptable or if a couple that No children wanted to give up the slot. Their eldest son would have had to another family, so they could have two sons Mary. They could, but basically this really limited the entire society culture, because all these young women could not get married. All of these young men could not get married. It was frustrating so eventually they wanted to leave in an eighty, thirty seven there was a group of eighteen people that left eighteen, young people into of love, older, siblings, were part of that they left Germany to make her in London, in New York, in nineteen, forty
nineteen. Forty one to more of the strong children followed suit in eighteen. Forty six first died of Tuberculosis Rebecca remarried soon after two persons brother, he was a widower named Lippman, but Lippman died just a few weeks after the wedding love with seventy at that time, and you of his sisters were still living at home, and emigration at this point was not easy. You couldn't just pick up and leave Bavarian government had to approve any one who wish to leave the country, and you had to prove that neither you nor anyone in your family had any sort of criminal record and that you could afford to make the trip on March 17th, one thousand eight hundred and forty seven Rebecca Strauss filed an immigration petition in which he stated that, because she was a widow, she didn't have the financial support anymore. She didn't know how
would provide for her youngest son, but she had children in the United States who could help her get settled. There was old enough to work and contribute to the family's finances once they arrived and for his part, Lube wrote his own petition, stating quote no members of my family will stay behind. I will share the fate that has been assigned to me with them and foreign lands. I just joined my mother and her plea on June 26th, one thousand eight hundred and forty seven Rebecca her children, so love and his two sisters were approved for emigration, but they didn't leave immediately because Rebecca needed make sure that the family that had gone on to New York had indeed me preparations for the three of them to arrive and live there, they finally made their way in the spring of eighteen. Forty eight, although the specifics of their transatlantic passage, aren't really documented or known. Jonas and Lewis Strauss lives, brothers had become dry. Goods merchants in the city made open up a shop at three hundred and ninety three and one slash two brands
but by the time the family arrive, they had moved to a more lucrative location at two o three and a half division street. They lived above the shop. that also got married and started his own family and, at some point, love followed, The example that has siblings had any changed his name to a more americanized version. This was not uncommon in the eighteen fifty senses he is listed, as Levi with a why he also started work. In the family, drygoods business. While he was there, he learned English really quickly, so that he could speak with business partners and customers and he applied for? U S, citizenship, justice. His brothers had done before him the stress on strike. Its business was doing really well, they mean to another new location near union market in eighteen, fifty one and as their family business was growing and new opportunity was making itself apparent across the country as the California gold rush fostered new
towns, new prosperity and a need for Drygoods the Strasbourg I did not want to miss a chance to capitalize on this new market, but they also needed to keep their establish New York business going, and so the youngest brother of the family was sent West five days after he took his oath in ship on January, thirty, first eighteen, fifty three lobe Strauss who now going by leave. I left New York for San Francisco aboard the: U S: mail, ship Georgia, which was a steam, and the family had already loaded a shipment of merchandise aboard another ship called the winged racer for leave to take possession of once he reach San Francisco, the clipper wing
Racer was sailing down around the Tipp of South America and the North to California. Leave. I would make the trip in less time travelling through Panama. This was, of course, before the Panama Canal was built, so he took the steamer Georgia to Panama and then travelled across that thin strip of the country, the Panama City. On the pacific side, they got on another steamer, they're called the isthmus, and that was bound for San Francisco. He arrived in San Francisco on March. Thirteenth one thousand, eight hundred and fifty three. This was considered for a lot of people, a safer plan than trying to travel overland from New York to San Francisco, because people often did not survive that journey or if they did get to California, they got there and pretty sorry shape. This is a little bit of an easier move and the specifics of, Levi's first days in San Francisco are also unknown. He would have needed to rent warehouse space for the goods they were coming in on the winged razor and
we needed to find lodgings for himself. He most likely had some letters of introduction today, connections that had already made that journey West. So it wasn't as though he just showed up and had to figure everything out by himself. He had some security met in place that merchandise that had been shipped showed up two weeks after led by dead on March Thirtieth, unlike emergency. You had the bid on merchandise that was shipped on speck once it got to the port at San Phronsie, I'll leave. I knew what was coming. He just had to inspect it, accept it and then move on to the warehouse. As I got to know the market in California, he could ensure that future shipments contain items that would be the most likely to move on to me. the most money and for clarity. The Strauss's were not opening a retail shop in San Francisco, even though they had sort of a similar one New York. They were basically setting up a wholesale business that would sell stock to other merchants for their shops
so leave. I had to invest time in developing really good relationships with other businessmen in the area, and he was twenty four at this point he wasn't supporting away for family. So, aside from attending sitting, and participating in social events, primarily within San Francisco jewish community. All of his efforts could be focused on establishing the families New West Coast, and he wasn't only working with retailers in San Francisco either. He also travelled inland to Sacramento and he paid visits to smaller mining towns to make deals with the shopkeepers there, and this was an ongoing practice for the business that he pretty much carried out for. ever zoo in news broke of new or strikes, or a new town. Popping up Strauss with smart enough to go get into those towns that sprouted up in those places really quickly and forge those new business partnerships coming up will talk more about how Levi Strauss set up the Strauss family business in San Francisco, but first we will take a little break for a word from a sponsor
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Business, ostensibly for the company that his brother founded, which was J Strauss and brother, but he was invoicing, client started as a separate business as just Levi Strauss in July. One thousand eight hundred and fifty five Levi sent a shipment of gold back brothers. This was valued at a little over ten thousand dollars at the time, which is estimated to be close to a quarter of a million dollars in modern currency. Of course, it's really difficult to make those estimates clearly the caliph The office was doing really well, in spite of the fact that there was something of a financial panic going on in San Francisco that year, it didn't seem to impact Strauss by the end of eighteen. Fifty I've had sent more than eighty thousand dollars home in gold. You're, one of them Is that really made his business it'll come up over and over that? Even when there are difficulties they still manage to pull through any do pretty well like people will all me dry goods. They always need clothes and linens and household basics.
It was a really smart business to be in in the first place, and one thousand eight hundred and fifty six. So I continued expansion of the Strauss prize in California. Leave I sister Fergus. had changed her name to family, when she moved to the United States move to San Francisco with her husband, David Stern, and their children to assist with the growing responsibilities of the business and his brother Louis also join them. It is possible, though, unconfirmed, that his mother Rebecca made the journey as well and for the first time since moving to the. U S leave. I actually had a home with an address that was separate from his business, not living above it. Lord within it, indicating that, was this ongoing trend of prosperity. The firm also changed names that year it went from J Strauss and brother to J Strauss, brother and company may be to acknowledge Levi's contribution But on all records in California was listed as Levi Strauss leave. I sent more than that
the amount to New York in eighteen, fifty six that he had in eighteen. Fifty five that amounted to approximately two hundred thousand dollars naturally, in the late eighteen, sixty Levi Change, the name of the California branch to Levi Strauss and company, recognising his family members contributions. Eighteen fifty six was also the year that Levi Strauss became involved along with his brother in law in the committee vigilance, which was a vigilante group made up largely of merchants that form to combat the city growing political corruption and related violence, while business and politics had largely stayed separate up to that point, concerns over how businesses could be impacted by the lawlessness of men in power led to the Committee of Vigilance Norman, in eventually electing many of the city's business leaders into political office. So they pick people that they knew from other merchants and put them in office because they thought that was safer,
and while Strauss did not seem to have any political ambitions of his own, he did back the political efforts of the committee, those committees that there were several of them in several places. At this time period and in some places their activities were kind of controversial, because there was like an extra judicial violence capacity in this combat of corruption. So with like there's a whole bigger story there, but his involvement was really about electing business, to city position So there has actually been a similar. Can be in San Francisco several years. Prior to this, that was much more of lake of vigilantly. police that were obviously to their minds not doing anything about it, so that existed in Samara discouraged
going on and the police that were obviously to their minds not doing anything about it, so that existed in same Francisco as well. Although he was not part of that time and eighteen, fifty seven Strauss family experienced a financial loss in September, the Ss Central America which had picked up passenger and freight in, Panama, including a large shipment of gold, went down in a hurricane off the: U S Coast and the Atlantic more than four hundred people. Died and an estimated one point. Five million dollars of gold was lost, including seventy six thousand dollars that was on route to J Strauss, brother and company from Levi Strauss accompany. Incidentally, the wreckage of the central Amerika was bound and much of the tragic treasure recovered and nineteen. Eighty eight, although there was a significant legal battle over who should get that goal
the thinking of the Central America set off a financial panic. There was a lot of gold. The New York banks had been expecting on that ship. So, when it didn't show up it was. It was a significant economic disruption, and yet, as seems to be the pattern of his life Levi Strauss, whether this storm part of this is because brothers were the ones shipping him goods, so that meant he didn't have to reassure a supplier of his good credit. Billig. No, no, I know a lot of money, but I will make it up to you there like. I will just keep it going so this drought, family continued business as usual and because other entrepreneurs didn't have the credit or the leverage to do the same thing, Levi's business, flourished as other shut down by the end of the year, he was shipping gold to New York once again and he had expanded to have offices in the city that were actually separate from his warehouse. He was also taking men of raw materials from suppliers outside the family, which he then labour
in deals that got him discounts on the goods that were made from those raw materials, as the country found itself in the grip of the civil war. San Francisco citizens realise they could eventually be impaired did buy it. California had entered the union as a free state, as outlined in the compromise of eighteen fifty. But while most of the city was loyal to the union there were some concerns about some government officials wanting to ally with the confederacy. After a pro, union rally in the city on May 11th, one thousand eight hundred and sixty one at the junction of Montgomery Market and post streets. A resolution was put forth that for a union committee of thirty four, the committee of Respected men, who would uphold the ideals of the Union Phil vacant government posts and keep an eye out for treason. Levi Strauss, as one of a man named as a member of this group and one of only three jewish men included,
we're very worried that there were people. They were infiltrating California, who were pro slavery and that it was completely causing a people of everything going on in the state and particularly in a large city like San Francisco, so they really wanted to try to keep an eye out and prevent such a problem. And when the roots that were stationed at the Presidio were sent east to fight. It really left the people of San Francisco. A little bit uneasy and they were fearful without protection. The volunteer group as the home guard was founded, that consisted of three thousand men and it sort of served as a makeshift military force. The home hard and the Union Committee of thirty four actually disbanded, though when Leland Stanford was elected, California, Governor Stanford was a pretty you. republican, who was very well respected, successful and powerful. So the concerns of some sort of pro Confederacy uprising that had led to the formation of those two groups were pretty diminished under his leadership Strauss in his California, business
continued to do well through all of this and the prosperity of color when his merchants helped keep the country afloat through the civil war Strauss, it recognise the value of real estate fairly early on and had invested in a number of properties throughout the city which often sold as the prophet after holding them. For some time, Levi Strauss in company also moved into a new space that he purchased in eighteen. Sixty even so the forest story, building on Battery Street, but clearly showed the company's success. The company was known for its excellent and speedy service and the ability of its employees to satisfy client needs with, even though largest orders. Here there was a right up where they actually used. The word empowered to describe the salespeople and clerks at Levi Strauss as being able like they were empowered to meet the needs and agree to deals with clients which a sort of a weird word to be using in the eighteen sixties, but there it was,
Unfortunately, the late eating sixties also came with family loss as Levi's half sister Mary died in eighteen, sixty six and his mother Rebecca past three years later, after Rebecca Daft Leave, I travelled back to New York any stay there for a month, presumably to help subtle accounts and get her affairs in order. There is also an embezzle meant scandal at least Mr Olsson company are in October of eighteen sixty six when news broke, that a bookkeeper had taken five hundred thousand dollars and left the country, what company not wanting to scare away business partners, said that there was no money missing. It also made a statement in an advertisement that the man in question, GS, Goodman, was no longer with the company and was not authorized to conduct business on behalf of Levi Strauss in company this mix of Message
seem to below over, while Mr Goodman never saw any retribution of the fact that he had taken money from his employer quite a lot of money from his employer. Neither the company nor Levi Strauss personally seems to suffer any measure fall out from it either you're. That sort of those stories were it's like they Please we claimed that it had not happened, so there is no record of it happening, but the whom the fact that there also like, but also If you dont, like eight as or for as many of you know it, it does seem like it's a little bit of a weird combination of things to put out the press. The then he continued explosive growth right into the eighty seventies. As Levi, who obviously had an impressive business instinct realised that he needed to expand into international markets. At that point, his business had expanded to I merchants all along the western seaboard and into Oregon and Montana, but he was also expanding.
Farther into the American South West, and then he started to reach out to potential clients in Canada, Mexico and Hawaii. Coming up we're going to dive into the thing that the Levi Strauss name is most closely assume he with today, which is blue jeans. First we're gonna, have a quick sponsor break support for stuff. You missed in history class comes from our friends at rocket mortgage by Quicken loans. Home today is so much more than it was yesterday, but it racket, mortgage home, is still alive you during these challenging times or I'll experiencing the top priority. A rocket mortgage is the health and safety of the communities they serve and while things are changing quickly, everyday One thing that will never change as their teams commitment to giving you the best mortgage experience possible. That's why? If you need mortgage support, their team of experts is there to answer questions and offer solutions. They understand the hardships happen and they are here to help, but does that mean
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Please you're hiding a decades old scandal, the young lover. who are being kept apart and the heirs whose futures hanging in the balance an end to these stunning new series and find out what happens when class divides and love unites in Belgravia, every Son at nine eight central only on epics get the channel or get the app Jacob Davis to presumably started out as Jakob and American his name when he got here was also a jewish immigrant than he had moved United States from Russia as a young man. He like leave. I also worked in dry goods as a cutter and a tailor, although he had also dabbled in the brewery business and some other enterprises. He was also an inventor. He had developed a screw based, clue,
fastener and ironing board that could also stretch clothes and the folding press and those last two items were granted patents, but that fastener was not take care of had also expanded. His tailoring works to make tents and wagon covers to capitalize on a need for those kinds of goods in mining town. In Nevada, where he lived, he started making very sturdy long lasting trousers for laborers out of duck and Denham Duck is like a very densely woven cloth and he eventually on the sixth suggestion of a relative started, buying his duck yardage firmly vice some company your dog, is usually compared till I got very densely woven canvas. Almost it's it's one of those things that people still make work closer Sometimes I don't love it. It's a little stiff for my tasted, very sturdy. It will last you a long time and to please
of his tailoring customers who came into order work pants for her husband who apparently war through them at a pretty good clip Davis used rivets to reinforce the pockets? The story the wife came in because she's that my husband is we're not always pants. A camera if the house I have to cover places order, so she had go back with a piece of string and mark like his waistline and other measurements and then bring it back to the shop and she was delighted. It appeared. Her husband was the way did Jacob later, so her husband, around town wearing these pants seemed like everything was going great and he included that deed those riveted pockets on a number of other pairs of pants, because people started to see these plants in town and asked where they came from, and could they also get the same ones and so he started making these pants with duck canvas and riveted pockets for more and more people. As the riveted pants pocket became popular with his customers, Davis decided he should patent them, but that was a really expensive process and the story goes there
wife didn't want him to spend money that they didn't have trying to do it so along with a payment on an invoice that he's than to Levi Strauss in company. He also sent two pairs of pants with the proposition that the company apply for the patent in his name and in return he would give the company half the rights to sell the pants This is like the most trusting move. I can possibly imagine someone doing No here's this thing I invented. I would like you to help me Pat met by the way. It's not panted yet, but here it is yet especially having been working on this day in history class and recently recording episodes on people like Filer Farnsworth and glad test. Look like there are so many stories about a big business. That's like I'm, take this patent from you, for no money and exploit it, but yea in
make sure that I was watching online of a Levi Strauss biographer, whose book I used for a lot of this. She was saying like to her. This really indicates how trustworthy Levi Strauss was perceived to be by people, that just knew his name like he does have this reputation. For being a really honest him. Good MA am, and so this person completely trusted him with his invention and there it went and Strauss no fool. He went for the idea really quickly. He rode up an agreement, gave the company Levi Strauss in company exclusive rights to sell the pants on the West Coast, and that quote rights outside of the Pacific Coast and territory I'll, be equally divided between ourselves and Davis. Davis agreed to these terms and made it very clear that this was not just about the river. It was also about the cut and construction are offered to oversee the manufacture of the pants, either in New York or in San Francisco, whichever Strauss preferred and the first patent application.
File on behalf of Davis, was rejected on the basis that the military had been using rivets in the construction of shoes already, and so they just using them on pockets was really Not in innovation Strauss did not. After this, he hires lawyers who specialize in patent law to appeal the case, but it was once again rejected an early one thousand. Eight hundred and seventy three Strauss and they work, preparing another go at a patent for these riveted pants Jacob. Airbus and his family moved San Francisco and may a revised version of their application was submitted this time with more detail about the distinction between the riveting that they were using on clothes and the way that rivets had been used on shoes. Just a few weeks later, on May twenty, eighth of eighteen, seventy three, the patent was issued Strauss paid Davis for the vow of his home and store in Reno Nevada and the Davis made their move to San Francisco permanent, so the Jacobs could oversea production
This new line of riveted Trousers Strauss later sold this back to Davis for a dollar many flicked. It here was a couple years leave her thin Davis bought Bacchus House and shop in Reno, and I think It was only like three months after that that he sold it at the time they marketed these new pants. as overalls, and that word did not have the combination of bib overalls. They would they would have today they were sometimes called least overalls like basically part of that was because you could work. over other pants, but people were them without pants, underneath it is well Batches went out in June of eighteen, seventy three, so that was just a month after the pain was approved at one thousand. Nine hundred and fifty per dozen pair, so nineteen dollars and fifty cents for a dozen of them. This was a substantial will increase over previous market prices for similar garments more. a dollar more than in visual deserves, were used to seeing so four a m a merchant
It was the middle man to have to pay that much per pants with significant. They really headed explain: no. These are gonna last you so long. They are way stronger and better than other pants Strauss opened up a new factory location, so they can start more serious production. The following month, they place than add four. First class female sewing machine operators. These operators had to bring their own so machines that we're suitable for heavy work, yet even in the they laid out which sewing machine models, would be acceptable. If you didn't have one of those don't apply for the job Levi Strauss in company also started selling riveted duck coats for hunting and by and of eighteen. Seventy three they had sold an estimated twenty thousand garments, the pants that they were making. The beginning bore pretty much all the characteristics we see Levi's today, although they have shifted in style a little bit, so they had copper rivets. They had
mustard orange thread for stitching and the curvy shallow, these ditching on the back pocket the year after Levi and Jacobs, riveted overalls hit the market leave. I was named by the New York Times as one of San Francisco is millionaires. He had also set up the company, which was basically functioning on its own as a separate entity from J Strauss brother in Company for co partnership with his brothers, so that they would have power of attorney and be able to make decisions about the business in the event that he was not able to hear he kind of realise this has grown massive and I can't be the only one who makes decisions if something goes arrive. That same year, Levi Strauss also suit a competitor who started using rivets in the construction of their pants that other manufacturer, a b l felt in company, pulled all the products that they had made from shelves ones that suit was filed, but Strauss.
Continued. The legal action anyway in order to deter others from infringing on the patent does a couple of years later, Levi Strauss at his brothers, that up an EAST Coast factory under Jacob Davis's supervision to make riveted goods, in late one thousand, eight hundred and seventy six another manufacturer, Hw King and company started making riveted goods as well Levi Strauss, his company's numbers drop, even as they brought an infringement suit against this other company. After a four year legal battle, the case was decided in favor of Levi Strauss CO yeah, that's a long time for that to drag out, but they were like nope we're gonna. Do it. Eventually, they did start as there be no patents. Not last forever, and they started realising that they had to do branding so that their genes were completely recognise people from others, and people can ask for them by look. How they develop their logo. They kind of new. They couldn't
they have other people using rivets forever, so they ve got very savvy about how they presented their clothes. There were also to more deaths in the Strauss family in eighteen. Seventy four! Levi's brother in law and senior partner, David Stern, died in January and in August, one of David sons, who was just eighteen died for reasons that have been lost to the historical record and even as there were losses, the family also continued to grow through marriage and children, and it reached a point where. fourteen people were all living in Strauss's house, including himself, so they move to a larger home on Leavenworth Street in the eighteenth seventies, chinese emigrants, and foreign yeah, we're being viewed with increasing hostility, as they competed for jobs with white labourers in the same market, with fewer and fewer opportunities in eighteen. Seventy six
ass was named, and an experts say that appeared in the daily morning call. The claim was that Strauss was employing five hundred chinese workers are rebuttal, appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle the following day, saying that the company employed exactly one chinese person and that that person, and a position that white laborers had quote again and again tried and failed to do. That position was cutting the dense fabrics that were used to make these girls generally Levi Strauss in company, like a lad of manufacturers at the time, really stressed in their advertising that their goods were made by white labour. Yet this was a whole problematic thing. We're gonna talk about it a little more in a moment, but we have talked before So on the show about the racism they became rampant, particularly on the West coast of the United States. During this time towards asian immigrants, He continued to do business with chinese merchants. He did not
to have an aversion to them at all or be racist towards them in terms of business partnerships, but he kind of new that if he were Yes, I hired chinese laborers that it would tank the company, because I would not trust him anymore, so he was complicit in this whole system, but that doesn't seem to reflect like a personal outward racism, re no and in eighteen eighty he worked on the committee that arranged the San Francisco visit a president referred be haze. This was kind of funny because was reported that MR and MRS Levi Strauss attended a dinner in the president's honor, but leaving ever got married, so it is unclear if he had taken a female relative to this event or an acquaintance or if the paper simply got the facts, wrong, in January of eighteen, eighty one, the San Francisco bulletin, published the details of Levi Strauss, his funeral. There is one problem he would very much alive. But this point initially the sounds like a really funny mixer
but it was actually a really sad moment. Levi's brother Louis had been the one who had died and the paper had to publish a correction. The next day, three years later, the Strauss's sister Fanny who had been very close to leave. I also died and the oldest sibling and founder of the family business Jonah Strauss died in eighteen. Eighty five, like Levi his siblings, had also been really involved, and philanthropic work. Yeah, we're gonna talk about his philanthropy in just a moment, but all of their o There is talk about all of the places that they donated both money and time. All of the causes they supported a definite It was a family affair in terms of lake wanting a better community and a better future for the children that would come after another. Devastating loss came in eighteen, ninety three, when Levi's nephew Nathan, who had been running the New York offices for the firm shot himself in his office bathroom and while it eventually came out that he had long
to good bit of money. It was never discovered exactly. How did it happen? There were certainly lots of rumours about how it might have happened, but there is no clear evidence as to actually what had led him to that moment. in nineteen hundred Levi Strauss in company printed, its first catalogue. The business seemed to have no limit to its potential. At this point, he third, a labour strike that took place throughout the city that year in nineteen o too. He also joined with a community leaders to speak out against making the provisions of the eighteen. Ninety two Geary ACT, permanent the Geary ACT had extended the provisions of the eighteen. Eighty two chinese exclusion ACT and we ve talked about the chinese Exclusion ACT on the show before the telegram that was sent by Strauss and his colleagues to Washington DC stated that barring legitimate chinese merchants was an injustice with pleaded
have the desired effect, though the extension of the Geary ACT came through yeah and there's discussion of just how much this was like an activist moment, verses, you're, stupid to turn away business. That's gonna help our. Three in particular community grow, but he did speak out against it, even though that did not play out the way they had hoped in September of nineteen. Oh eight Levi Strauss was diagnosed after feeling a little unwell forbid, with a slight congestion of the liver and it was believed that he was going to recover any did start to feel better and two days. the doktor had visited and given him his diagnosis. Levi Strauss died after dinner with his family and then returning to bed. He was in the family mausoleum at the home of peace cemetery. After a funeral at his home and his force, in nephews, inherited the business and his fortune. His nieces each received a significant sum to be given directly to them.
not to their spouses or other male relatives for management. That was something that one of his brothers had done as well, and he also left money to all the various charities that he had worked with over the years. I will tell you and if you have list, this package for any period of time. You can understand why that, as I researched suppose episode. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, because we have so many since it is a really interesting seeming people that them in the course of actually big their biography. We find out some horrifying thing they did or a part of here's the secret evil. I didn't think I was signing up for with Russia right. I thought this was light now they're horrible and while Levi Strauss was certainly, shrewd businessman who did look after the interests of his company. He also seems I've been a genuinely mice and pretty good human being surely not faultless, but I kept expecting some horrific thing to appear and it didn't
here. We ve got play using, we said well problematic, like being like no, we only employ white people that yeah that that's not great, but also was not a case of like. Let me literally enslaved people in the basement, which seems like that's more often than not. The story we accidentally wind up tell him in his prosperity. Levi Strauss upheld the jewish ideology of benevolence, he donated money to worthy causes in the San Francisco community, both those run by various iterations of jewish, benevolent associations and non jewish charities as well yeah. He actually started don't Money almost as soon as he started, making money after he moved to California. It seemed have been just something that was deeply important to him in the eighteen sixties. He donated to the U S, Sanitary Commission, to help clean up union camps to minimize the rampant disease there. He asked
catered for and participated in a shut down of businesses in San Francisco on election day on November eighth, eighteen, sixty four- that was the action that Lincoln one for what would have been his second term. He was also one of the founders of the Concord Ia Society, which began in January of eighteen, sixty five, which is a place where jewish leaders and professionals could gather for social and educational events. Strauss was the clubs first. Vice president, that was another one of those institutions that was really forward facing in terms of legal, the future. They also wanted to make sure that young you wish professionals could come in and learn from mentors and get a support system to help them succeed. became increasingly involved in community government and politics over the years. He seem to think it was his responsibility as a successful person. He was a vocal the porter of the Hawaiian Reciprocity Treaty of eighteen. Seventy five, which remove tariffs on goods traded between the kingdom of Why you and the? U S, and he also abbot
he did for building regulations that would reduce the risk of fire spreading in the increasingly tightly packed city. He had handsome fires himself that impacted his properties, and so, of course those efforts had benefit to other people, but they also benefited his personal business. He also dreamed up donations for the Garfield Monument Fund, a thirty eight and donated orphanages, and help set up the Labour exchange, which was agreed was intended to help the unemployed. Men of the city make connections to find temporary and permanent work. He also became heavily involved in the society for the prevention of cruelty to children, which was incorporated in eighteen. Seventy six he served in one leadership, role or another with the organization for the rest of his life. That was a particularly important one to him. and as the eighty nine had moved on, Strauss had stayed busy, even though he was going through a lot of family tragedy. At the time he was working with other merchants and civic here's to actual eyes infrastructure projects, including a real road to compete with the southern Pacific. He knew that
City that was appealing to new residents would mean sustained growth for the businesses they are, so he was constantly donating his personal money and on behalf of Levi Strauss in company to the creation of things like parks or the improvement of public spaces, and he supported efforts like the pioneer kindergarten society, because he knew the educating children was a vital part making a future for the city. He was not only interested in early childhood education, though he also donated to the University of California Berkeley, so they keep their library open longer hours and he created a scholarship funded that school. That Levi Strauss scholarship continues to this day, one of Strauss's employees named Henry Richmond later Road of him quote. Mr Strauss was very quiet affable always immaculately dressed. He apparently did not like to be called mister Strauss. He wanted everybody to just column Levi. He seems like a level
lovely gentlemen- and I also wanted to include- as our final note, a point of trivia related to one of our previous episodes, because we Strauss was a founding member of the Pacific Coast, auxiliary of the jewish publication society of Amerika, and another. Member of that group was Ferdinand toothless, other of Alice betokened. This is one of those moments where you just see all the history puzzle pieces starting to click together, thou connected Yes and Levi Strauss is so connected in many ways like that to California history, because you know he was on the all sorts of like public works committees and efforts with You know people like Stamford and ass, her other fame people that really formed a,
of the Foundation of California, as we know it today. Thank you so much for joining us today for this classic. If you have heard any kind of email address, there may be a facebook url during the course of the episode that might be obsolete. It might be doubly obsolete because we have changed our email address again. You can now reach us at history, podcast that I heart radio dot com and we're all over social media at missed,
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