My friend, Kathleen, from Yesteryear Embroideries posted this information recently about mother of pearl buttons. With her permission, of course, I am sharing some of her photos.
|Mr. Beopple cutting buttons.|
John Fredrick Beopple, an immigrant from Otlensen, Germany and farm laborer in Columbus Junction in the late 19th century is credited with beginning the pearl button industry in Muscatine, Iowa.
While in Germany, Beopple made buttons from animal horns, but also experimented using fresh-water mussel shells. William Molis, superintendent of the water works, loaned Beopple $15 to move his hand made button cutting machine to Muscatine. Muscatine is located at a bend in the Mississippi River where great amounts of clams grew.
|Advertising piece for Beopple's Buttons|
On January 26, 1891, Beopple partnered with Molis and formed Beopple Pearl Button Company. In 1898 Nicholas, Patrick and Thomas Barry boosted the industry into a modern commercial enterprise by developing automatic saws and drills. Barry automation caused the pearl button industry in Muscatine to increase so at its peak from 1913-1919 one third of the entire population of Muscatine was employed in some aspect of making pearl buttons. Beopple later served as a shell expert at the Biological Station at Fairport, Iowa, a few miles from Muscatine, in studying mussel shells of the Mississippi River. During the preparation of the Dingley Tariff Bill, Beopple was called as a pearl button authority to Washington DC. Beopple died January 30, 1972