Muscatine History and Industry Center / Home of the Pearl Button Museum

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! 

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Latitude: 41.421084 Longitude: -91.046385 Elevation: 570 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Terry Eagle

Seasons Open

We are open all seasons, Tuesday- Saturday from 10-4 pm. We have limited hours in January and February when we are only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10-4 pm

Hours Open

Tuesday - Saturday from 10-4. January and February we are only open on Friday and Saturday


$5 donation per person appreciated. Group Tour rates $5 per person.

Eco-Friendly Notes

The Current Directors have made it the vision and direction of the Pearl Button museum to educate our visitors on the impact the pearl Button Manufacturing had on the eco system as the mussel shells were used as a material in manufacturing. We are talking thousands of tons. To bring the story full circle!  (We are championing the clams)  These Creatures were eliminated in many streams and rivers in the center of the United states, with many species going extinct due to over harvesting. (They went the way of the buffalo).  We then continued by diking, damming, and polluting our rivers to further destroy there habitat. The science of the mussels life cycle played a big role in the decline of the pearl button industry.  We have come along way as a nation to protect and preserve the natural resources that in the past were exploited due to the need of our nation's growth.

Accessibility Notes

ADA Compliant. Restrooms and Elevator.

Pet Friendly Notes

We are amenable to individual situations. Leashed or carried required.

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