I recently found out that Muscatine was famous 100 years ago for making pearl buttons. They have a cool museum in the downtown area devoted to this important piece of the area’s history. Though the museum was not open (winter hours), one of the employees was kind enough to let me in. I’ll share some of what was learned.
|Shells that had “blanks” cut from them|
There was another incentive to open the shells. If a lucky fisherman was to discover a perfect pearl while gathering clams and mussels, it might be worth thousands of dollars. Rumor has it that more than one house was paid for with a lucky find!
As you can see, the industry was almost like a mini gold rush. More and more factories opened – 49 in all. At its peak, Muscatine produced 1.5 BILLION pearl buttons per year… That’s 1/3 of the buttons fabricated worldwide.
John Boeppel spent the rest of his life working in a small hatchery upstream near Fairport as a shell expert. Efforts were made to try and save the population of mussels but with all the sewage and industrial pollution in the river, the mussels perished.
By coincidence, the nearby Fairport state park is also now a favorite camping destination, particularly during the winter when a spot can be had for a mere $11 including electricity! The scenery along the Mississippi river is gorgeous.
|Camping at Fairport state park… $11 including electricity and scenery!|
I’ve got some other Muscatine pictures but will save them for tomorrow or the next day. Thanks for riding along and checking out the scenery. Muscatine is a beautiful place – it’s well worth visiting!
Bradford the “Van Trekker”