Thursday, January 3, 2013

1882 Levi Strauss & Company Letter with Envelope

Another great letter from Levi Strauss & Company, San Francisco. This one came with the original envelope addressed to S. Marks & Co. in Roseburg, Oregon. It is postmarked February 2, 1882 out of San Francisco. The letter itself is part printed and part handwritten. The printed part is basically a notice of payment. I've seen these types of printed receipts in printing catalogs I have from the late 1800s. The handwriting on this letter and envelope is the same as yesterday's from 1870.

The iconic picture shown below was taken in 1882. I wonder if one of the guys is responsible for the handwriting on these early Levi Strauss pieces?


  1. Just an observation and opinion, the three items were written by three different people. Note that in the top address in the letter the Capitol R is completely different than the R used on the envelope.And in the case of the letter shown in the post below, a close examination of the S in sincerely will show that it is completely different that that used in the top letter.
    "Specerian" calligraphy used by letter writers in the 19th century was a highly developed skill, and each person developed a distinctive style of emellishment. It was such an important skill that it was taught in "Business College", and considered an important part of office work.

    Anyway, always enjoy your blog and wishing you all the best for the New Year.

    1. Tom, first let me say Happy New Year. Thanks for enjoying the blog. After reading your comment, I went back and checked out the letters and envelope. I see where you call out the differences on each piece, but how can you explain the differences on one piece? If you look at the 1870 letter the capital Y that starts the letter is different from the capital Y in Yours Truly. Do you think the the Levi Stauss & Co. signature at the bottom of each piece look close? Thanks again for checking out the blog.

  2. As to the reason why the Capitol letters look different in the same letter: you will note that often the First Capital letter of a word starting the beginning of a paragraph is embellished (called a Flourish). This comes from a long standing tradition begun by Monk scribes. It is also used for the names of both persons, businesses, place names and so on. The important thing to remember is that the flourish is added and does not affect how the writer composes the letter’s primary strokes. Also a flourish used in the middle of a sentence could possibly affect the legibility of the message.
    As to the signatures, looking closely at the 1870 letter, the writer’s name appears to be Fisher. I think the entire letter was written by him. I am not sure what his exact work title would have been, perhaps bookkeeper in charge of correspondence. Then we fast forward to 1882. You will note certain elements of the letter have been printed, not as part of design, but to save time. This would indicate that the volume of communication had significantly increased.
    Now to my theory, Mr Fisher was no longer just a bookkeeper, he was probably in charge of a department that included accountants and “secretaries” people hired to write out bills for the department. Someone in the department gathered the information for the invoice, it was then composed by a “secretary” on Company stationery and then it was reviewed and signed by Mr Fisher. Also the actual enveloped was probably addressed by another employee that did not have the more important skills needed for the invoice, this would be more cost effective and allow the others to concentrate more on their tasks.

    1. I think this might call for more digging around. Check out the link below. It's a post I did on August 15th with another 1882 Levis Strauss envelope to the same company.

  3. The 1882 envelope is in a completely different hand. I wish there was some way to show you using diagrams with the photos. Each of the items has the phrase "+ Co" , including the signature. There are two things to look at, how the pen stroke for the "+" is connected to the "C", also there are four distinct ways the "C" is formed. It is like a fingerprint for each item.
    For example on the Forth line of the 1882 letter the shape of the "+ Co" at the end of the line is completely different than the "& Co" on the envelope. Also the "+ Co" used by Mr Fisher at the end of the letter is constructed differently. The end of the letter is inscribed Levi Strauss & Co with signature below.
    Also compare the "C" of the Co on the envelope, , it makes kind of a knife shape, while the "C" of Co at the end of the Levi Strauss & Co at he end of the 1882 letter is Round shape , the top is a loop shape.
    When a writer uses a pen these small details are unconscious responses, but they are most of all consistent.
    Well I feel like I have gone abit overboard on this subject, and I hope you do not mind me spouting off like this.

    And yes I had a gig as a professional calligraphy back in the 1990s, I taught myself Italic and Old English Gothic. I did wedding and dinner party place setting tags, and also designed programs for churches and posters for events.

  4. I completely understand that there was a different hand involved with each og the pieces. I don't think you've gone overboard at all on the subject. This is something that you're passionate about and I think it's cool. Especially when it comes to items like these. I thought about laying the pieces down on my light box and overlapping them to see all the differences. Thanks for pointing out everything you've noticed.

  5. Thanks,
    this information in no ways diminishes their historical importance... in fact it makes the items richer with a subtlety.
    I wish I could see "Mr Fisher" 's signature a bit larger, and I could figure out his first two initials. I am now complete convinced that the 1882 letter is just signed off, like a "modern" (read per internet) boss would sign a typed letter.
    In 1882 that was advanced thinking in office management.
    as always I wish you the best and if I can be of help in the future, you will hear from me.

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