Poster, "The Birth of the Blues" for Levi Strauss, ca. 1975–80
Offset lithograph on paper.
Gift of Various Donors. 1981-29-253.
- Client: Levi Strauss
What is this?
On beige ground, in black ink: “The Birth of the Blues” in a banner above; “or how the original / Shrink-to-Fit jean was / born-& all that jazz; at center a pair of blue button fly jeans. On either side scenes of history with blocks of descriptive text underneath. Logo below.
Why is this important?
This poster depicts scenes from Levi Strauss & Co.'s history. In 1870, Jacob Davis, a Nevada-based tent and wagon cover maker, used denim from San Francisco–based dry goods wholesaler Levi Strauss, shown top left, to make pants for a local woodcutter. Davis had the innovative idea to reinforce stress points near pockets with copper rivets, creating sturdier pants. Strauss agreed to finance the idea, and the two received a patent for "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings" in 1873. Though the pants were originally of brown canvas, that year, when Levi’s original waist-high overalls were created, is considered "the birth of the blues.” In 1886, Strauss applied the two-horse logo to the jeans’ right hip; two images of this logo, showing two work horses unable to pull apart the jeans, are depicted middle right and lower left. Strauss marketed the sturdy new pants to gold miners, shown middle left and top right. On the lower right is a shrink-to-fit guide; the pants shrink in wash or rain, and buyers had to plan for such changes. Levi’s, proud of its history, used its unique story as part of its branding mission when it expanded internationally in the 1970s, when this poster was made.