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Mother-of-Pearl Buttons From the Banks of the Mississippi

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Linzee_bio.jpg

Pearl buttons are cooler than plastic, and not just because they bring a tiny gleam to the dresses and shirts onto which they’re stitched. If you put your pearl button up to your cheek and then do the same with a plastic one, you’ll notice an actual difference in temperature.

That’s just one of the things I learned when I visited the Pearl Button Museum in Muscatine, Iowa. I also discovered that pearl buttons are heavier than plastic, and that they make a different sound as they slide through your fingers.
 
As a transplanted Californian who spent her childhood obsessively collecting shells, I’d always assumed that lustrous, white mother-of-pearl buttons came from the ocean. But there was a time when 37 percent of the world’s buttons (in 1905, that was 1.5 billion buttons) came from the glossy inner surfaces of freshwater mollusk shells harvested by citizens of this small town on the Mississippi River.  

Muscatine’s downtown today is a sleepy place Button_counter.jpgwith brick buildings on a quiet main street just a block from the river. The Pearl Button Museum isn’t large: on a single floor you can see the flat-bottom boats used to harvest mussels and the machinery to cut, drill, and polish the button “blanks.” You can try your hand at sewing buttons on a card, dip your fingers in buckets of buttons, and count out a gross (144 buttons) with a specially indented wooden paddle.  

Historical photos provide insight into a town in which half the workforce (including many children) contributed to the button industry. After the mussels were collected — a process known as clamming — men and women worked in camps along the water heating and opening the mussels, removing the meat and any irregular-shaped freshwater pearls (called “slugs”) they were lucky enough to find. Hundreds of men worked in the cutting shops, cutting blanks — the basic shape of the button — from the shiny inner surface of the shells, while others operated machinery that carved designs on the blanks and drilled the holes.

Button_factory.jpg

Image courtesy of the Muscatine History and Industry Center

Women shaped fancier buttons against rotating emery wheels and removed the dark surface or “bark” on buttons by machine; sorted buttons by color, iridescence, and size; and sewed them onto cards. The dozens of factories in town ranged from the Hawkeye Button Company, that once employed 800 people and had offices in New York and St. Louis, to myriad mom-and-pop operations.

Button_cut_shell.jpgThe riverbanks and alleys of Muscatine were piled high with leftover shells. Tons were crushed to create street surfaces, fertilizer, stucco, and even gravel for the bottom of fish bowls. Kristin McHugh-Johnston, director of the Muscatine History and Industry Center, said that even today, when she’s working in her garden eight blocks from the river, she sometimes digs up a shell from which buttons were cut.

While Muscatine takes pride in its button heritage — a 28-foot tall bronze sculpture of a “clammer” hoists his clamming forks above the downtown riverfront — the museum displays acknowledge that creating these pearl lovelies was a dirty, dangerous, and low-paying business. Advances in button-making machinery ensured Muscatine’s reign as the “Pearl Button Capitol of the World” for decades, but eventually Mississippi mussels were fished to scarcity and freshwater and ocean shells were shipped to Muscatine for cutting. Plastic buttons, zippers, changes in fashion, and foreign competition led to a decline in the industry. The last Muscatine pearl button was cut in 1967, though production began to slow in the 1930s. There are just three button companies in Muscatine today, all producing plastic buttons and other plastic products.Button_etsy1.jpg

Most pearl buttons now are made in Asia from clam, mussel, agoya, and abalone shells. Designs are cut with lasers and dyed buttons often receive a polyester coating to protect their surface. Elaborate fusions of rhinestones, plastics, and pearl create elegant buttons, unimaginable in Muscatine’s pearl button heyday.

Still, when I’m at a flea market or antique shop and happen upon those simple, shiny vintage disks, I feel a thrill of pleasure: finding a Blue Bonnet or Lucky Day brand button card adorned with a drawing of a laughing baby or the placket of a manly shirt reminds me of all that I’ve learned about pearl buttons (and about my adopted state). The cool surface of the lustrous discs assures me that this is the real thing

Vintage Ocean Pearl Buttons
from gatheredcomforts

A lifelong sewer/knitter and former weaver/spinner, Linzee Kull McCray, a.k.a. lkmccray, is a writer and editor living in Iowa. She feels fortunate to meet and write about people, from scientists to stitchers, who are passionate about their work. Her freelance writing appears in Quilts and More, Stitch, Fiberarts, American Patchwork and Quilting and more. For more textile musings, visit her blog.


Thanks to Linzee for sharing this little-known piece of craft history.
Was your town once a source for unique goods? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Vintage Pearl Buttons | The Collectors Series

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel says:

    i love buttons! great article! check out my sterling silver and vintage button bracelets too!!

    3 years ago

  • NotYoMommasHandbag

    NotYoMommasHandbag says:

    This is fascinating! thank you! I now appreciate those old buttons so much more! smiles.

    3 years ago

  • Ayca

    Ayca says:

    Love love love the button :) Thanks for sharing these beauties :)

    3 years ago

  • manvsgeorge

    manvsgeorge says:

    Oh wow, this is fantastic! I love how the shape of the tiny mother-of-pearl purse by neolina mirrors the source of mother-of-pearl. Beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • catchalljewelry

    catchalljewelry says:

    thank you for explaining the history behind pearl buttons. i admit that it was something i never thought about before, but now i find it really fascinating!

    3 years ago

  • SilverSistersStudio

    SilverSistersStudio says:

    I had no idea they came from ACTUAL shells! Isn't it fantastic to hear the history of something - makes it all the more interesting and gives it value beyond being a pretty thing.

    3 years ago

  • WinchesterLambourne

    WinchesterLambourne says:

    One of the most beautiful articles I've read! Thank you.

    3 years ago

  • RhondasTreasures

    RhondasTreasures says:

    Nature's Eye Candy :)

    3 years ago

  • RhondasTreasures

    RhondasTreasures says:

    Nature's Eye Candy :)

    3 years ago

  • moonscreations

    moonscreations says:

    What a fantastic article! I think I have a new project in the works for my collection of vintage buttons. Thank you for the inspiration!

    3 years ago

  • futurowoman

    futurowoman says:

    How fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing this marvelous history!

    3 years ago

  • simplyworn

    simplyworn says:

    wow...great story and oh how i love butttons!

    3 years ago

  • DavidsonStudio

    DavidsonStudio says:

    I certainly love the products of nature rather than the plastic of today. I'm an Iowan and love your article!

    3 years ago

  • WhimsyHouse

    WhimsyHouse says:

    Nature is gorgeous :) Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • miznovember

    miznovember says:

    How neat. What a great article. I remember fishing out the mother-of-pearl buttons in my moms pile of extras just because they were so pretty.

    3 years ago

  • KBKExtras

    KBKExtras says:

    Great article!! I'm so thrilled to see one of jwlrywrkroom's necklaces -- I'm a long time fan of hers & a button artist myself *smiles*

    3 years ago

  • YaYJewelry

    YaYJewelry says:

    Thanks for sharing your work!!!! Lovely! Former Des Moinian

    3 years ago

  • poplovedesigns

    poplovedesigns says:

    Great article, there's certainly something to be said for old-school items like real mother-of-pearl buttons, especially in the plastic-age. I especially love that gross-counting spatula... I could use something like that for all my beads and bits! <3 Andrea

    3 years ago

  • circlecreekhome

    circlecreekhome says:

    Wonderful article, I just love mother of pearl buttons...can't get enough of them!

    3 years ago

  • InmostLight

    InmostLight says:

    How inspiring! Thank you:)!

    3 years ago

  • BingoBox

    BingoBox says:

    I knew I loved the mother of pearl buttons most of all and that they were special ... and I never thought beyond that. Great article - thanks for enlightening me!

    3 years ago

  • muttons

    muttons says:

    what a quirky little peice of hitory! I love anything buttons :-) thanks for telling us about something so special!

    3 years ago

  • KathyGDesigns

    KathyGDesigns says:

    Thank you for the well written article.

    3 years ago

  • forthetiny

    forthetiny says:

    HI! Both of my parent are from Muscatine. My grandfather had a one man button buisness when my mother was small. My mother would sew 5 buttons to a card for a penny. I grew up with the machine and piles of shells in our basement. I thought everyone did :) We eat at The Button Factory often. There are Piles of buttons on the tables with a great view of the Mississippi. Lynn Morrow

    3 years ago

  • allthepreciousthings

    allthepreciousthings says:

    Fascinating article!

    3 years ago

  • bethany18

    bethany18 says:

    I love buttons so I really enjoyed reading this article!

    3 years ago

  • stonz

    stonz says:

    Fascinating! I have always had a thing for these wonderful buttons...

    3 years ago

  • jangerame

    jangerame says:

    everyone loves my button necklaces... i wear it all the time!

    3 years ago

  • LuRuUniques

    LuRuUniques says:

    Old buttons are fun. I have way way too many of them...Thanks for the interest article.

    3 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Great article!

    3 years ago

  • silkfabric

    silkfabric says:

    Yay buttons! I love buttons.

    3 years ago

  • billetsdoux

    billetsdoux says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article. Now more people will know how these lovely buttons came into being. I love buttons and use them in practically everything I make. Check out my button necklaces and earrings! I love wearing mine.

    3 years ago

  • VintageEmbellishment

    VintageEmbellishment says:

    I save all my pearlies to use in projects...someday! Love this article :)

    3 years ago

  • PearlGem

    PearlGem says:

    Awesome. I've always loved pearl buttons. And have quite a collection myself. Interesting article.

    3 years ago

  • tippleandsnack

    tippleandsnack says:

    I never knew how buttons were made. Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • pineappleaisle

    pineappleaisle says:

    Interesting history and didn't know that they are cooler. I always liked mother-of-pearl, especially in furniture, but I have a necklace too...

    3 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage says:

    love old vintage button...and all the crafty ways people re-use them!

    3 years ago

  • undermyfeet

    undermyfeet says:

    Very informative article.

    3 years ago

  • TheMerchantMariner

    TheMerchantMariner says:

    What a lovely article. Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • akcArt

    akcArt says:

    LOVE Mother of Pearl, so elegant! Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • VintageBlue

    VintageBlue says:

    I love this article! In the last couple of months I've come upon three giant cookie tins filled with vintage buttons. Many of the buttons are mother of pearl. I'm so glad to know a bit of their history now!

    3 years ago

  • welchva

    welchva says:

    Beautiful-will make me look twice at vintage MOP buttons.

    3 years ago

  • VintageScriptPress

    VintageScriptPress says:

    Very cool buttons

    3 years ago

  • dkjewels

    dkjewels says:

    love this!

    3 years ago

  • HoundstoothDesign

    HoundstoothDesign says:

    Thank you for such an informative article! There is just something about a button.

    3 years ago

  • TidyBaubles

    TidyBaubles says:

    What a great article! So nice to read this history, and to know that what you might be holding casually in your hand is a way of life gone forever, but not forgotten..thanks for this..

    3 years ago

  • jillatay

    jillatay says:

    Love mother of pearl. Nice article.

    3 years ago

  • tomatored

    tomatored says:

    Love old buttons! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • daniellesdesign10

    daniellesdesign10 says:

    I love buttons...I use muscle shells in my necklaces also.

    3 years ago

  • EverydayEverythings

    EverydayEverythings says:

    interesting article. thanks for the info!

    3 years ago

  • elizabethcosby

    elizabethcosby says:

    really great article, i love mother-of-pearl buttons! I carve shells myself and seeing the old picture of the factory and machinery they use is great. I use a lot of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers old tools and I'm sure some are pretty similiar to those in the picture :)

    3 years ago

  • TheVintageRecycler

    TheVintageRecycler says:

    By far ocean pearls are my favorite buttons!!! Thank-you for bringing attention to these lovely things that are one of a kind...no matter how many you have! amy

    3 years ago

  • StarJewelry

    StarJewelry says:

    i just used a vintage shell button as the perfect clasp for a bracelet, i love them - http://www.etsy.com/listing/48259988/miami-surf-teal-beadwoven-cuff-bracelet

    3 years ago

  • aereonyx

    aereonyx says:

    I never knew any of this... Now I'm so glad that I kept the tin of various buttons my Grandmother on my Dad's side collected! They're kept in a medium sized cookie tin, painted black with hand painted buttons on it- so definitely no mistaking it! And at least half the buttons are mother of pearl/pearl! I also have various decorative ones too.... And I'm not going to use them to make anything. I simply like opening the tin, running my fingers through them, sometimes dumping them out and looking through them at some of the more ornate ones, which are plastic, rhinestones, etc... Thank you for this wonderful article!

    3 years ago

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    SimpleJoysPaperie says:

    I absolutely LOVE mop buttons and have a large glass apothecary jar of them. I also use some of them to embellish my handmade items. Thanks for the article about them! :)

    3 years ago

  • BannerCelebrations

    BannerCelebrations says:

    I love adorning my banners and collages with the MOP buttons I've found when thrifting. Thank you, Linzee, for sharing the interesting history of the ones made in Muscatine. Love the old photos!

    3 years ago

  • TopazTurtle

    TopazTurtle says:

    Love the buttons! I've recently discovered some great buttons for use as jewellery too.

    3 years ago

  • GemmaBeads

    GemmaBeads says:

    I ADORE Mother-Of-Pearl and Shell buttons!! I hoard them! Occasionally I'll spare a few for a design but they are my favorite of all the buttons I collect, ahead of glass and metals.

    3 years ago

  • paperprayers

    paperprayers says:

    cool! as an Iowan who grew up in Fort Madison, Iowa, also on the Mississippi, and who now lives in Iowa City, I appreciate this interesting article! I remember coming across shells full of holes just like the one pictured - but don't remember if it was exploring the banks of the mississippi, or some other way.

    3 years ago

  • Vanittas

    Vanittas says:

    I love buttons ( i guess I'm not the only one). Amazing article lkmccray! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • NeatNat

    NeatNat says:

    Ohhh!!! I love Mother of Pearl buttons...they give such a gorgeous touch to simple pieces of clothing...Well I guess I love buttons cos my parents have worked making clothes for many years!!

    3 years ago

  • lkmccray

    lkmccray says:

    Glad so many people enjoyed this post. I didn't know so many people were as obsessed as I am with mother-of-pearl buttons. And I'm jealous of all of you who have tins and jars of them!

    3 years ago

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace says:

    amazing, I will totally look at my button collection with even more love now that I know some of the history. Thanks for such a great post.

    3 years ago

  • editionbw

    editionbw says:

    this story was perfect... Love this & want to visit.

    3 years ago

  • Entwife

    Entwife says:

    What a wonderful article! Thanks for a sweet and nostalgic essay. Now we'll all be looking for these pretty buttons!

    3 years ago

  • soule

    soule says:

    I never knew any of this! Glad to learn something new today!

    3 years ago

  • threepeats

    threepeats says:

    I love buttons!

    3 years ago

  • quesarahsarah

    quesarahsarah says:

    i love buttons! i wrote a teensy blog over here http://ilikeoldstuff.blogspot.com/2009/11/button-crazy.html about a button collector/dealer (who once traded beads for a Cadillac!)

    3 years ago

  • JennysTreasuresForU

    JennysTreasuresForU says:

    Cool,I love mother of pearl buttons!

    3 years ago

  • kelleystreetvintage

    kelleystreetvintage says:

    Another pearl button lover person here that just really enjoyed all the new information you posted, thanks!

    3 years ago

  • GemsandDollsSupplies

    GemsandDollsSupplies says:

    This is so cool! I have been there!!

    3 years ago

  • notionbyleandra

    notionbyleandra says:

    My favorite kind of buttons are the vintage mother of pearl buttons. I loved this article and it made me appreciate those sweet lovelies even more!!

    3 years ago

  • jodifrench

    jodifrench says:

    I am a button addict, I am drawn to them like a moth to a light bulb. Thanks for this informative post, I enjoyed it.

    3 years ago

  • letterperfectdesigns

    letterperfectdesigns says:

    Thank you Linzee for the great article and pictures! Like everyone else, I love working with MOP buttons too. You just can't beat that beautiful shimmer! I had heard about Muscatine and would love to visit the town and museum someday!

    3 years ago

  • KarensLoom

    KarensLoom says:

    Really enjoyed the read!!! beautiful buttons... i will definitely buy some to use with my knitwear.... thanks for showing me ....

    3 years ago

  • CreamCityCrafts

    CreamCityCrafts says:

    This is a great article, thanks so much for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • FavreBijoux

    FavreBijoux says:

    Thank you so much for this very interesting article. I have a large collection of old buttons of this type; I never knew they were made in the US.

    3 years ago

  • WeeBindery

    WeeBindery says:

    I love buttons! I have collections of buttons in my studio! This is a fantastic article! Thank you! :-D

    3 years ago

  • ameliejo

    ameliejo says:

    I use Mother of Pearl buttons on almost all of my garments. Thanks for sharing this!

    3 years ago

  • LADzigns

    LADzigns says:

    Very interesting, Thank You

    3 years ago

  • Seavbeach

    Seavbeach says:

    I have tons of Mother of Pearl buttons and have used them in jewelry designs... Who knew?! Thx for this article.

    3 years ago

  • LineOfSight

    LineOfSight says:

    Pearl buttons are always a treasure. Your article was great.Thanks for the info.

    3 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    thanks for sharing the information. i've always heard MOP buttons also referred to as shell buttons. I usually use all three tags (MOP, shell, Mother of Pearl) when listing mine.

    3 years ago

  • leewen

    leewen says:

    I love buttons especially vintage mother of pearls. Great collection. Thanks for the article.

    3 years ago

  • sophiemomo

    sophiemomo says:

    I love using vintage buttons when I make my pillows. They are so very special and add something special! Thanks for your article.

    3 years ago

  • MRSBAUBLES

    MRSBAUBLES says:

    I love vintage buttons - I use them often in my beadwork for clasps. I have a few vintage mother of pearl buttons that I just can't bare to part with. I really enjoyed this article. Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    I've collected antique pearl buttons just about my entire life but never knew their history. Now when I admire my cards of Bluebird buttons or rummage through my button boxes, I'll be that much more appreciative. Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • GlitterAndGlass

    GlitterAndGlass says:

    Thank you for the lesson on buttons. It's really something I never gave any though to, but am glad I learned something new about them.

    3 years ago

  • ArtisticIntentions

    ArtisticIntentions says:

    Fascinating!! Thank you for sharing!! Beautiful buttons!!!

    3 years ago

  • BornWrongCentury

    BornWrongCentury says:

    THANK YOU!! I am one of the fortunate people to have known two women who worked at that wonderful button company. My two aunts were working there during World War II. Your wonderful article reminded me of those great stories of how the broken buttons were used to cover the roads instead of gravel. My loving Aunt Helen whoshared so much with me just recently passed away, she would of loved meeting you and telling you the stories herself. What a great tribute to her and all theothers who kept us buttoned up! Thanks again

    3 years ago

  • woolybaby

    woolybaby says:

    I love using pearl buttons on my slippers, often even putting them upside for the beautiful mottled colors on the back. Neat article- thanks.

    3 years ago

  • vdh162

    vdh162 says:

    collecting buttons is one of the best little hobbies to have. all those little treasures. what could be better than to find an old button? thank you for reminding us of our history.

    3 years ago

  • janeeroberti

    janeeroberti says:

    Delightful--thank you! I have a fine collection of vintage buttons, and first learned about our Midwest Button Capitol history a few years ago, when buying bulk shell buttons for my clothing business. Later, when kayaking in the rivers and streams around Chicago, my Boy Scout Den Mother Friend pointed out the big clam shells along the shores, and told me how rich our streams were with these big freshwater clams. But I kinda knew that already!

    3 years ago

  • artofjane

    artofjane says:

    This is such a cool article! I love love love old buttons and learning some history is so interesting.

    3 years ago

  • MysticLily

    MysticLily says:

    OMG! I never thought I was at all interested in mother of pearl buttons until reading your article. I was actually totally pulled in and fell in love with the history presented. I'm in Mpls - I feel like I need a little road trip to Muscatine, Iowa this summer! Great writing, great subject, great history. Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • MicheleMichelSilver

    MicheleMichelSilver says:

    Great article! Thank you so much for this amazing information. I love that you noticed the difference in temperature.

    3 years ago

  • jessitaylor

    jessitaylor says:

    thanks for such an interesting read!! i do love me some pearl buttons.....

    3 years ago

  • buttonalia

    buttonalia says:

    What a fabulous, interesting article reminding us of days gone by - where would we be without the humble button?

    3 years ago

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass says:

    Who knew?! Cool.

    3 years ago

  • TimelessTrinkets

    TimelessTrinkets says:

    Great article. I love the history of buttons. Thank you for this information.

    3 years ago

  • nudeedudee

    nudeedudee says:

    I totally use pearl buttons whenever possible in my vintage style garments, they are so lustrous and wonderful, each one is different and special. I had no idea that there was a museum! Thank you for sharing this! In fact, I gotta make a belt with a MOP slide very soon here for a 30s dress.

    3 years ago

  • hubinshow

    hubinshow says:

    i love buttons! great article! :O)

    3 years ago

  • lovahandmade

    lovahandmade says:

    What a fun and interesting article! I admit I have a ton of these buttons but hardly ever use them, I think I'll look at them a little differently after reading this! Thanks so much!

    3 years ago

  • trulyvera

    trulyvera says:

    Great ideas!

    3 years ago

  • beatknits

    beatknits says:

    What a wonderful article. I treasury my mother-of-pearl buttons even more.

    3 years ago

  • edithandlulu

    edithandlulu says:

    Excellent article! So glad to see one about buttons!

    3 years ago

  • KimsCraftyApple

    KimsCraftyApple says:

    what a fun story!

    3 years ago

  • notsewnew

    notsewnew says:

    Sweet! I knew there was a reason I cherished my mother of pearl buttons.

    3 years ago

  • OrangeistheSun

    OrangeistheSun says:

    I use vintage buttons in my pieces, so this was extra fun to read. thanks!

    3 years ago

  • VelveteenHabbit

    VelveteenHabbit says:

    I've read that there are possibly millions of treasures in the Mississippi from when old freighters sunk---filled with the finest linens china pearls and silver could be an adventure!!!!

    3 years ago

  • FloweryDeer

    FloweryDeer says:

    Lovely buttons~

    3 years ago

  • vintagelizzy

    vintagelizzy says:

    what an interesting and gorgeous feature! :)

    3 years ago

  • AnniesStudio

    AnniesStudio says:

    Lovelies. I really enjoyed the article. I too use vintage buttons in my work so it was fun info. Thanks.

    3 years ago

  • WillOaksStudio

    WillOaksStudio says:

    Wonderful and informative story! I used to live in Iowa but knew nothing about this part of history--thank you! I love to wear MOP buttons and to use other shapes in my work but yes, it's all coming from Asia now.

    3 years ago

  • Lynnaddison

    Lynnaddison says:

    Linzee.. I am so happy to see your article about pearl buttons and the museum in Iowa. I grew up along the Mississippi and did not know of the museum until a decade ago. As an avid collector I am always thrilled to have people learn more about these wonderful buttons. And thanks for using one of my listings of the grey and brown pearls.. I am honored to have them show up with your story.

    3 years ago

  • marathon1981

    marathon1981 says:

    So wonderful to know the history of these beauties! I love the sensation of searching through a new stash of buttons and being able to feel the natural quality of the MOP beside all the plastic!

    3 years ago

  • 3LambsGraphics

    3LambsGraphics says:

    Wonderful history - thank you so much!

    3 years ago

  • erinzam

    erinzam says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for this article.

    3 years ago

  • stubborndog

    stubborndog says:

    I'm so glad to see this! I'm from the Quad Cities and learned about Muscatine's button history for the first time last year. It's all very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • Serrelynda

    Serrelynda says:

    absolutely fascinating. I covet and hoard the M.O.P buttons I find in my stash.

    3 years ago

  • southernmagnolias

    southernmagnolias says:

    Great Article! I try to use nothing but mother of pearl buttons on my heirloom items.

    3 years ago

  • RomasMasion

    RomasMasion says:

    Mother of Pearl buttons are so beautiful. Love the history behind them.Thank you

    3 years ago

  • simobre1967

    simobre1967 says:

    Beautiful article! I have a collection of vintage mother of pearl buttons. I love that cold material. I'll sell them in my shop a few at a time. Thnak you. Simona

    3 years ago

  • dkgeneralstore

    dkgeneralstore says:

    What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • dkgeneralstore

    dkgeneralstore says:

    What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • rakubuttons

    rakubuttons says:

    Ain't nothing like the real thing, and lots of etsy shoppers already know that. Great article!

    3 years ago

  • JennyandV

    JennyandV says:

    Linzee, this completely made my day! I am an absolute lover of mother of pearl buttons, especially vintage mother of pearl buttons. There's something so soothing and lovely-to-touch about them. We try to use a lot of them on our dresses in our shop. Even though it's sometimes hard to let go of them from my button collection. Each one is so different and special.

    3 years ago

  • 32NorthSupplies

    32NorthSupplies says:

    I've always had a soft spot for mother of pearl. Wen I was learning to sew my mom always told me MOP added refinement to even the simplest pieces. Great article! I just love the shell with the holes.

    3 years ago

  • PettiBear

    PettiBear says:

    I LOVE pearl buttons!!!!!! Great article!

    3 years ago

  • AlliesAdornments

    AlliesAdornments says:

    Great article!

    3 years ago

  • 2treasurehunt

    2treasurehunt says:

    Wonderful Article. Pearl buttons are so beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • bertiescloset

    bertiescloset says:

    thanks so much for the article. time to start counting buttons to sleep.

    3 years ago

  • memake

    memake says:

    Thank you for such a great article. I am another button lover (and hoarder) and mother of pearl buttons are my very favourites. Being a Londoner, they are also synonymous with the Pearly Kings and Queens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearly_Kings_and_Queens

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    beautiful buttons, I never knew they were made like this. I've always loved the sheen of pearl buttons even if they are quite expensive.

    3 years ago

  • miriadmoni

    miriadmoni says:

    A button museum... wow, that sounds awsome! Beautiful finds!

    3 years ago

  • mootsie

    mootsie says:

    Lovely Article...glad to see so many obsessed with buttons!.....they are truly a simple pleasure.

    3 years ago

  • pinkphile

    pinkphile says:

    wow Beautiful buttons!! =)

    3 years ago

  • nowonder

    nowonder says:

    This is is fantastic! So beautiful!!

    3 years ago

  • joajewellery

    joajewellery says:

    As I use Mother of Pearl buttons and beads a lot in my work I really enjoyed this article. Thanks you so much! The old photo's are great!

    3 years ago

  • knitfitt

    knitfitt says:

    MOP buttons are my favorites and I have collected them for years. You might be interested in joining the National Button Society which has active chapters all over the U.S. and a conference with so many vendors you will have a meltdown of love.

    3 years ago

  • paulofnavarone

    paulofnavarone says:

    mmm. thanks Linzee. i didnt know thats what mother of pearl was. i found this all fascinating. i guess i just never questioned what it was. it seems weird that each of the buttons on my shirt represents part of a mollusks former house. ha. i need to engineer a situation where i can educate others on what a mother of pearl button actually is and look like a right smarty-pants.

    3 years ago

  • HandmadeHandsome

    HandmadeHandsome says:

    What an interesting post. Thank you for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • carlossantiago

    carlossantiago says:

    i love this buttons. I have so many in my studio. will make a pillow soon with them. great article!!!! thank you!!! best, PARK

    3 years ago

  • joyceweaver

    joyceweaver says:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing with us and all your hard work!

    3 years ago

  • ScenicRoots

    ScenicRoots says:

    What a great story! Thanks so much for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • jwlrywrkroom

    jwlrywrkroom says:

    What a wonderful article! As you can see, I'm in LOVE with Mother of Pearl buttons and their ethereal shimmer. They're feminine, alluring and simply dreamy to look at, while their feel is as wonderful and silky! How nice to see one of mine among the collection :)

    3 years ago

  • christinesbeadworks

    christinesbeadworks says:

    Fun article, thanks so much. I love buttons and now I have a greater appreciation for MOP. Even the leftover piece from which the buttons were cut is beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • fabriquefantastique

    fabriquefantastique says:

    When I am back home (at the cottage) I will send you a pic of one of my favorite suits with MoP buttons....lots of complete strangers remark on them. Love this kind of informational article.

    3 years ago

  • Chuletindesigns

    Chuletindesigns says:

    I love Mother of pearl buttons! I recently made a dress using them!

    3 years ago

  • NoKitschProject

    NoKitschProject says:

    Writing skills shine through. Finally a tasty, charming story. One feels like going to a museum in a hunt for similar but something tells me the beauty is in the eye of the beholder:) Best of luck for the Author!

    3 years ago

  • gramsheart

    gramsheart says:

    I love buttons, too. I live near, where they made the buttons, in a small town, named Montrose, Iowa. I didn't realize the history of them. I enjoyed your article, so close to my home in Iowa. Thank you..

    3 years ago

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany says:

    Ah. I love mother of pearl and buttons are especially nice. Nice article. :)

    3 years ago

  • locksofpizazz

    locksofpizazz says:

    What a cool 'look see' into the button makers lives from [not so] long ago.

    3 years ago

  • jonscreations

    jonscreations says:

    What a wonderful article!! I love sewing and have sewed all my life...even as a little girl (I use to cut up old sheets and hand sew clothes for my barbie dolls). I have a collection of tons of buttons, many of them pearl buttons. Thank you for sharing their history!

    3 years ago

  • PetitPoulailler

    PetitPoulailler says:

    *ANY* excuse for talking about buttons is always great! Wonderful story xo ~ thank you!

    3 years ago

  • Cricketbuttons

    Cricketbuttons says:

    Loved your article! Here at my shop, I always have some shimmery pearls for you. Love to have you stop by and visit sometime! http://www.etsy.com/listing/48807727/traveling-moons Thank you for sharing this history of these marvelous objects we call buttons!

    3 years ago

  • Earthystyle

    Earthystyle says:

    these buttons are beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    I am reaLly fall in love all buttonS :)) What a wonderful article!!

    3 years ago

  • stockintrade

    stockintrade says:

    extremely interesting and well written thanks! stock in trade

    3 years ago

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie says:

    Beautiful historical piece. I love M.O.P. I recently received a cookie tin of M.O.P. scrap to upcycle. When working with it I must wear a mask, and I cut it on a diamond ring saw.

    3 years ago

  • Arva

    Arva says:

    Great article , thank you very much for sharing !

    3 years ago

  • davisdesignsau

    davisdesignsau says:

    Lovely to read the history behind some of mankinds best inventions!! Gee we are a clever lot!

    3 years ago

  • ecouturejewels

    ecouturejewels says:

    I never knew this! Thanks for the fascinating read!

    3 years ago

  • ForeverGlassFlowers

    ForeverGlassFlowers says:

    Very Cool! My mom has a large tin of old buttons she's had for years and years. This article makes me want to crack that tin open and see what's inside. Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • NotoriousKnits

    NotoriousKnits says:

    Wahoo for Mother or Pearl! I live near the Mississippi myself and use shell buttons in my knitwear. Thanks for the lovely story. Elise

    3 years ago

  • ZenAndCoffee

    ZenAndCoffee says:

    Fantastic article! I use to collect buttons as a young girl. I never knew some of this! Its so interesting to find out! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • BlackStar

    BlackStar says:

    What a wonderful article! It will make me cherish my MOP buttons even more. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    3 years ago

  • DevineDesignStudios

    DevineDesignStudios says:

    Interesting edu on the history of shell buttons, and I agree they are much prettier than plastic!

    3 years ago

  • LadyBejewel

    LadyBejewel says:

    Wonderful article! I am a lover of all things vintage and mother of pearl buttons are one of my favorite things. I love the beautiful variations of colors and the refreshing coolness to the touch. A perfect accent on a summer linen dress. Your article put a story to an often overlooked treasure!

    3 years ago

  • mediumcontrol

    mediumcontrol says:

    thanks for sharing, that was very interesting and something i had never thought too much about.

    3 years ago

  • quenchmetalworks

    quenchmetalworks says:

    An excellent article! I love the history of button production in the US. And to think that they used freshwater mussels! Who knew?

    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Wonderful story! I have a new admiration for the pearl buttons!

    3 years ago

  • BayMoonDesign

    BayMoonDesign says:

    Very interesting! I live in Delaware where there use to be several button plants. I have always loved buttons and I incorporate them into my jewelry also.

    3 years ago

  • Gram5000

    Gram5000 says:

    Thanks for the article. I love buttons. We go to EstateSales just abo every weekend. I went to one and they had a storage tub half way full and I could not resist. I got a good deal to me...there were alot of pearl buttons. Again Thanks for sharing, Kim Edwards

    3 years ago

  • PilliPillihandmade

    PilliPillihandmade says:

    If my button box could speak... she would probably tell you plastic buttons are sorely neglected in the Pilli Pilli Laboratories! I just love the mother of pearl ones... nothing like it for a classy finish! * So, Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!!! *HEARTS!* K.

    3 years ago

  • stellakim

    stellakim says:

    Super article! ;)!! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • alittlemomento

    alittlemomento says:

    WONDERFUL INFO!

    3 years ago

  • LoveToLoveYou

    LoveToLoveYou says:

    I loved your story. I've been to Muscatine and picked up jars of gorgeous buttons from a vintage store there. Thanks for the history lesson!

    3 years ago

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    Very interesting article! I've loved shell buttons ever since I was a little girl, digging through my grandma's button box.

    3 years ago

  • queenginya

    queenginya says:

    thank you so much for featuring my mother of pearl necklace! I love using them in my work and have many more in stock. Thanks for the history lesson!

    3 years ago

  • filofashion

    filofashion says:

    Very Beautiful !!!

    3 years ago

  • EGVintage

    EGVintage says:

    What a beautiful article. My mother's earliest memory is of sitting and playing in the button box while her mother had to run an errand. I love the feeling of fishing through a box of buttons! I can spent hours sifting through them.

    3 years ago

  • linensandthings

    linensandthings says:

    Loved this article on pearl buttons! Thank you so much!

    3 years ago

  • dessertfirstdesigns

    dessertfirstdesigns says:

    So interesting. I have a huge collection of antique buttons which I obsessively collected in the 90's. And of course I have loads of fancy, carved and decorated pearl buttons. If anyone is interested, must unload these one of these days.

    3 years ago

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards says:

    for a button freak like me this is such a great article! thank you so much for sharing as I learned something today!

    3 years ago

  • SurrenderDorothy

    SurrenderDorothy says:

    This is a terrific article! I grew up in the Sixties in Westbrook Maine; a paper mill town. At the time, S D Warren Paper Company was a huge supplier of currency paper for the US Treasury Department. Currency paper for printing money is not actually made of wood pulp like regular paper is, but rather it's a stronger kind of paper made of recycled cotton and the source for it was rags; mostly cotton. At the turn of the century and far beyond the Depression nobody ever threw anything made of fabric away, rags were carted off by the "Rag Man" to be recycled. At the paper mill, the discards were sorted and all of the buttons and hooks and eyes were removed and hauled off by the horse cart load to the local riverbanks and dumped there as rubbish. As an adventurous kid I found three of these button dumps in my hometown and spent hundred of hours digging them up, sorting, washing and hoarding them. Many I still have today. Sadly, the poor found MOP buttons never fared well being dumped outside and left in the elements; they were almost always left with a chalky dull finish. Ditto for the wooden ones and Bakelite ones. The Brass buttons tarnished to total greenness, soaked in Naval Jelly came out lovely and bright as did the cut steel buttons. My favorites were the glass buttons, mostly because weather didn't effect them at all. I adore antique buttons to this day and still feel a secret thrill whenever I plunge my hand into a tin of old buttons and turn up a treasure! Thanks for the memories! Veronica

    3 years ago

  • mtnfranklecreations

    mtnfranklecreations says:

    Wonderful article! I love,love,love the character of old buttons I wonder what stories other vintage buttons could tell?

    3 years ago

  • SugarKids

    SugarKids says:

    Very interesting. I think I had heard about these buttons from the midwest. Great story!

    3 years ago

  • dorkorama99

    dorkorama99 says:

    This is the story of my home town, if you substitute fish for mussels, and buttons, truly sad, but it's wonderful to keep that story and their hard work alive! and after I read this I dug through my stash of old MOP buttons, and started crafting with the rustic little beauties, and appreciating them in a brand new way!

    3 years ago

  • windfall

    windfall says:

    I just recently fell in love with Mother of pearl Buttons & found a stash kept by my Grandmother that are just beautiful. Love your article! Here is what I have done with one of the beauties: http://www.etsy.com/listing/47985141/button-ring

    3 years ago

  • metroretrovintage

    metroretrovintage says:

    What a fascinating article and history! I've often appreciated mother-of-pearl and abalone shell buttons - plus they are often a sign of quality, when found on a vintage garment. Muscatine sounds like a idyllic place and would love to visit!

    3 years ago

  • CreaShines

    CreaShines says:

    Such a fascinating story! Thanks so much for wrinkling my little brain :D

    3 years ago

  • VelvetBitchOriginals

    VelvetBitchOriginals says:

    Great article...I am a vintage button hoarder and love my pearl buttons...

    3 years ago

  • craftpile

    craftpile says:

    Thank you so much for sharing....very enjoyable read!

    3 years ago

  • shabbyroses

    shabbyroses says:

    Thanks for the info ,I am proud to be the owner of boxes of vintage buttons ,now I will be sure to give my collection another look to see if I am the owner of some of beautiful pearl buttons! Thank you so very much for that great story!

    3 years ago

  • kathiroussel

    kathiroussel says:

    wonderful insight into the history of these seemingly simple but beautiful buttons. i have some mother of pearl buttons stashed and can now look at them in a whole new light! great feature-- thanks!

    3 years ago

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry says:

    Absolutely adore the shell button necklace. Linzee - thank you for sharing these wonderful finds.

    3 years ago

  • ErikawithaK

    ErikawithaK says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! One of my favorite things about sewing is the history and stories behind it. It makes me feel more connected to know the story behind all of it.

    3 years ago

  • Trencadis

    Trencadis says:

    Fantastic and interesting article! The buttons of shell are traditional and longwearing. I think that they are as MINI ART PIECES, because of their beauty and making. I love the shell buttons! Thanks for thinking about me and sharing this interesting history!!! :-D

    3 years ago

  • polkadotsandblooms

    polkadotsandblooms says:

    I love this post as much as I love mop buttons. My love for these buttons started when I was a little girl and I saw my mum's and nan's clothes with mop buttons. When I opened my shop I had to have a mop button in my logo. And it seems that I have passed this love onto my two daughters, they love playing with my vintage collection of mop buttons for hourse on end :-)

    3 years ago

  • iomiss

    iomiss says:

    I love mother-of-pearl buttons!! Great article

    3 years ago

  • whimsy52

    whimsy52 says:

    Thank you for your article on vintage pearl buttons! I loved reading it. I have been to Mississippi four times and have a real love for that state! I wondered why a casino down there was called Pearl River casino! Now I know why they named it as such! I love vintage buttons and I would love to purchase some vintage Mississippi Pearl buttons!! I will look into this and thank you for the informative article. I sure appreciated reading about this!

    3 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    Wow! What a great story! Thanks for sharing this great history of a lovely lil jewel!

    3 years ago

  • NatalyaToporova

    NatalyaToporova says:

    enjoyed the story great buttons!!

    3 years ago

  • laurelbean

    laurelbean says:

    This article is amazing! Thanks so much! I love mother of pearl buttons...

    3 years ago

  • kbowling

    kbowling says:

    i love buttons!

    3 years ago

  • carolbroadleypottery

    carolbroadleypottery says:

    When I was young I used to love and sort the big jar of buttons my Mom had...reading this article brought back that memory!! :) Now I make my own buttons out of clay.

    3 years ago

  • bonkersaboutbuttons

    bonkersaboutbuttons says:

    a fantastic article - thank you for sharing. I have reposted the link on my facebook group

    3 years ago

  • LizzieLuna

    LizzieLuna says:

    Beautiful!!! I love the buttons

    3 years ago

  • faeriecupcake

    faeriecupcake says:

    These are beautiful!!! loved the article too:D

    3 years ago

  • saphira

    saphira says:

    What an enjoyable article! I would love to travel there and see it all for myself one day. Vintage and antique mother of pearl buttons are so gorgeous, they are a wonderful medium for creativity. Thank you for sharing your trip!

    3 years ago

  • aistheta

    aistheta says:

    Thanks for the history. I have seen some really great things done with buttons. From using them to distinguish an article of clothing to great jewelery.

    3 years ago

  • JustColor

    JustColor says:

    I love buttons. All kinds and use them frequently in my work, wither in jewelry or knitted items. Buttons are fun and I collect all kinds. Thanks you for this informative article. Very interesting.

    3 years ago

  • ethne

    ethne says:

    Vintage buttons feed my soul - very interesting - thank you

    3 years ago

  • barbaritaverde

    barbaritaverde says:

    When I was a child I would spend hours playing with the buttons from my grandmothers button jar. Lovely article. Your pieces are beautiful and truely honor the past.

    3 years ago

  • midnightboudoir

    midnightboudoir says:

    I think everyone at one point or another loved passing their fingers through a big pile of buttons- well I did anyhow. It's very interesting to know the history of Muscatine- and now I will be on the lookout for vintage buttons. Thanks for making me appreciate them more! Sincerely, Glenda

    3 years ago

  • ezliving

    ezliving says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • ReendiculousGourds57

    ReendiculousGourds57 says:

    Just read the article and I love all the history. I also am an avid sewer/crafter and I have many old buttons hanging around in boxes in my sewing room. This article has inspried me to go through all the button boxes and look for the really old ones and also any MOP. I also have some new creative ideas flowing just from reading this article. Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • sosewnice

    sosewnice says:

    so glad to have found this article, i sew and have to say mother of pearl buttons have always been a favorite.cant beat REAL things.

    3 years ago

  • Plantdreaming

    Plantdreaming says:

    A MOP button museum, I want to go!

    3 years ago

  • LoveButtons

    LoveButtons says:

    What an interesting article - the vintage pearl buttons are so attractive :)

    2 years ago

  • PrairieChildDesign

    PrairieChildDesign says:

    I love this article... My parents ran a mussel shell camp in Alabama...Mussel divers would dive the Tennessee River and bring up mussels of all kinds... The shells would get processed the same way as listed in the article... After a while the shells would get shipped out and end up in Japan. These shells from the Tennessee River were considered the best in the world at the time... They were used as blanks...little round beads were carved from these shells and inserted into live shells there in Japan, put back into the water and eventually a cultured pearl was created... Chances are these types of mussels in Alabama was the same type of shells that came from the Mississippi River all those years ago... Thanks for the insight and history of those hard working people of the the South. .

    2 years ago

  • lkzg

    lkzg says:

    Proud to call Muscatine my hometown and love my pearl button collection! Our museum is wonderful. My driveway at home was all crushed pearl shells and my kids were fascinated.

    2 years ago