Step Inside The Levi's Archieve: Find at Castle Dome - Levi's Hong Kong

Every pair of Levi’s® tells a story. At Castle Dome’s Hull Mine near Yuma, Arizona, the discovery of several historic pairs of Levi’s®, each more than a century old, paints a vivid, tangible portrait of the Old West — and the miners and laborers whose hard work built the American frontier.

1800s Levi's 201 series of denim jeans - Levi's Hong Kong

In the late 1800s, Castle Dome City was a booming mining town, filled with hard-scrabble characters, located within Arizona’s longest-worked mining district. Today, it’s a museum and “ghost town”, restored to period accuracy by preservationists Allen and Stephanie Armstrong. Visitors can explore dozens of buildings, filled with genuine artifacts salvaged from the past, to experience the West as it once was.

Levi’s® Historian Tracey Panek recently got an extraordinary phone call from Allen Armstrong. “We found a pretty historic, significant find,” Armstrong said. “We think now we have the largest collection of pre-1900s denim Levi’s® in the world.” Panek doesn’t receive calls like this every day. “It’s a rare thing to learn that a pair of 1800s Levi’s® have been discovered,” she says. “It’s even rarer to find out that a number of them have been discovered at one time.”

Panek traveled to Castle Dome to see for herself. True to his word, Armstrong’s haul was one of a kind: Levi’s® 201 jeans, worn and weather-beaten but in remarkably intact condition.

Examining the jeans themselves provided important clues to their lineage. A surprisingly legible print on the inside pocket of one pair, plus intact back patches made of cloth, identified the pairs as Levi’s® 201s, a value-priced model introduced about 15 years after the 501®. Single back pockets were another telltale sign — the second back pocket wasn’t added until 1901.

Levi's Strauss & Co. poster and Levi's denim jeans - Levi's Hong Kong

With these details in hand, Panek combed through Levi’s® Archives to place these jeans in time. In June 1890, Levi’s® sent notice to a customer announcing the Levi’s® 201s, described as the “No. 2 riveted overalls which we have lately put on the market.” That meant these pairs were about 130 years old, a rare find.

Levi’s® designers today still reference the unique wear-patterns generated by the daily work of miners over a century ago. And the quality of these “second-tier” jeans still inspires Levi’s® designers in producing affordable products at the highest standard. So these miners’ stories — and that of the West itself — lives on in Levi’s®.