Thursday, October 20, 2011

Button, button…

While in Iowa this past weekend my relatives and I, of course, went antiquing – if you know us at all, you know that’s a given!

We ended up in Muscatine and found, not only a great antique store, but some interesting history as well.

From 1891 to about 1930, thousands of Iowans made their living or supplemented their incomes by catching freshwater mussels, locally referred to as clams, to sell to the button factories blossoming on the banks of the Mississippi.

The whole freshwater pearl button industry was an Iowan invention and made its home in Muscatine.

Muscatine soon became known worldwide as the Pearl City and as the pearl button capital of the world.
By 1905, the annual output of freshwater pearl buttons had reached 1.5 billion, worth an estimated three million dollars, and nearly 37 percent of the buttons produced in the world.

No freshwater pearl buttons are made in Muscatine these days. Today the shellers on the Mississippi sell their shells to cultured pearl producers in Japan.

A tiny grain of a Mississippi clam shell placed in an oyster shell in Japan will stimulate the creation of a beautiful cultured pearl.

See what you can learn by reading this blog?
You’re welcome.

One of the antique stores we hit (in West Branch) also had an art gallery in the back room…

“primitives”, industrial artifacts and ‘outsider art’...

a fun mix.

This piece made me laugh…
I cannot be the only child in America whose father made this statement to them, usually right before a spanking – although I swear I’d have even fewer brain cells than I do now if I’d ever made that retort to him!

That’s what I love about poking around in other peoples ‘stuff’… you never know when you’ll find a buried treasure or memory of your own.


Aimee said... were so close to where I grew up! Have you heard of Durant and Walcott, Iowa? I grew up on a farm in between those two towns. Muscatine was always our big "city" trip! We lived about 15 min from there! I did know this already about Muscatine. Also, if you go in the summer...the melons are amazing too! I know West Branch very well too. My mom used to go antiquing there. Glad you had a great trip!

Donna said...

You're such an Iowa girl... I'm one by choice...boy, I could move there in a heartbeat!
The antique store in West Branch was the BEST!

aimee said...

Yes, I am and always will be! I have fond memories of going there with my mother as a child. Iowa is a beautiful state filled with many hidden treasures! I am a clondastine "country" girl!