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‘Like the first flag of the moon’: Oldest known jeans sell for $114,000 at auction | US News

Salvaged from the sunken trunk of an 1857 shipwreck north carolinaa pair of work pants described by an auctioneer as being the world’s oldest known pair of jeans, sold for $114,000.

The white rugged miner’s trousers with a five-button placket were among 270 Gold Rush-era artifacts sold in Reno earlier this month for a total of nearly $1 million, according to Holabird Western Americana Collections. did.

Opinions are divided as to whether these expensive pants have anything to do with the father of modern blue jeans, Levi Strauss. Levi Strauss predates the first pair officially manufactured by his San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873 by 16 years. Evidence suggests a connection to Strauss, a wealthy dry goods wholesaler at the time, and the pants may be a very early version of what would later become the iconic jeans.

But Tracey Panek, the company’s historian and archival director, says any claims about its origin are speculation. “The pants are not Levi’s and I don’t think they are miner’s work pants,” she wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

Regardless of its origin, there is no denying that the pants were made before the hurricane sinking of the SS Central America on September 12, 1857. New York via Panama. And there is no indication that the old work pants from the Gold Rush era exist.

“These miner jeans are like the first flag of the moon, a historic moment in history.

Buried for over a century in the wreckage of a ship 7,200 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, other auction items include Purser’s key to the treasure chamber, where a large quantity of Gold Rush coins and analyst’s ingots were kept . The key sold for $103,200.

Tens of millions of dollars worth of gold has been sold since shipwreck recovery began in 1988. Another auction is scheduled for February.

“Never before has there been anything quite like the range of these salvaged artifacts, which represent a time capsule of everyday life during the Gold Rush era,” said Fred Holabard, president of the auction house.

The Wells Fargo & Co treasure chest lid, believed to be the oldest of its kind, sold for $99,600. An 1849 Colt pocket pistol sold for his $30,000. His $20 gold coin, minted in San Francisco in 1856 and later stamped with an advertisement for a Sacramento drug store, brought in $43,200.

Most of the passengers on board the SS Central America left San Francisco on another ship, the SS Sonora, and sailed to Panama. When the SS Central America sank, 425 of her crew were killed and 153 were rescued.

From San Francisco high society to blue-collar workers, the unique mix of artifacts has piqued the interest of both historians and collectors. The pants came from the trunk of John Demento of Oregon who served in the Mexican-American War.

“At the end of the day, no one can say with 100% certainty if these are Levi’s or not,” Manley said. However, “these are the only known Gold Rush jeans that do not exist in any collection in the world.”

Holabard, a scientist and historian who has been considered an expert on the Gold Rush era for more than 50 years, agrees, “So far, no one has suggested another museum.”

Panek states that Levi Strauss & Co and Reno tailor Jacob Davis obtained a U.S. patent in May 1873 for “Improvements in Closures for Pocket Openings.” A few months later, she said, the company started making its famous riveted pants.

Prior to the auction, she said the shipwreck trousers had no company branding, not even “patches, buttons and even rivets patented in 1873.”

Panek added in an email to the AP this week that the pants “are not typical of miners’ work pants in our archives.” “Unusual placket design” and a non-denim fabric “lighter than the fabric used in early riveted clothing.”

Holabard said when Panek was examining the pants in Reno last week, there was no historical or scientific way to compare them to those made in 1873.

Between 1857 and Strauss’ introduction of the rivet-reinforced pocket, materials, product availability, manufacturing techniques, and market distribution all changed, says Holabard. He said Panek didn’t go against him.

Levi Strauss & Co has long claimed that until 1873 the company was strictly a wholesaler and did not manufacture clothing.

Holabird believes the pants were made by a Strauss subcontractor. He decided to “chasing the money, chasing the gold” and found that Strauss was reaching the market and increasing sales “to a level never seen before”.

“Strauss was the largest merchant to ship gold out of California in 1857-1858,” Holabard says.

The list of $1.6 million cargoes that left San Francisco on the SS Sonora for Panama in August 1857 was topped by Wells Fargo’s $260,300 gold. His five other big banks followed next, followed by $76,441 Levi Strauss. From 1856 to 1858, Levi Strauss made at least 14 similar shipments, each averaging $91,033, Holabard said.

“Strauss sells to every decent sized dry goods store in the gold fields of California. There are probably hundreds from Shasta to Sonora and beyond,” Holabird said. “This guy was an unexpected, absolute marketing genius.”

“In short, his huge sales create causes to be manufactured. He had to contract with producers for the entire production.” ‘Like the first flag of the moon’: Oldest known jeans sell for $114,000 at auction | US News

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