Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003


Riverfront Property

The Northern Banks of the Mississippi

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
The Northern Banks exhibit section
Artifacts and photographs on loan from many sources, including:
~ Des Moines County Historical Society, Burlington IA
~ John Deere Archives, Moline IL
~ Muscatine Art Center, Muscatine IA
~ Paul Bunyan Logging Camp, Eau Claire WI
~ Pearl Button Museum, Muscatine IA
~ Rock Island Arsenal Museum, Rock Island IL
~ State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines IA
~ Michael Zahs, Ainsworth IA

"Timberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"
- Paul Bunyan

The northern banks of the Mississippi offered numerous resources. The forests of Minnesota hosted miles of white pine trees that were cut and floated to lumber mills at St. Anthony Falls. Flour mills processed the winter wheat that flourished on the Plains, and corporations such as Pillsbury and General Mills dominated the Minneapolis skyline.

Few men had more influence on Midwest agriculture than John Deere, the inventor of the first "self-scouring" plow to break the sticky but rich soil of the Plains. By 1847, ten years after his first plow, the Deere Company in Moline, Illinois, was manufacturing over a thousand a year.

Nearby on Rock Island, the U.S. Army built Fort Armstrong because of its secure location in the middle of the Mississippi River. Beginning in the 1850s, a wide range of armaments has been produced at Rock Island Arsenal, one of the largest in the entire world.

A bend in the river in southern Iowa produced a bountiful supply of freshwater mussels, and a resourceful German immigrant turned the shells' pearl interiors into buttons. By 1905, Muscatine, Iowa, was the "Pearl Button Capital of the World," its factories producing over one-third of the world's buttons. The introduction of plastics in the 1940s closed the factories, but the city still views itself as "The Pearl of the Mississippi."

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Did you know … ?
The very first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi River was constructed at Davenport, Iowa in 1856. Soon after, the steamship EFFIE AFTON crashed into the bridge piers, leading to a Supreme Court case between the steamship lines and the railroads. But the rail lines hired a sharp-eyed attorney named Abraham Lincoln to successfully defend the railroads.

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This section "Riverfront Property" has the following related pages:
The Northern Banks of the Mississippi

Continue through exhibit

2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
steamboat
River Days
You are here!
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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Thank You!
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