Muscatine, a small city with a big Industrial History is located 30 miles west of the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River. Muscatine a city with a population of less than 30,000 abounded with entrepreneurs in its early years. Two fortune five hundred companies are included in that history.
The colorful industrial history that visitors from all over the world are most taken with is the Pearl Button Story. We were known, and still call ourselves the Pearl City. 100 years ago we were known as "The Pearl Button Capital of the World". The first floor of the museum exhibits the pearl button history starting in the late 1800'S up to 1967 when the last pearl button was cut. Pearl buttons were manufactured from mussel shells harvested from rivers and streams. Many thousands of tons of shell from 19 states around the state of Iowa were sent to Muscatine by barge and rail to be used in the manufacturing of the Pearl Button.
It was all started by one man. A German immigrant by the name of John F Boepple. At its peak Muscatine button factories were manufacturing 1.5 billion buttons a year, 1/3 of the world's pearl buttons by 1905. This history made Muscatine "The Wild West of the Midwest). Harvesting of the mussel shell and the discovery of a Pearl is likened to the gold rush and mining out in the West!!. In fact 1 in every 100 shells held a precious pearl or pearl slug that would make the owner wealthy overnight.
Muscatine's Industrialist Entrepreneurs of the late 1940's and 1950's are featured in the Muscatine Giants exhibit on the second floor of the museum. Muscatine's story is characterized by entrepreneurs, buttons, and industrialists who dreamed their dreams and were successful because they worked and lived along the banks of the mighty Mississippi and still thrive today because of it!!
Muscatine believes, a town without its history, is just another town!
Official Great River Road Interpretive Center
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The scenic route passes through 10 states and hundreds of river towns. Learn more >