LISBON FALLS, MAINE- A pair of 19th century Levi Jeans, which had never been worn, recently sold at auction for $100,000. There are no other Levi’s known to be in existence in such pristine condition. “When I first saw them I thought, why are they showing me a new pair of Levi’s,” said Daniel Buck Soules of Daniel Buck Auctions in Lisbon Falls, Maine. “Then I got looking at them. They had a cinch in the back, one pocket, on the inside of the front pocket there was printing that said the company had been in business for 17 years.” Levi Strauss first started producing jeans in 1880.
The material for the Levi Jeans, which were called waist overalls in the 1800’s, were manufactured at Amoskeag Mill in Manchester N.H. This mill is where Levi Strauss bought all of his denim.
Soules, who has been an auctioneer since 1976, said there are ways to tell a pair of Levi’s are old. “Look at the way they are manufactured, the selvage is not as finished. There is no red tag in the back pocket and only 1 back pocket as well as a button fly. Zippers were not used until 10 to 20 years later. These pants were also created to be used with suspenders as that is what was worn at the time.
The Levi’s are only half of the story. Who they once belonged to are the rest of the story. These Levi’s belonged to Solomon Warner one of the founders of Tucson, Arizona. “He was the John Wayne of Arizona in the 1870’s, 1880’s and 1890’s,” according to Soules.
Warner owned a dry goods store and a flouring mill. He would travel to Yuma and the West Coast on wagon train to get dry goods for his store. On one trip back from the West Coast, Soules said, the wagons were attacked by Indians. “He was shot three times and still made it back,” Soules continued.
The jeans had a 46-inch waist and 36-inch inseam. “I would guess by the size of the jeans he would have been 6’4 and 6’6 and 300 plus pounds.” Soules said. Warner was depicted in the 1940 movie Arizona.
Warner had ordered the jeans for himself in 1897. By the time the Levi’s arrived, Warner was ill. The jeans were put in a trunk until he got well. Unfortunately, he never recovered. The jeans stayed in the trunk for 120 years. The family knew the jeans were there and every so often they would take out the jeans, talk about Warner and then put the jeans back in the trunk.
Soule was first approached to sell the Levi’s when he was at an appraisal event in Tucson. When the jeans were auctioned they were sold to a Japanese buyer for almost $100,000. “The family was surprised, as they had been offered a lot less in the past. I was not at all surprised these Levi’s were truly rare.”
More information on Danny Buck Auctions can be found at dannybuckauctions.com