A 165-year-old pair of California God Rush-era jeans made by Levi Strauss in the 1850s is one of 270 treasures recovered from a legendary sunken ship recently sold at auction.
The miner’s work pants have a five-button fly and are covered in black and brown stains from the trunk he was found in when a red captain discovered the wreck of the SS Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, at the bottom of the Ocean. Atlantic. .
More than 7,500 bidders from around the world flocked to the Nevada auction house to compete for jewelry, the first Brooks Brothers T-shirts and the oldest known Wells Fargo treasure shipping box lid, among others. items removed from the rubble.
The jeans, however, were the main event, selling for a whopping $114,000; the entire auction lot fetched nearly $1 million.
Some 425 lives were lost and 153 people were rescued when the Ship of Gold sank during a hurricane in September 1857.
For more than a century, many of his possessions, some still sealed in safes and passenger trunks, were kept in the cold, oxygen-starved tomb 7,200 feet below the surface.
The miner’s work pants have a five-button fly and are covered in black and brown stains from the trunk.
Bob Evans, the chief scientist for each underwater recovery mission, said the items may seem ordinary, but they offer extraordinary insight into the daily lives of the passengers and crew, from gold mine workers to the inhabitants of the San Francisco high society.
The Wells Fargo cap sold for $99,600 and the Brooks Brothers were bought for more than $1,000 each.
Levi Strauss jeans are the oldest known pair of miner’s heavy-duty pants and the most expensive pair.
Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group, consignor of the recovered artifacts, said in a statement: “Those miner’s jeans are like the first flag on the moon, a landmark moment in history.
“We can accurately date them because we know that Central America sank during a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean on September 12, 1857. No earlier five-button fly jeans exist.”
There is disagreement over whether the expensive pants have any link to the father of modern blue jeans, Levi Strauss, as they predate the first pair officially manufactured by San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873 by 16 years.
Some experts point to historical evidence suggesting links to Strauss, a wealthy dry goods wholesaler at the time, and the pants could be a very early version of what would become the iconic jeans.
But the company’s archivist and historian, Tracey Panek, says any claims about its origin are “speculation.”
“The pants are not Levi’s nor do I think they are miners’ work plans,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Regardless of their origin, it cannot be denied that the pants were made before the SS Central America sank in a hurricane on September 12, 1857.
This ship was packed with passengers beginning their voyage in San Francisco and heading to New York via Panama.
And there’s no indication that older work trousers dating back to the gold rush days exist.
“Those miner’s jeans are like the first flag on the moon, a landmark moment in history,” Manley said.
The SS Central America was in operation for four years during the California Gold Rush that began on January 24, 1848, when James W. Marshall struck gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma.
Once the news spread, some 300,000 people flocked to the state in search of their own treasures.
The SS Central America left San Francisco on August 20, 1857, carrying passengers and more than $8 million in gold.
He took the route from Panama to New York and traveled up the East Coast.
In 1988, after years of research and fundraising, a team of 40 engineers, scientists, and historians found the wreck.
And the treasures extracted for the ship were auctioned off this month.
One of the Brooks Brothers shirts, found inside the same trunk with the jeans, features the company’s logo of a sheep suspended by ribbon surrounded by the words: ‘MERINO FINISH’ can still be seen in the bottom right corner. of the shirt
The unique wooden lid of a Wells Fargo & Co. treasure chest was also one of many sunken treasures from the California Gold Rush.
The lid with the boldly visible ‘Wells Fargo & Co./New York’ engraved name sold for $99,600.
Another never-before-offered numismatic item recovered from the legendary ship was purser Edward W. Hull’s keys to the ship’s treasure storage room.
Fred Holabird, president of Holabird Western Americana Collections, said in a statement: “There has never been anything like the scope of these recovered artifacts that represented a time capsule of everyday life during the gold rush.”
“The auction took more than eight hours for only 270 lots due to the exceptionally large number of bids.”