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3 Old-West Denim Companies You’ve Never Heard Of

The original companies behind the workwear staple.


The name Levi Strauss & Co. is now synonymous with denim, but in the mid-19th century, it was simply one of a hundred dry goods companies in San Francisco. These businesses took advantage of the readily available cheap labor to manufacture ready-made work pants for the incoming tides of workers (miners, railroad employees, mill workers). In Jeans of the Old West, Michael Harris presents an in-depth look at the history of brands that dominated this era of workwear. The book features over 300 color photos from denim collections around the world, along with patent drawings, illustrations and chronicled examples. A comprehensive resource, Jeans of the Old West should be a pillar in the library of every denim-head.

Editor’s Note: The following photos are from the forthcoming second edition of Jeans of the Old West ($26, 1st Edition) by Michael Harris (Schiffer Publishing).

Neustadter Brothers


Established in 1852 in San Francisco, Neustadter Brothers was one of the earliest clothing manufacturers in the City by the Bay. The company existed for 80 years and in 1892 was cited as the largest manufacturer of “men’s furnishing goods on the Pacific coast.” Neustadter Brothers is remembered for their “Standard” shirt brand and their “Boss of the Road” overalls (work pants with improved rivets).

A.B. Elfelt & Company


A.B. Elfelt & Company was established in 1867 in San Francisco and designed to manufacture and sell clothing wholesale. After being sued by Levi’s for producing riveted work pants, A.B. Elfelt & Company secured patents for non-riveted, strengthened work pants. The company went out of businesss after Aflred Elfelt’s death in 1884.

Charles A. Jones


After getting a patent for improved work pants in 1879, Charles A. Jones went into business in 1880 in San Francisco. His business lasted for only one year, and he may have sold his patent rights to Heynemann & Co.

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