Not having anything better to do late this afternoon, Michael and I decided to pop into the Museum of Old Nimes (Musee du Vieux Nimes), which is located right around the corner from our apartment. Entrance is free, so, it really didn’t matter how good or bad the place was, we knew it would be worth the price of admission.
We began this trip to France with the remarkable discovery that DaVinci had spent his last years in Amboise. We end this trip with an equally remarkable discovery about Nimes. I am just going to quote from the brochure about one of the museum’s exhibits:
“Nimes was famous for textile manufacturing in the seventeenth century. Merchants traded mainly in woollen cloth and silk. The range manufactured broadened little by little. Cotton was imported and then indigo, a dye plant grown in Italy that was an economical source of a fine blue colour.
“‘Serge de Nimes’ was developed, a cloth whose strength was conferred by oblique weaving with at least two threads. At this time, trading posts were set up all over the world. Nimes negotiated exports of serge via traders in New York. Thus ‘bleu de Genes’ (Genoan blue) was anglicised phonetically and became ‘blue jeans.’
“In the nineteenth century, Levi Strauss, who made clothing for miners and gold prospectors, bought by chance a batch of cloth ‘de Nimes’ (that became ‘denim cloth’). This first batch bearing the number 501 was to give its name to the most famous trousers in the world.
“Stong, cheap denim jeans became universal in the USA and soon spread all over the world. They are now a symbol of freedom.”