Sorting Table

Mussels and men have always been linked.
Evidence of this intimate connection can still be seen throughout Eastern North America.

Great middens of discarded shells bear silent witness of the importance of freshwater mussels to the early inhabitants of this continent. Used for food, tools and ornamentation, mussels were essential to the lives of the first people that called the banks of our great rivers home.

Later, in the early 1900's, mussel shells were transformed into buttons for our nation's burgeoning population. The button trade developed into an amazing footnote of America's history; factories cutting buttons sprang up, fleets of shanty boats carried "clammers" from one mussel bed to the next. It grew into a multi million dollar industry, but at what a cost. The populations of our native mussels were decimated, victims of the brief whimsey of fashion and business.

And through the years, there was always the promise of pearls.  Rare, luminous and potentially valuable, the quest for pearls hastened the decline of many native mussel species. Today, the connection to pearl industry continues. Tiny bits of native freshwater mussel shell are used to "seed" saltwater oysters for pearl cultivation. At the heart of every pearl in that elegant necklace, there exists a small bit of North America's natural heritage.

Spectaclecases, pistolgrips, deertoes, heelsplitters, pimplebacks; you can still hear the voices of the early clammers in the common names of our native mussel species.

The stories mussels and men; fascinating tales that highlight our connection with these amazing creatures.