He spent the next five years learning the language and the ways of his new homeland. For several years he walked the roads of Kentucky, selling cloth from a backpack. In 1853 he returned to New York upon hearing reports of gold being discovered in California.
He persuaded his two brothers to provide him with a supply of silk, cloth and a few luxury items which he planned to sell in San Francisco. In addition, he took a supply of canvas intended for the Conestoga Wagons used by many gold prospectors to cross the continent. In 1850 he took a ship for San Francisco. By the time he reached California, he had sold everything to fellow passengers, except for the canvas.
A gruff old prospector chided young Strauss for not having brought along a supply of pants because prospecting for gold was rough on pants. Strauss cut his canvas and stitched it into trousers that were an instant success and were known as “Levis”.