Muscatine Button Museum

Shank MOP Buttons Made in Muscatine

Shank MOP Buttons Made in Muscatine

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — The story of the pearl button industry in Muscatine is much like a button itself, its circular and when properly polished, will shine.

"If you polish this history like a pearl, people will come."

That's the advice director Terry Eagle got from his father in-law and it's what he hopes to accomplish as the museum opens for regular hours in March under the new name the National Pearl Button Museum at the Muscatine History and Industry Center.

Eagle is passionate about the story he has to tell and he's ready to tell it on a national level. Muscatine's pearl button history has been told as a local story, but Eagle has found it's really not one confined to the state.

"The story is a national growth story, a national treasure story," he said.

Over his seven years working at the museum, Eagle has learned about the prevalence of the industry that centered in Muscatine.

For about 75 years starting in the late 19th century, the pearl button industry was rooted in Muscatine where it came to be known as the Pearl Button Capital of the World. The industry, brought to Muscatine in 1891 by German immigrant John F. Boepple, was "the gold rush of the Midwest," Eagle said. He equated Muscatine to Sutter's Mill, the site in California where prospectors from across the country flocked to try to find their fortune.

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