Museum History

Levi Strauss Haus um 1900
Das Haus um 1900
Levi Strauss Haus vor Museum
Haus vor dem Museumsbau

The return of Levi Strauss to Germany

The founding of the museum was initiated by the letter of a woman from Milwaukee, who was trying to organize a “German Fest” in the spring of 1983. She wrote to the former Mayor of Buttenheim, asking for information about the birth of Levi Strauss. Until then, the appropriate documentation was believed to be held in the Franconian Bad Windsheim. After realizing that the documents were not in the Franconian Bad Windsheim, intensive research was conducted in the register of births and deaths of the Jewish community of Buttenheim and the emigration documents of the Bamberg state archives and finally proved that Levi Strauss was born in here, in Buttenheim.

After the discovery of these documents, it was soon noted that the original birth house of Levi Strauss was still standing. It is one of only a few preserved objects from his life and one of the oldest houses in Buttenheim. Having known this, the district council of Buttenheim decided in 1987 to buy the house, which was built approximately in 1687 and today is classified as a historical monument. The idea to donate a museum to the history of indigo and denim took shape. An elaborate renovation of the dilapidated half-timbered house began, during which the house of birth of Levi Strauss was reconstructed as true to the original as possible and a museum was set up.

In the “Birth House of Levi Strauss Jeans Museum,” which opened in September 2000, everything revolves around the world’s most famous pair of pants. With the biography of Levi Strauss, the visitors gain an insight into the lives of rural Franconian Jewish Community, the world of the immigrants, the beginnings of the textile industry and into the phenomenon of jeans. The development of the jeans is informatively depicted in the Levi Strauss Museum with the help of short films, an audio guide, moving graphics and a collection of different pieces made from the legendary blue cotton cloth. The museum shows the struggles of a Franconian Jew in the 19th century, the hardships of a German immigrant in America, the boom of the textile industry and the history of jeans, all while honouring the tremendous accomplishments of Levi Strauss.

Jeans, be it jacket or trousers, have been artificially stitched, sewn, torn apart and frequently have been a highly sought after medium of exchange. British teenagers even stormed the docks after the Second World War in order to buy the trousers worn by members of the American merchant navy.

The blue trousers with the riveted pockets, which are a timeless piece of fashion, are not a piece of garment like any other. Around the globe they have always embodied the essence of hard work, durability and reliability. The original trousers of the gold-diggers and workers are represent youth, individuality and casual lifestyle. Jeans have withstood the continuing change of the fashion world and remain as important today, as they did hundreds of years ago. For a long time the coarsely woven denim-trousers have been such a vital part to the world of fashion. Even famous designers, as well as producers, of extravagant textiles have their own jeans-label and seek to be the next big design in the “world of jeans.”

The renovated birth house of Levi Strauss serves as a meeting point for the curious, collectors, specialists and jean-wearers of every age. With the help of audio-tours in different languages, the history of jeans can be experienced in an educational and entertaining manner.

The New Extensions of Buttenheim’s Levi Strauss Museum

After over a decade of success, the Museum planned to begin its next chapter by adding on an extension to the Levi Strauss birth house. With the help of Levi’s great-grandnephew, Dr. Douglas Goldman of California, the Museum was ceremoniously opened on May 21st, 2011, marking the beginning of a new phase in the Museum’s history.

When the Museum opened back in 2000, hardly anyone anticipated its rapid success. Nevertheless, both Museum guests and professionals were pleasantly surprised to see the Levi Strauss Museum become so popular and successful. Every year, more than 10,000 guests ranging from all over the world visit Buttenheim in order to experience the Museum’s excellent work and see where the idea of Jeans all began! Due to the high number of visitors and the many projects and events at the Museum, the 130 square meters of the original birth house was almost always filled to its maximum capacity. Therefore, the Museum decided to extend to a neighboring house, which would give the Museum over 500 square meters of available display space after renovations.

This new part of the Museum would be used to display many of the Museum’s different Jeans-related themes and projects. Next to the Museum’s annual exhibition is another area that is dedicated to the Museum’s educational successes and the mission of their work. Furthermore, the new extension allowed the Museum to continue to develop the Levi Strauss experience with a new archive to store the Museum’s historical collection and help preserve their historical pieces. The ground floor of the extension was turned into a Levi Strauss Jeans store, where guests have the opportunity to purchase a pair of Levi’s world famous jeans!

At the end of your stay, the Museum now offers the opportunity to conclude your visit with coffee and refreshments. The extension of the Museum has created a new and improved experience for all guests and we hope that you enjoy your visit!