Jacob Davis's Tailor Shop (site)

In 2006, the Reno Historical Resources Commission placed a plaque in front of the former location of Jacob Davis's tailor shop and residence at what is now 211 N. Virginia Street. The plaque commemorated Jacob Davis’s important 1871 invention: copper-riveted jeans. Born in 1831 in the Russian port city of Riga, now the capital of Latvia, Jacob Youphes immigrated to the United States at the age of 23 and changed his name to Davis.

Jacob Davis worked as a journeyman tailor in New York, Maine, and northern California, panned for gold on the Fraser River in Canada, and sold tobacco and wholesale pork in Virginia City. In 1868, he settled in Reno where he helped Frederick Hertlein build his Reno Brewing Company brewery. After a year, Davis turned to making tents, horse blankets, and other outdoor supplies for surveyors and teamsters working for the Central Pacific Railroad. The material he used was nine-ounce blue denim and ten-ounce white duck twill that he purchased from a San Francisco wholesaler named Levi Strauss.

In late December 1870, the wife of a laborer asked Davis to make a sturdy pair of pants for her husband. Using the duck cloth, Davis added copper rivets to the seams for added strength. As word of the new creation spread, Davis was overwhelmed with orders for his sturdy pants. Realizing that he needed a business partner, he approached his supplier, Levi Strauss. On May 20, 1873, Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss & Company were issued patent #139121 for copper-riveted pants. That same year, Davis added an orange-threaded double arc design to the rear pockets of his pants to distinguish them from the work of competitors.

When the patent was granted, Davis sold the Reno property and moved his family to San Francisco, where he supervised the manufacture of his invention at the Levi Strauss factory. Until his death in 1908, Davis supervised up to 450 employees at Levi Strauss & Company, producing a variety of riveted denim clothing that became an industry standard. Davis' copper-riveted sensation was arguably the most enduring Nevada-based invention in the state's history.

Images

Patent application

Patent application

This drawing accompanied the patent application for riveted blue jeans. According to folklore, the rivet at the end of the zipper proved problematic. Image courtesy of United States Patent Office View File Details Page

The word spreads, 1873

The word spreads, 1873

Word of Jacob Davis's rivet patent was published in the June 28, 1873 issue of the Pacific Rural Press of San Francisco. Image courtesy of Pacific Rural Press View File Details Page

Patented rivet

Patented rivet

A rivet with the 1873 patent date on the earliest known surviving pair of Levi Strauss riveted jeans, ca. 1879. Photography by Hangauer/Kissinger. In the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives, copyright 2008 View File Details Page

Historical marker

Historical marker

The Reno Historical Resources Commission installed a plaque on Virginia Street where Jacob Davis's tailor shop once stood. A dedication ceremony was held on May 20, 2006. Image courtesy of Mella Harmon View File Details Page

Dedication ceremony, 2006

Dedication ceremony, 2006

Lynn Downey, curator of the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives, holds up the oldest known pair of Levi Strauss riveted jeans at the dedication ceremony. To her right stands Frank Davis, Jacob Davis's great-grandson and president of the Ben Davis Clothing Company. Actors Michael Curcio and Andy Hughes stand on either side, portraying Wyatt and Morgan Earp. Image courtesy of City of Reno, Historical Resources Commission View File Details Page

Audio

Designing the Historical Marker

Interviewed in 2012, Cindy Ainsworth, a co-founder of the Historic Reno Preservation Society, describes how she and Mella Harmon arranged for a marker to be designed and installed to commemorate the former site of Jacob Davis's Tailor Shop. View File Details Page

Street Address:

211 North Virginia Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Jacob Davis's Tailor Shop (site),” Reno Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/48.

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