It would be hard to find another pair of 124-year-old blue jeans in more pristine condition.
The great-great-grandson of a Tucson general store owner in territorial days opened a cedar chest bearing the family name to find an unexpected treasure: a very large pair of never-worn jeans from iconic manufacturer Levi Strauss.
The jeans, with a 44-inch waist and 37-inch inseam, had been in the chest for generations.
The story will be featured on Fox Business’ “Strange Inheritance” on Monday.
“This is one of those stories where you get information from a family and you really don’t know what to expect until you get to see it in person,” show host Jamie Colby said.
Colby traveled to Tucson to meet with Jock Taylor, the great-great-grandson of that shopkeeper, Solomon Warner.
Warner was a big man, about 6 feet 6 inches tall. In 1856, he had opened the first general store in Tucson, which had about 1,000 people at the time.
After his death, Warner’s son John packed up his father’s belongings in the cedar trunk, Colby said.
“When Solomon’s son passed away, it went to his only daughter, then everything that she had went to my mother,” Taylor told Fox Business.
The trunk ended up in his living room in 2009 after his mother died, according to a Fox Business news release.
The trunk contained a family Bible, a saddle blanket, an old saddle and the pair of extra-large blue jeans. The jeans were the item that stood out the most to Taylor because of their size, unworn condition and the authentic Levi Strauss patch dating back 1893.
“It was interesting learning about the history of the family and where the pants came from,” Colby said. “Let me put it to you this way, I decided to put some of my belongings in cedar after meeting the family.”
Not only are the pants an opportunity to see part of the family history, they also could be quite valuable.
After Taylor got the Levi’s appraised, he learned that “denim-hunters” are willing to pay large amounts of money for authentic, vintage denim. He also got in contact with the Levi Strauss Co., which offered him $50,000, according to the news release.
The company had lost a lot of its memorabilia after an earthquake that started a fire in its San Francisco archive, Colby said.
The company is always looking for collectibles, and the last pair of jeans from the 1800s was sold to the company “for six figures,” she said.
According to Colby, Taylor believed his pair was worth more than $50,000, so he decided to keep them — for now.
“The people who spend all this money on vintage jeans usually want to wear them at least once, but you’d have to put two people in them,” Colby said of Warner’s jeans.
Dungarees — what jeans were called in the late 1800s — were worn by miners because they were strong and durable.
Warner’s industrial-strength jeans were made before belt loops. The pants only have one back pocket, not two, that generally was used to hold tools, Colby said.
Colby traveled for more 300 days last year filming the third season of “Strange Inheritance.”
“We do this so people who have certain things in storage know what to look for and they can see if they’re sitting on something of value,” she said. “We really dig back and learn more about why the person had it (the inherited item), why they held onto it and why was it left as inheritance.”
Spending time in Arizona made her realize what a interesting place the state is, with a lot of history, Colby said. She said she hopes more people contact her so she can to return to do more stories about people’s treasures.
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