Prices had clammers clamoring for pearls

Terry Eagle, Director, Muscatine Button Museum

Terry Eagle, Director, Muscatine Button Museum

At the beginning of the 20th century and before, pearl clamming and pearl button clamming were big business on the Upper Mississippi River. Whole families would spend their summers at the clamming camps.

During the summer of 1910, the Upper Mississippi River was at an unprecedented low water level. Clamming that year also was unprecedented.

“The tendency of the river is to go to the clam,” said the Dispatch “and for that reason little effort on the part of the clam hunter is necessary.” The paper speculated that there was twice as much clamming that year as in the year prior. Some people were even making their living harvesting clams.

“One of the favorite resorts of the clammers is the head of the rapids between Port Byron and LeClaire, Iowa,” said the newspaper.

The real reason for people to harvest clams at that time was for the pearls often found inside them. “These freshwater pearls have natural luster and beauty that renders them of great value,” said the Dispatch.

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