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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Advertising thimble of the company

HARVEY CHALMERS AND SONS. The company established itself in Dubuque in 1901 as the IROQUOIS PEARL BUTTON COMPANY. From Dubuque, it leased a pearl-button cutting plant in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in 1905 and increased its capacity to the point that it had one hundred employees. (1) The company made a splash in the industry in 1911 by becoming the first button maker to advertise in women’s magazines and newspapers. The company became the biggest manufacturer of pearl buttons in the world with sales offices in New York and London. (2)

In 1912 they announced their intention to move the business to a better location near the MISSISSIPPI RIVER and railroad. To keep the business in town, the people of Prairie du Chien constructed a new building near the river and the Milwaukee Railroad tracks. The company leased the building and operated the factory until 1933. (3)



1. Temte, Eric F., "A Brief History of the Clamming and Pearling Industry in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin," July 1986 minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/.../temteeric1968.pdf

2. Cudmore, Bob. Harvey Chalmers II: Buttons and Literature. Online: https://dailygazette.com/article/2017/03/31/harvey-chalmers-ii-buttons-and-literature

3. Temte