Jacob Davis (born 1831/34 – 1908 ) was an American businessman, and one of the creators of the famous Levi's brand jeans.
Jacob Davis – The Jeans Inventor
Jacob Davis was born into a Jewish family in Riga, then - part of the Russian Empire. His original name – Jakov Youfis – he changed to sound better in the New World when he was emigrating to the United States in 1854.
He roamed the continent from California to Manitoba, practicing all kinds of trades, until in 1869 he arrived in Reno, Nevada - the place where the story of the famous jeans began.
Davis opened a tailor shop, which was frequented by locals with torn off pockets. Being a person who liked to get to the root of a problem, he decided to and in the end managed to find a solution – using copper rivets to strengthen pockets and seams. The solution became so popular, that on May 20 1873 he patented his invention; the patent fees were paid by his supplier, the famous Levi Strauss.
Davis and Strauss became associates, and started selling jeans in huge quantities. 21 000 pairs have been sold during the very first year.
Interestingly, the idea of using rivets everywhere did not prove to be long-lasting – the rivets would scratch furniture and saddles, and heat up while near fire and then burned the wearers, and generally be a nuisance. In the end, they were replaced by strengthened seams, remaining only as decoration in certain places.
Davis would work for the company founded by Strauss practically until his very last years. He earned his first million (in old money, worth tens of millions today) just several years after the jeans had appeared on the market.
Later he would become an honor citizen of San Francisco and dedicate himself to philanthropy, becoming a prominent sponsor of many a Californian university.
Interestingly, his son Simon Davis played a big part in the establishment and development of the company and the brand of Levi Strauss.
Rogers, Dave. Inventions and Their Inventors, Volume 1. Ebook edition
Marschall, John. Jews in Nevada: A History. University of Nevada Press, Reno:2008.