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Mississippi River

Bordering more than 300 miles along the Iowa state border, the Mississippi River has its place in many historic moments. The river, stretching nearly 4,000 miles long from the Missouri River tributaries to the Gulf of Mexico, cover one-third of the land surface of the United States. First discovered by DeSoto in 1541, and Marquette and Joliet in 1673, the river revolutionized life along the river. Nicknamed the "Father of Waters" by native tribes, for Native Americans and early settlers, the river became a lifesource that provided fresh water and food. After the Louisiana Purchase (1801) that added large sectors of the Missouri River Valley to the states, explorations such as those of Lewis and Clark, had people curious about the river and journeying to see it for themselves. As explorers travelled the great river, many became the early founders of new towns. Wanting to be near a food source and waterway for transportation, towns began to develop near the riverside. The first town to settle along the river, was Dubuque in the early 19th century (1833). Founded by Julien Dubuque who engaged in fur trades with the Mesquakie (Fox) Native Americans, the town became home to many industries including lead, lumber, steamboats, railroads, shells/buttons, farming and retail. With the easy river transportation, the town exploded into a major business sector in early Iowa. Other towns also began to form near the river, including Clinton, Davenport, Burlington, Fort Madison, and Keokuk. Due to the high number of clams (freshwater mussels) in the river, a pearl button industry was founded in the town of Muscatine, becoming the largest in the world (clams have since decreased in the river due to river pollution and dam construction creating a unhabitable environment). In addition to the pearl industry, the fish industry also boomed in the late 1800s due to the increase in transportation an refrigeration. From 1943-1948, the average yearly catch was nearly three million pounds, which was the same numbers from the years of 1970-1982. With steady catch coming in, by 1983, 2,250 Iowans were licensed to commercially fish. The majority of fishing was done within the wing dams that were constructed in 1907 as part of a six-foot navigation channel. The deepening of the channel allowed for more fish to gather where shelter and food could be found, thus making it easier for fishermen to collect large groupings. As navigation locks and dams created smaller lakes from the river, a decline in fast-flowing water fish was replaced by pond-like fish, such as crappie, bluegill, walleye, carp and freshwater drum. In the wider river areas, catfish, largemouth bass, and sturgeon can be found.
U.S. Chronology
Iowa History Eras
Relational Notes
Resource is related to the following objects, which can be found by searching the catalog number in the advanced search section: Catalog #: 2018.039.002- Pottery 2018.039.003- Arrowhead 2018.039.004- Axe Head 2018.056.016- Map of Dubuque 2018.010.004- U.S. Button Company Card 2018.010.007- Scientific American Magazine 2018.010.012- Muscatine River Painting 2018.010.013- Fresh Water Pearl Button Rush 2018.010.001- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.002- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.006- Hawkeye Pearl Button Company 2018.010.010- Hawkeye Pearl Button Company 2018.010.011- McKee Button Company 2018.010.031- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.032- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.033- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.034- Pearl Button Industry 2018.010.003- John Frederick Boepple 2018.010.005- 50th Anniversary of Pearl Button Industry