Vintage and Antique Mother of Pearl Button Fascination…

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“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.” -Chinese proverb

****I have had a fascination with vintage mother of pearl buttons for as long as I can remember.

There is a fun and interesting history with these beauties…German-born button maker, John Fredrick Boepple, immigrated to the US and brought the rise of mother of pearl buttons to popularity and made them available to the masses. Even though automation had come to the button making process in Europe in the mid 1800s, the process of stamping them from shells required specialized and expensive machinery. As well, the shells Boepple used had to be imported and were subject to an extremely high tariff. With his business failing, John Boepple brought his button stamping machinery to the one place he was sure could supply him an endless supply of shells – the US and the Mississippi River.

He settled in Muscatine, Iowa at a bend in the river where great amounts of fresh-water clams grew. Thanks to the mighty Mississippi, his mother of pearl button business grew beyond his wildest dreams. By 1900, Boepple expanded his operations to the point that he employed one third of the town of Muscatine, which became known as “Pearl City” and the “Pearl Button Capital of the World,” out-pacing button factories in Europe. The export value of mother of pearl buttons at the turn of the century was well over $3.5 million dollars…quite a sum for the time!!!!! —Amy Barickman

On my bucket list is to visit the Muscatine History and Industry Center and Pearl Button Museum. It would be amazing! Hopefully, one day, I will!!!

So you see, there is a real history with these shiny, iridescent beauties.