1853

The Founding

An immigrant from Buttenheim, Bavaria, named Levi Strauss moves to San Francisco, where he opens a dry-goods business, wholesaling primarily men’s clothing to the small general stores of the American West.

1866

Relocation

Levi Strauss & Co. moves from California Street to Battery Street, which is its home for the next 40 years.

1872

Eureka Moment

Strauss and Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nev., received a patent for a process Davis invented to rivet the pocket corners on men’s pants. (Davis turned to Strauss because he didn’t have the $68 necessary to file the patent application.) They begin making and selling "waist overalls."

1873

A Stitch in Time

Levi’s begins to use the batwing stitched pocket arcuate on the rear pockets of its jeans. That symbol is the oldest U.S. apparel trademark still in use today.

1890

501 Debuts

Levi’s assigns the style number 501 to its men’s waist overalls. That style goes on to become a style icon that for many defines the concept of blue jeans.

1902

A Passing

Strauss dies at the age of 73, passing the company down to his nephews. Jacob Strauss, one of them, is named president.

1906

Disaster

An enormous earthquake and ensuing fire rage through San Francisco, destroying Levi’s headquarters and two factories. The company extends credit to local wholesale customers and continues to pay its employees’ salaries. It operates out of a temporary headquarters while it rebuilds its facilities. All of Levi’s records are destroyed and to this day there is some information about early styles and sales that has never been recovered.

1912

No Koverups

Simon Davis, Jacob’s son, invents Koveralls, a one-piece child’s playsuit, while serving as superintendent of the company’s Valencia Street factory.

1919

Hitting the Numbers

Levi’s sales hit the $3 million mark. Revenues include both the sale of Levi’s branded product, as well as other wholesale business.1924

A Stern Leader

Sigmund Stern, another of Strauss’ nephews, is named president, succeeding Jacob Strauss.

1928

Trademarked

The company registers the Levi’s name as a trademark. The same year Stern dies and his son-in-law, Walter A. Haas Sr., is named president.

1935

For the Ladies

The company introduces "Lady Levi’s," its first denim pants designed for women, during the Great Depression. To attach a little romance to the company’s image during hard times, Levi’s begins to use cowboys in its advertising and promotional materials.

1936

Seeing Red

Levi’s introduces the Red Tab to help identify its denim pants from a distance. That symbol becomes a persistent part of the brand’s image.

1937

Scratch-Proof

The company starts covering the rivets on the back pockets of its 501 style, after complaints that the metal tended to scratch chairs at schools, as well as saddles.

1941

The Power of Illusion

The U.S. enters World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war, rationing affects almost all consumer products, including Levi’s jeans — the company is ordered to remove some rivets from the design of its jeans and also has to eliminate decorative stitching. To keep the distinctive look, Levi’s designers start drawing the bat-wing pocket arcuate on the hip pockets, to mimic the look of stitching, which returned after V-J Day.

1942

Ouch!

Levi’s drops the crotch rivet from its jeans after Haas personally experiences the adverse effects when one wears the jeans while sitting too close to a campfire.

1947

Pumping Up

Levi’s sales reach $11.8 million, helped by postwar demand. Revenue figures still include the company’s wholesale division.

1949

The Kids Are Alright

Levi’s launches its "Right for School" advertising campaign, intended to convince parents and educators that there is nothing inappropriate about denim in the classroom. Around this time, the word "jeans" slips into the lexicon, though Levi’s still calls its denim pants "overalls." This year the company discontinues its wholesale distribution business, focusing just on its branded product.1952

Giving Back

The company forms the Levi Strauss Foundation to oversee its donations to charity.

1955

President Koshland

Haas steps down as president and is succeeded by his cousin, Daniel Koshland.

1958

More Succession

Walter Haas Jr. succeeds Koshland as president.

1959

Going Abroad

Levi’s starts its first export program, focusing on Europe. Europeans had been introduced to the product by American G.I.’s who arrived in Europe during World War II and those who remained stationed there during the Cold War.

1960

Jeans Identification

Keeping up with the times and the tastes of its young customers, Levi’s starts calling its products jeans in advertising and promotion materials.

1964

Museum Quality

A pair of Levi’s jeans are made a permanent part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection in Washington. Also this year, Levi’s sales reach $99.7 million.

1966

On the Tube

Levi’s broadcasts its first TV commercial, in which a grizzled cowboy buries a worn-out pair of 501s. The tag line is: "It’s better to have had Levi’s and lost them than never to have had Levi’s at all."

1967

Softening Up

Levi’s removes the rear pocket rivets from the 501 jeans, reflecting their increasing use as a leisure garment, rather than one that had to stand up to heavy manual labor.

1970

Haas to the Top

Peter Haas is named president, succeeding his brother, Walter Jr.

1971

Sell High

Levi Strauss & Co. goes public on March 3. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Pacific Stock Exchange.

1972

Half a Billion

Levi’s sales reach $504.1 million.

1974

Moving Up

Levi’s headquarters moves to a larger space at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center.

1975

Explosive Growth

Revenue almost doubles in just three years, reaching the $1 billion mark.1981

The First Outsider

Robert Grohman, the head of the company’s international division, is named president and chief executive officer, succeeding Haas. He is the first person from outside the Strauss family to be named to the top spot.

1982

Sales Shakeup

In a shift, Levi’s starts selling to J.C. Penney Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. This move angers many department store buyers and prompts Macy’s to drop the brand for the next 11 years.1984

Haas at the Helm

Robert D. Haas, Walter Jr.’s son and Levi Strauss’ great-great-grand nephew, is named president and ceo, succeeding Grohman.

1985

Privacy Policy

In a $1.45 billion leveraged buyout, one of the largest to date, the descendants of Levi Strauss take the company private again.

1986

On the Docks

Levi’s introduces Dockers. While the company has made nondenim pants for years, this marks its first major effort to create a new brand.

1992

Rules of the Game

Levi’s adopts a code of conduct regulating how the outside contractors, primarily overseas, who produce its clothing can treat their workers. The code sets standards for wages, hours, working conditions and ethics, and becomes a model for other companies, as working conditions in domestic and foreign factories come under greater scrutiny. This year, Levi’s sales reach $5.5 billion.

1995

Going Online

Levi’s merges onto the burgeoning information superhighway, unveiling its levi.com Web site.

1997

The Avalanche Begins

Levi’s begins its sales slip, reporting revenues of $6.86 billion, down 3.9 percent from a peak of $7.14 billion in 1996. Sales continue to slide for the next six years.

1999

Marineau’s Moment

Levi’s names Phil Marineau, a Pepsi executive, its president and ceo. Haas gives up the ceo post, but stays on as chairman. Peter Jacobi steps down as president and chief operating officer after 28 years with the firm.

2000Engineering Effort

Levi’s introduces Engineered Jeans, with ergonomically angled pockets and twisted seams that are intended to make jeans even more comfortable. They catch on in Europe and Asia, but fail to make much headway with U.S. consumers.

2002

Slip-Sliding Away

Levi’s reports sales of $4.14 billion, off $3 billion from the 1996 peak.

2003

Mass Moment

Levi’s prepares to enter the mass market. In June, it will begin shipping Levi Strauss Signature jeans to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Market observers have suggested this move could bring in billions of dollars in sales for Levi’s, but might impact the core department and chain store business.

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