Welcome to my blog about things I love to collect, refinishing furniture and decorating using flea market finds (with a few crochet projects now and then).Thanks so much for visiting!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pearl Button Shells

A few weeks ago while looking around an antique shop Mr. Wild noticed a pile of shells that were cut out and used for making mother of pearl buttons. He suggested that they might be interesting to show on my blog.

I bought 3 shells, they were only $1 each and since I'm such a mother or pearl button hoarder I thought they would be fun to have.

The 'right side' and the 'back side' of mother of pearl buttons

I searched online and was surprised to find a few good links to mother of pearl button making along the Mississippi River.

Years ago (late 1800's and into the 1950's) there were several pearl button factories in Muscatine Iowa nicknamed The Pearl City  and Pearl Button Capital of the World. Lacrosse Wisconsin was another button producer taking 6600 tons of clams from the Mississippi River.

I can make a pretty good guess that my shells came from the Mississippi River seeing as I live only a couple of miles from the Mighty Mississippi and not terribly far from Lacrosse.

Here are a few pictures and links to the information.

A button factory in Muscatine

Image courtesy of the Muscatine History and Industry Center

If you are interested in more information about mother of pearl button history, here are a couple of short articles on the subject.

Thanks for stopping!

Linking to;
Faded Charm for White Wednesday
Ivy and Elephants for What's It Wednesday
The Charm of Home for Home Sweet Home
French Country Cottage for Feathered Nest Friday
Common Ground for Vintage Inspiration Friday


  1. Faye, This is such an interesting post! I have several shell buttons on a blouses and never knew where they came from. Great post!

  2. How interesting. I wondered how these little gems were made. xxoo

  3. Recently I met one of the London Pearly Kings who cover their costumes in thousands of pearl(shell) buttons so it's great to find out how they are made.
    Thank you.

  4. How interesting, Faye! The shells are wonderful conversation pieces, too!

  5. Oh my goodness! I collect these buttons, and never realized how they came to be. What a great post, Faye!
    Thank you for sharing this information. How neat that you have the shells the buttons were harvested from.

  6. My mother in law lived on a farm in Warsaw,Illinois and across the street was an old button factory. We would walk over and pick up the shells. This factory was right on the Mississippi river. Your blog brought back some fun memories.

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  8. Wow, what an amazing find! I never knew they were cut out of shells...but duh, I guess that is where they would come from! I'd love to repost this somehow on my blog as info for my readers. Would you mind?

  9. This is so interesting. I'm a huge button lover myself, but I've never actually seen what the shells look like after the button makers are finished with them. What a fun post!

  10. Betsy sent me. Love your blog and such interesting info on this. I love MOP buttons, well really all buttons!!!:):)

  11. How neat! Thank you for joining me at Home Sweet Home!

  12. Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

  13. This is so weird! Just yesterday I was looking up Muscatine on Wikipedia because I came across the name on a map and wondered about it. I found out about the pearl button industry, and today I ran across your blog. Such a coincidence...

    Love the rest of your blog as well. Very inspirational. Cheers!

  14. thank you for sharing these. I had never seen them before. You might like a book called "The Button Boat" -out of print- but you might be able to find it. About children collecting clams for their shells to be made into buttons.

    Am enjoying perusing your blog. Thank you.


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