Where have all the Pearl Buttons Gone?
FOR THE WAUSAU TIMES
My Dad texted me a photo of an article he dug up on the Pearl Button Factory once located on the shores of the Wolf River in Fremont, WI. He knows that like him, I hold an appreciation for history and always enjoy a good story from “back in the day”. My Great-Grandfather Jedidiah Brewster worked in this factory and became knowledgeable of the Clamming Industry, which in the early to near mid 1900s was the livelihood of a good number of Fremonters. Clammers would drag the river beds for the fresh water clams and load them in their scows; bringing in a ton or more shells a week at $50 a ton.
Jedidiah would pull the clams out from the large vats in the basement of the factory and sort them by the commercial value of their shells; the warty-backs, three ridges and muckets produced the best quality pearl buttons, which were made from the discs, or “blanks” cut from the shells. A good cutter could turn out as many as 65 to 70 pounds of blanks in a 40 hour work week.
Where have all the pearl buttons gone? Sadly, the unique items of bygone days have been replaced by advances in technology and design. Some blame it on the zipper. Let that be this story’s “pearl of wisdom”.