Levi Strauss was born Löb Strauss in Buttenheim, in the Franconian region of Bavaria, Germany, to Hirsch Strauss and his wife Rebecca (Haass) Strauss. At the age of 18, Strauss, his mother and two sisters sailed for the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a wholesale dry goods business in New York City called J. Strauss Brother & Co. By 1850, Strauss was calling himself Levi. The family decided to open a West Coast branch of the family dry goods business in San Francisco, which was the commercial hub of the California Gold Rush. Levi was chosen to represent the family, and after becoming an American citizen in January of 1853, he got on a California-bound steamship which left New York for the isthmus of Panama around February 5, 1853. He crossed the isthmus and then caught another steamship for San Francisco, arriving in early March 1853.Strauss opened his dry goods wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. and imported fine dry goods - clothing, bedding, combs, purses, handkerchiefs - from his brothers in New York. He sold the goods to the small general stores and men's mercantiles of California and the West. Around 1856 Levi's sister Fanny, her husband David Stern and their infant son Jacob moved from New York to San Francisco to join the business.