Clamshell button factory part of Guttenberg’s history

In Our Town Guttenberg, the Mississippi River has been a source for industry in the city's past.
Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 8:58 PM CDT
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GUTTENBERG , Iowa (KCRG) - Today, the Mississippi River provides recreation for the town with people boating and fishing.

One hundred years ago, the river was a source of industry: Workers would create buttons or other fashion accessories out of clamshells.

Guttenberg Mayor Bill Frommelt’s father and grandfather both managed the plant, starting in 1910 until it closed in the late 1950s. Workers would punch holes in the shells to make buttons. It was one of the biggest employers in the area.

Barges would deliver the clamshells, or people would dredge the river for them.

“The button factory was the major industry back around the turn of the century. As a matter of fact, there were two different factories at the time,” Frommelt said. “And that provided jobs for 50 to 100 people.”

The factories closed as people changed to using plastic buttons.

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