Muscatine History and Industry Center

The Muscatine History and Industry Center is two floors of Muscatine history in the heart of Muscatine's historic downtown. Home to the "Pearl Button Museum," the first floor showcases Muscatine’s heritage as the former Pearl Button Capital of the World. A century ago, Muscatine produced 37% of the world’s buttons, which was 1.5 billion pearl buttons annually. These buttons were produced from clam shells harvested from the Mississippi River and other sources in the region. The Pearl Button Museum walks you through the process of harvesting those clams and gives you an up-close look at how the technology to punch buttons out of them developed right here in Muscatine.

Pick up a copy of "Shell Games: The Life and Times of Pearl McGill, Industrial Spy and Pioneer Labor Activist" by Jeffrey S. Copeland from the Center's gift shop to learn about the rough and tumble times of the button industry in Muscatine. The story of Pearl McGill is captivating and full of intrigue.

You can also enjoy the original pieces of local artist Chris Anderson, who creates incredible works of art using clam shells, which can still be found in Muscatine. (If you catch a bit of construction while you're here, consider yourself lucky! Our streets were lined with the shells at the height of our pearl button glory and you might be able to see so for yourself, just remember to be careful.) Watch the video below to learn about Anderson's work!

The second floor of the Center houses displays about Muscatine's current industrial giants, including HNI, Kent Corporation, Stanley Consultants, Bandag (Bridgestone Bandag), Musco, MPW, and Monsanto. Interactive exhibits proudly show humble entrepreneurial beginnings that have evolved to world prominence in the 21st century. Delve into the stories of how people just like you have created amazing companies, products, and legacies -- and maybe even start planning your own while you're here. Muscatine has space for entrepreneurs that we'd love to have you fill!


117 West Second St.
Muscatine, Iowa 52761

Regular hours (Mar-Dec)
Tue-Sat: 10am-4pm
Other times by special appointment

Winter hours (Jan -Feb)
Fri-Sat: 10am-4pm
Other times by special appointment


Call the Muscatine History and Industry Center at 563-263-1052 or visit the Center's website.