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