By 1905 Muscatine produced 1.5 billion pearl buttons annually. With nearly 37% of the world’s buttons coming from Muscatine, the town became the undisputed “Pearl Button Capital of the World.”
The rise and fall of the pearl button occurred over a period of seventy-five years. At its height the cutting-edge automated industry employed half the local workforce. Decades later the American-made pearl button buckled under the pressure of foreign competition, changing fashion, limited availability of shell, and the development and refinement of plastic buttons.