Monday, March 23, 2009



The Adventures of Lynn Downey: The Isthmus

Who knew Panama had anything to do with Levi Strauss? Apparently, Levi Strauss & Co. Historian Lynn Downey did. She is about to undertake an epic journey worthy of a Jules Verne novel to recreate part of Strauss's journey to Gold Rush San Francisco via the isthmus of Panama.

In the 1840s a young Levi Strauss emigrated from Bavaria to New York. When the California Gold Rush hit the news he and his family decided to open a west coast branch of their dry goods wholesale firm. Going through Panama was the shortest route but it posed dangers ranging from yellow fever to murderous bandits. Strauss made it out alive and arrived in San Francisco in March of 1853.

Denim News will be tracking Downey's progress as she rides a historic railroad, maneuvers the Chagres River and hikes an ancient mule trail. Watch for live updates and thoughts from the Historian herself.

When asked about the timing of this trip Downey replied, "It is actually my spring vacation. I am undertaking this trek as part of the research for my next book, a biography of Levi Strauss."

The adventure begins on March 25. Stay tuned!

Levi Strauss & Co Website

Written with contributions from Lynn Downey.

Image Credit: Crossing the Isthmus, from "Mountains and Molehills" by Frank Marryat (1855). Courtesy Robert Chandler.

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