Muscatine Iowa – Pearl button capitol

Muscatine Iowa – Pearl button capitol

Who would have guessed that buttons were the cause of the decline of fresh water clams in the Mississippi River? Or that Muscatine Iowa was known as the pearl button capitol of the world? Not me. This is what I find fascinating about travel. The opportunity to learn.

From the 1890’s to the 1900’s pearl buttons were made by cutting blanks from freshwater clams. These blanks were polished, sanded, and then drilled to create buttons which adorned many types of clothing. Harvesting the clams with rakes from the bottom of the river provided an income for many during these times. Unfortunately the demand for buttons caused over harvesting of the clams and the industry began to decline in the 1920’s. Around this time other materials also became available. The last factory closed in 1967.

The clams were just beginning to recover when they became a source of freshwater pearls. According to the Wisconsin DNR site “In 1995, more than one million pounds of shell were removed from the river in Wisconsin and shipped to Japan for use in the cultured pearl industry.”

 It is hard to not keep seeing the problems of over consuming clothing. The costs to our environment whether your items are made naturally or artificially are huge. Buy quality and wear it forever! Easier to say than do. Be conscious of what you want the future to look like but don’t beat yourself up over past choices. Move forward in a thinking way.