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Pearl Button Queen

Muscatine button factories came together to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the button industry and Iowas centennial. On July 4, 1946, seven young women employed by the button industry sat atop a float with a giant mussel shell. Each represented one of the major button factories in Muscatine and hoped to be crowned Pearl Button Queen. Members of the pearl button court included (left to right) Florence Reinier of Iowa Pearl Button Company, Norma Brown of Hawkeye Button Company, Lucy Smith of Perkins Button Company, Helen Burke of Automatic Button Company, Kathleen Neff of McKee Button Company, Juanita Phillips of Pearl Works, and Dorothy Wilder of Weber Button Company.

Ronald Reagan had sent his congratulations to the queen by telegram: Choosing a winner from the seven attractive contestants for the Muscatine button queen crown was one of the toughest assignments I ever tackled. I have selected Helen Burke, but want to add my sincere congratulations to all the girls. As a former Iowan I want to wish Muscatine a very happy 50th anniversary of the founding of the button industry Thanks for the privilege of selecting the queen.

Helen Burke recalled the thrill of being selected Button Queen in a 1981 Muscatine Journal article: I couldn't believe it! George Patterson took me by the elbow and escorted me to the microphone on the stage. They gave me a big bunch of roses and put a crown on my head and I immediately fainted! I dont think I passed completely out but for a few seconds the shock and surprise overcame me. I was absolutely thrilled to think that Ronald Reagan had chosen me!


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