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Myths and Truths

Levi's 501 jeans are known around the world, but many people are not aware that they were invented in Reno.

Jacob Youphes was a Jewish tailor who was born in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea.  In 1854 he immigrated to the United States, changed his name to Jacob Davis, and operated tailor shops in New York and Maine.  Davis came west to San Francisco in 1856, then moved on to Canada, where he worked, married, and started a family.

Jacob Davis returned to California in 1867, and then crossed the Sierra to Nevada.  He worked at several occupations, and lost most of his money in a brewery that failed.  He opened a tailor shop in Reno in 1869, and began producing wagon covers and tents.  For these he used a heavy-duty duck cloth sold by Levi Strauss & Co., a San Francisco company.

In 1871, Jacob Davis constructed a pair of heavy-duty pants, ordered by a woman for her husband to wear when chopping wood.  To make them even stronger, the tailor put copper rivets at the corners of the pockets.  Davis made and sold over 200 pairs of the pants over the next eighteen months to men who wanted durable work clothing.  He received a patent for his idea in 1873.

Photo Credit:
Nevada Historical Society