The Mississippi River Pearl Button Boom

Did you know that millions of buttons were made from Mississippi river mussels?

The Mississippi River Pearl Button Boom is a fascinating story of greed, American ingenuity, industry and mass production, ecology, immigration, labor rights, fashion and murder!

Of course buttons are now made from plastic. But before 1900, buttons were made exclusively in Europe from European mother of pearl shells.

In a quirky twist of fate, the button industry abruptly shifted to the United States in the late 1800s. At this time most of the world's buttons were made from mussels harvested from the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Although a majority of the factories were in Muscatine, Iowa, all those along the river, from St. Paul to St. Louis, became involved in the money filled frenzy of this wild and short lived boom, harvesting mussels and making buttons. Up and down the river, thousands of jobs were created. Until it all came crashing down...

This is a 42 minute talk which fascinates everyone, since it touches on so many topics. 


 "If you are looking for a guest speaker on an unusual topic, we highly recommend JoAnn's "Mississippi River Pearl Button Boom", an interesting and little known piece of history. She is not only warm and articulate but a pleasure to meet. You won't be disappointed." Jan Wolff, Program Committee Member, MN UU Fellowship

"The Pearl Button Boom on the Mississippi unfolded through JoAnn's presentation. Not only were the events described in actuality, but JoAnn made the people of influence come back to life. Her talk was well received by those of us living on the river"  Kathy Bell, Program Chair, Red Wing, MN AAUW


Click here to view an informational sheet about the Mississippi Pearl Button Boom to print and share with your group or committee!




 About Steve and JoAnn

Steve and JoAnn are widely respected for their knowledge of the Mississippi River, gained through personal experience and years of study, exploration and conservation work. They are also professional musicians. Steve and JoAnn are guest speakers for American Cruise Lines as they travel the Mississippi from St Paul to New Orleans, using their lectures, seminars and music to share their knowledge of the river with everyone they meet.


 Contact 651-739-4510 JoAnn's email: Steve's email: 



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