A collage of items in the LS&Co. Archives, including a belt buckle, a copper plate, a steamer trunk, and an image of an ad featuring "Flat Eric."

Levi’s® Archives: More Than Denim

Tracey Panek, LS&Co. Historian
Levi Strauss & Co.
December 12, 2023

As the pioneer of the modern blue jean, it’s no surprise that we have a plethora of denim items in our Levi Strauss & Co. Archives. The vast collection ranges from copper riveted waist overalls worn by miners in the late 1800s to a pair of Beyoncé’s 518® Superlow Levi’s® jeans from the early 2000s. But amid this remarkable denim repository live a variety of surprising artifacts made from a range of other materials.

Read on for a roundup of some of the quirkiest non-denim artifacts in our Archives.

“Flat Eric” Plush Puppet

Flat Eric, a fuzzy yellow puppet created by The Jim Henson Company, was a character featured regularly in Levi’s® STA-PREST commercials in Europe in the 1990s. In the commercials, Flat Eric keeps rhythm to the beat of some smooth tunes alongside his 1970s-inspired sidekick who is dressed in a crisp Levi’s® outfit.

"Flat Eric," a yellow plush puppet, sits packaged in a box.

Salesman Joe Frank’s Steamer Trunk

Joe Frank was LS&Co.’s longest-tenured employee, starting at the company when Levi Strauss himself was alive and retiring in the late 1960s after working at LS&Co. for an impressive 72 years. A Levi’s® salesman, Joe transported Levi’s® products in a steamer trunk that was so large it had to be carefully hoisted onto his wagon. The black metal salesman’s trunk has “LS&Co.” stenciled with red letters, leather handles, a large center lock and shipping labels noting some of Joe’s travel locations.

A close up of the letters on a run down black Levi's® steamer travel trunk next to a photo of a zoomed out version of the trunk.

S.S. Central America “Ship of Gold” Copper Hull Plate

Purchased at auction in December 2022, this rusted copper plate sat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for decades after the Gold Rush-era ship sank off the Carolinas. The ship was carrying a haul of gold that Levi Strauss sent to New York in 1857, just four years after he set up his business in San Francisco. The hull plate is a testament to Levi’s resilience after his catastrophic loss of nearly $80,000 in treasure.

A rusty copper hull from a ship that once carried gold for Levi Strauss.

Rodeo Star Earl Thode’s Silver Belt Buckle

LS&Co. began sponsoring a rodeo in the 1930s, offering cash prizes and flashy belt buckles to winners. One such rodeo champion was Earl Thode, whose silver belt buckle sits in our Archives and is beautifully etched with his name and the title, “World’s Grand Champion Cowboy.”

Left: a silver belt buckle sits on a black background. Right: a black and white image of rodeo star Earl Thode

Original Rolling Stone’s “Sticky Fingers” Record Album

In 1971, U.K. rock band the Rolling Stones released their “Sticky Fingers” album with a controversial crotch-shot album cover created by Andy Warhol. It featured a man wearing snug-fitting 505® jeans and a physical zipper that opens to reveal underwear fabric. The Levi’s® red Tab and Arcuate stitching are visible on the back cover. The original cover artwork was so expensive to produce that it was later reissued to feature just the outer photograph of the jeans. Thankfully we were able to pick up an original album cover for the Archives, with the zipper still intact.

LS&Co. Historian Tracey Panek holds a Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" record.

President Gerald Ford Golf Bag Replica

In 1969, LS&Co. launched its popular orange Tab line, offering 646® bell bottoms and 517® boot cut jeans. The fashionable and affordably priced clothes were a hit with young people. Along with the garments, LS&Co. introduced a line of orange Tab accessories ranging from denim caps to denim dolls. A few orange Tab golf bags, emblazoned with a Levi’s® bat wing logo, were gifted to executives and President Gerald Ford. The golf bag in the Archives is a copy of the one given to the former president.

President Gerald Ford holds a Levi's® Golf Bag