Do you need an interesting guest speaker for your group? 

My "The Pearl Button Boom" Lecture is a amazing story of greed, American ingenuity, ecological ignorance, fashion and murder. Before buttons were made from plastic, they were made from European oyster shells. In a quirky twist of fate, from the late 1800s to early 1930s, most of the world's pearl buttons were made from mussels harvested from the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Although a majority of the factories were in Muscatine Iowa, all those along the river, from St Paul to Muscatine, became involved in the money filled frenzy of this short lived boom. Up and down the river, thousands of jobs were created, from harvesting mussels to manufacturing. Until it all came crashing down...

This is a 42 minute presentation, with fantastic pictures and riveting stories. I began doing this lecture during the 10 weeks a year that I work as a performer and lecturer on the Mississippi River for American Cruise Lines. Yet I've found that this lecture fascinates everyone, from AAUW groups, to church and senior groups and to audiences at Mississippi River seminars.

The telling of this incredible story weaves together the topics of ecology, immigration, manufacturing, the American spirit, labor rights, women's determination and fashion. I tell it in a way that is entertaining and non judgemental. There are sober moments but there are funny moments. All present come away with new knowledge. 

In college I received a double major, in piano performance and biology. I love doing this lecture, since it is close to the biology side of me and just a whole lot of fun.

I've given this lecture on the river in my role as speaker for American Cruise Lines, and onshore for many church/senior groups, AAUW groups, and the Golden Valley Historical Society.


"If you are looking for a great speaker on an unusual topic, we highly recommend JoAnn's "Pearl Button Boom", an interesting and little known piece of history. She is not only warm and articulate but a pleasure to meet. You won't be disappointed." Jan Wolff, Program Committee Member, MN UU Fellowship

"Thanks! As a seamstress I so appreciated your talk. I was reminded of a Nancy Drew book where she and her boyfriend found an underground stream filled with shells with holes in them.  A former button factory!" Kathy Fischer-Eagle 


Giving my talk for the Red Wing AAUW!


Click on this link to print out a one page information sheet on the Pearl Button Boom!


Listen to JoAnn's new Jazz in The Lobby Bar CD!


  • Mar 24
    The Saint Paul Hotel,  St Paul

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