From The Archives: A Little Something In Return


Retailers have been fans of the “free gift with purchase” for decades. You know how it goes: you buy a bar of soap, a pair of socks, a collection of cosmetics, and you get a little something in return.

The gift itself has changed over the decades, but the reasoning has stayed the same: give consumers a little something extra to thank them for their business. Here’s a look at some of these items.

In 1899 LS&Co. created a calendar for these purposes. One side was the actual calendar, and the other had a drawing of two charming children standing inside the legs of a large pair of Levi’s® jeans.

LS&CO also created a series of trade cards – an early form of the business card –that were also used as a gift with purchase. Nearly every company in America created these colorful cards, which people collected and pasted into scrapbooks. Ours featured images of the typical Levi’s® consumer on the front, with the Two Horse logo on the reverse side.

Around 1905, a tiny wallet made of brown cotton “duck” fabric was a popular giveaway. Its design featured some marketing copy about our famous “Overalls” (jeans) and Spring Bottom Pants, a dressy denim flare from the turn of the century.

In the ‘20s, the “blotter” was the gift of choice. This was the era of the fountain pen: wet ink was left behind after writing, and writers could either waitfor the ink to dry, or blot it with special absorbent paper.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, our series of Western Lore pamphlets was all the rage. There were twelve booklets in the series, which contained fun and informative facts about various aspects of Western history. From sheriffs in spurs, to frontiersmen wielding long rifles, these pamphlets told the story of the American West.

The items may have changed – flash drives or other techno items have replaced blotters – but the concept of extending a little something extra to our customers remains an LS&CO. tradition.








Written by Levi Strauss & Co. Historian Lynn Downey, From The Archives is an ongoing series of short stories from the company’s vast historical Archives. Throughout our 160 year history we’ve influenced society, culture and style all over the globe. From a massive assortment of vintage product including the original blue jean, to the old advertisements and one off product collaborations, these are the stories that helped shape who we are today.