Paved with pearls: Construction unearths old mussel shells

MUSCATINE, Iowa–During the heyday of Muscatine’s pearl button industry, button factories generated numerous waste shells each day. No longer good for making buttons, these waste shells often got put to use in other ways, including as a base material for road beds.

Since the Grandview Revitalization Project began in the spring, roadwork has turned up many shell fragments originally used as roadbed. July 26, Muscatine artist Chris P. Anderson and Lieutenant Greg Bock of the Salvation Army of Muscatine County went out to capture some of this unique history and collect a bit for future artistic creations.

Greg Bock with a mussel shell he found from the old Grandview Avenue roadbed. (Photo Credit: Chris P. Anderson)

“Many small towns across America are packed full of history, but few have histories that have spanned the nation and impacted the world like that of Muscatine,” observed Bock. “When I think of the early history and what made Muscatine, I think of what Muscatine made–the pearl button–and how that button changed the lives of so many people, not just here but across the world.”