The San Francisco gold rush brought hundreds of thousands of fortune seekers to California. Levi Strauss moved there and found a fortune, but not in the hills.
Born in 1829 in Germany, Levi Strauss moved to the United States with his family when he was 18. His family opened a business that sold clothes, blankets, and other dry goods. He moved to San Francisco to capitalize upon the gold rush, opening west coast branch of Levi Strauss & Co. One of his customers, a tailor named Jacob Davis, innovated on the design of denim pants by adding metal rivets to the seams to prevent ripping. Davis joined Strauss and opened factories to produce the jeans. More expensive than their competition because they did not exploit immigrants, Levi Strauss & Company guaranteed their pants would not rip and replaced any that did.
Levi Strauss died in 1902. Ten years after his death, his company would begin selling products internationally. Seventy years later, sales reached $1 billion.