When you think about Muscatine, words like blue collar, industrial and river town are some of the first that come to mind. But “Pearl City” is probably the best known. Located in the heart of the downtown, surrounded by stores and businesses, there is a place to learn a lot about how the city became synonymous with that phrase.
The National Pearl Button Museum has a one-of-a-kind look at an industry that began truly thriving 125 years ago. Dustin Joy, Executive Director of the National Pearl Button Museum, says “Around 1905 Muscatine was creating about 1.5 billion buttons a year.” The industry was still active in the community until the McKee Button Company closed earlier this year. He went on to say that even though many other industries have emerged in this area during the 20th century, the button industry was one of the first to call Muscatine home.
Joy explained how integral the industry was to the community and its surrounding area. Joy said, “We have some really interesting employment records from McKee which shows how almost every family in the area had something to do with the button or clamming industry.”
Locals might be surprised to know that the museum is actually the number one tourist attraction for people visiting Muscatine. Joy points to the location and top
notch exhibits as the things that bring people in the door. He also points out its unusual for a small community to have such a unique and detailed history of its past. Anyone with ties to the area walking through the door would likely find a story about a relative if they took the time.
The museum is located at 117 W. Second St. in downtown Muscatine. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Joy closed saying they are hoping to have many more special events open to the public as conditions permit.