Forever in blue jeans…and in court

On May 20, 1873, Jacob W. Davis received patent #139,121 for an “improvement in fastening pocket openings.” Davis’s improvement consisted of “the employment of a metal rivet or eyelet at each edge of the pocket opening to prevent the ripping of the seam at those points.”

Less than a year later, on January 31, 1874, Davis and his partner, Levi Strauss, filed a suit for patent infringement against A. B. Elfelt et al., claiming damages of $20,000. The court decided for the plaintiffs on February 10, 1875, but awarded Davis and Strauss only $2,000.

In his deposition, Davis recounts the story of how he came to first use rivets on work pants. He explains how, in January 1871, a woman asked him to make a pair of pants for her husband and to make them strong. Before working on the pants, he had been using rivets to attach straps to horse blankets, and when he noticed the rivets lying on the table, he thought to use them to attach the pockets.

The Archival Research Catalog has digital copies of several documents from the file of case #1211. Choose a document from this list to read more.

Page from Jacob Davis's deposition in the 1874 case alleging infringement of his patent for an “improvement in fastening pocket openings.” (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21, NARA-Pacific Region [San Francisco])

Page from Jacob Davis's deposition in the 1874 case alleging infringement of his patent for an “improvement in fastening pocket openings.” Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21, NARA-Pacific Region (San Francisco)

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