Celebrating the 1st American Library on this date

Time to say “Thanks” to Ben Franklin. On this date in 1731, Ben and some friends opened The Library Company – the very first lending library in America. There were libraries in England but none in the American colonies. Even for a person in Boston or Philadelphia, it was nearly impossible to read a book you didn’t own. Books were expensive, had to be shipped from overseas, and were often in languages – like Latin – that only educated people could understand. Ben and his friends decided to change that. They pooled their money, ordered some books and opened The Library Company in Philadelphia. The books covered a wide range of subjects, and many were written in English so that lots more people could read them. For a yearly fee, members could borrow books. If not a member, you could leave a deposit and take a book home.

What a great idea! Which, of course, we take for granted now. Thanks, Ben.


Blue Jean Blues

If you’re like me, when you think about bluejeans you think about American cowboys out west. And their Big Hats, French Poodles, and Jewish Tailors. No! Really?

Bluejeans are made from denim, a cotton fabric died blue with indigo. Denim got its name from the city of Nimes in southern France where it was first made – “denim” is short for “De Nimes” which means “from Nimes” in French . We call denim pants jeans because the first denim pants were made in Genoa, Italy and were worn by sailors, who were called “genes”.

Blue jeans as we know them were invented by a Jewish Tailor from Latvia who immigrated to the US in the mid-1800s. After moving around a bunch, he ended up in Reno Nevada where he made tents, blankets, and pants. He used cotton twill and denim he bought from Levi Strauss and Company, a dry-goods supplier, in San Francisco. After trying rivets as a way to strengthen the pockets, he contacted Levi Strauss about going together to get a patent. They did, and the rest is history. Except, we remember the fabric salesman’s name (also Jewish) but not the tailor who invented the pants. His name was Jacob Youphes, which he changed to Jacob Davis.

Thanks for the jeans, Jacob.