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—  City  —
Muscatine County Courthouse
Location in the State of Iowa
Coordinates: 41°25′26″N 91°3′22″W / 41.42389°N 91.05611°W / 41.42389; -91.05611Coordinates: 41°25′26″N 91°3′22″W / 41.42389°N 91.05611°W / 41.42389; -91.05611
Country  United States
State  Iowa
County Muscatine
Incorporated 1839
 - Mayor Dick O'Brien
 - City 17.9 sq mi (46.3 km2)
 - Land 16.8 sq mi (43.6 km2)
 - Water 1.1 sq mi (2.7 km2)
Elevation 581 ft (177 m)
Population (2006)
 - City 22,719
 Density 1,352.3/sq mi (520.5/km2)
 Metro 54,741
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 52761
Area code(s) Area code 563
FIPS code 19-55110
GNIS feature ID 0465186
Sunrise over the Mississippi River in Muscatine
Norbert F. Beckey Bridge over the Mississippi River with LED lights. The bridge is the only span over the Mississippi River with this type of lighting.

Muscatine is a city in Muscatine County, Iowa, United States. The population was 22,697 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Muscatine County[1]. The name Muscatine is unusual in that it is not used by any other city in the United States.[2]

Muscatine is the principal city of the Muscatine Micropolitan Statistical Area (2000 census population 53,905), which includes all of Muscatine and Louisa counties.



Muscatine began as a trading post founded by representatives of Colonel George Davenport in 1833. Muscatine was incorporated as Bloomington in 1839, but the name was changed to reduce mail delivery confusion as there were several Bloomingtons in the Midwest. Before that, Muscatine had also been known as "Casey's Woodpile". The name Muscatine is believed by some to be named after the Mascouten native American tribe.[2] The Mascoutins were driven out of Michigan in approx 1642 and assumedly absorbed into the Foxes and Sac tribes by the early 1800s.[3]:66 In 1819 Muscatine Island was known as Mascoutin Island. An alternative theory is that it is derived from a Siouan term meaning "Fire Island". William Williams, who was present when the town changed its name in 1849, reported in his journal that "Muscatine in English is Fire Island" in his list of Sioux Indian names.[4]

On May 25, 1849, Maj. William Williams visited Muscatine and provided a brief description in his journal:[4]

Bloomington is a fine town, one of the most important points in the state. Its situation on one of the great bends of the Mississippi has great commercial advantages; [it] is the seat of justice of Muscatine County. Contains about 2000 inhabitants, is the natural depository for a vast amount of trade from the surrounding country, has many neat residences and several spacious brick mercantile establishments- a large steam mill, one smaller one, two printing establishments, 6 churches, 4 physicians, 8 lawyers, an neat court house and jail, Masonic lodge, etc.... This town is very prettily situated, in part on a level on the river for two streets back, when the ground rises and the remaining street is elevated in benches, the whole standing in a rise enclosed by a range of high bluffs which runs around it in a semicircular form, forming beautiful sites for residences. From the bluff there is a beautiful view of the town below and of the Mississippi for miles up and down. All steam boats land here, passing up and down.

A button company was founded in 1884 by a German immigrant named J.F. Boepple, producing buttons by punching them out of clam shells harvested from the Mississippi River. Muscatine was known as the "Pearl Button Capital of the World." Hole-punched clam shells can still be found along the riverfront.

Downtown Muscatine at dawn, looking towards the Mississippi River.

From the 1840s to the Civil War, Muscatine had Iowa's largest black community, consisting of fugitive slaves from the South and free blacks who had migrated from the eastern states. One of the most prominent community leaders was Alexander Clark Sr., a Pennsylvania native, barber and eventually a wealthy timber salesman and real estate speculator who helped found the local AME Church, assisted fugitive slaves, and petitioned the state government to overturn racist laws before the war. In 1863, Clark helped organize Iowa's black regiment, the 60th United States Colored Infantry (originally known as the 1st Iowa Infantry, African Descent), though an injury prevented him from serving. In 1868, he successfully desegregated Iowa's public schools by suing the Muscatine school board after his daughter Susan was turned away from her neighborhood learning center. Eleven years later his son Alexander Jr. became the first black graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, and in fact its first black graduate from any department. Clark Sr. became the second black graduate five years later despite being fifty-eight years old, saying that he wanted to serve “as an example to young men of his own race.” Clark also rose to prominence in the Republican Party, serving as a delegate to various state and national conventions. In 1890, he was appointed ambassador to Liberia by President Benjamin Harrison. In fact he was one of four Muscatine residents to serve as a diplomatic envoy between 1855 and 1900, a remarkable feat for a town of such small size: George Van Horne was consul at Marseilles, France during the 1860s; Samuel McNutt served at Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1890; and Frank W. Mahin represented his country in Reichenberg, Austria in 1900. Less than a year after arriving in West Africa, however, Clark died of fever. He was laid to rest in Muscatine's Greenwood Cemetery. In 1975 a low-income apartment complex for senior citizens was built on the site of his long-time home and named the Alexander Clark House. The actual home in which he lived towards the end of his life was lifted from its foundation and moved to a new site about two hundred feet away. The University of Iowa's chapter of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) is named for the Clarks as a testament to their accomplishments and their place in the history of civil rights in Iowa.

Sam Clemens (better known by his pen-name Mark Twain) worked for a while at the local newspaper, the Muscatine Journal, which was partly owned by his brother, Orion Clemens. He lived in Muscatine in the summer of 1855. He made a few recollections of Muscatine in his book Life on the Mississippi.

Former Hotel Muscatine had recently been remodeled. However, the remodeling had been controversial; opponents stated that the changes would ruin the history of the building.
And I remember Muscatine—still more pleasantly—for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them. They used the broad smooth river as a canvas, and painted on it every imaginable dream of color, from the mottled daintinesses and delicacies of the opal, all the way up, through cumulative intensities, to blinding purple and crimson conflagrations which were enchanting to the eye, but sharply tried it at the same time. All the Upper Mississippi region has these extraordinary sunsets as a familiar spectacle. It is the true Sunset Land: I am sure no other country can show so good a right to the name. The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know.

—Mark Twain

His other, less flattering recollection of Muscatine is of being accosted by a lunatic who threatened to kill him if he did not proclaim the man the one and only son of the Devil.[5]

Muscatine's slogan, "Pearl of the Mississippi," refers to the days when pearl button manufacturing by the McKee Button Company was a significant economic contributor. In 1915, Weber & Sons Button Co., Inc. was the world's largest producer of fancy freshwater pearl buttons. From that time forward, Muscatine was known as "The Pearl Button Capital of the World". Weber is still manufacturing today, and celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2004. Next to the mother of pearl button history, Muscatine is nearly as well known as the "Watermelon Capital of the World".[citation needed]

Muscatine was hit by an EF3 (Enhanced Fujita Scale 3) tornado on the afternoon of June 1, 2007, which destroyed or damaged wide areas of the city.[6]


Companies in Muscatine include HNI Corporation, Bridgestone Bandag, Heinz, Carver Pump, Monsanto, Muscatine Foods Corporation, Musco and The Stanley Group.

Headquartered in Muscatine, The HON Company designs and manufactures office furniture including chairs, filing cabinets, workstations, tables, desks and education furniture.




The Muscatine Journal newspaper circulates daily throughout the Muscatine area except on Sundays. It is commonly believed to have existed since 1840.


Prairie Radio Communications, a midwestern broadcasting company, has two radio stations in Muscatine. KWPC-AM, which has been a long part of the city's history, and KMCS-FM, which has only been in the community since 1995. Cumulus Broadcasting's KBEA-FM broadcasts from a tower near Wilton, 10 Miles north of Muscatine.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.9 square miles (46.3 km²), of which, 16.8 square miles (43.6 km²) of it is land and 1.0 square miles (2.7 km²) of it (5.87%) is water.

Muscatine is primarily located on a series of bluffs and hills at a major west-south bend in the Mississippi River. The river-bend gives the city roughly 260 degrees of riverfront. The "highland" area of the town is divided into three ridge-like hills by Papoose Creek and Madd Creek, each of which flow individually into the Mississippi in downtown Muscatine. The city's main roads follow these ridges and valleys in a spider-web-like fashion. Several large working-class neighborhoods and industrial sectors have been built on what is called "Muscatine Island." This flat, sandy expanse was largely underwater when a portion of the Mississippi River followed the course of the present-day Muscatine Slough. It is unclear when the river changed course. The hills, river, and island are all integral to the diversity of Muscatine's economy and housing sector. As the city's urbanized area develops, the areas of highest elevation in the "High Prairie" crescent (between the Cedar and Mississippi Rivers) are increasingly re-appropriated from agricultural land to suburban housing.

Muscatine is located along two designated routes of Iowa's "Commercial-Industrial Network," U.S. Highway 61 and Iowa Highway 92. Highway 61 serves as a major agricultural-industry route to the south from Burlington, IA to Muscatine, where it becomes a heavy-industrial and major commuter route to the northeast between Muscatine and Davenport, IA. In conjunction with Iowa 92, which provides access to the Avenue of the Saints (U.S. 218/IA 27) to the west and the lightly-populated western Illinois via the Norbert Beckey Bridge to the east, Highway 61 serves as a shortcut for traffic from northeastern Missouri and southeastern Iowa en route to the Quad Cities, Chicago, and points beyond. Several regional highway improvement projects are in the works to further establish and capitalize on this trade-route. Additionally, Muscatine is connected to Interstate 80 to the north by fifteen miles of Iowa Highway 38.

Positioned some 25 miles (30 minutes) from the Quad Cities, 38 miles (52 minutes) from Iowa City, IA and some 68 miles (75 minutes) from Cedar Rapids, IA, Muscatine is the smallest link in a non-contiguous populated area which surpassed 800,000 residents in the decade following the 2000 Census. The key feature of this region is that although the populated areas are non-contiguous, a high percentage of residents commute between the cities for work, particularly those in professional fields. Despite this relatively high regional density, Muscatine has struggled to become the modern city that its size and resources would suggest, instead deferring to the larger cities around it for many commercial services and educational, medical and cultural advancements.

Notable natives and residents

  • Oscar Grossheim Muscatine photographer produced about 55,000 glass plate negatives from photos taken between 1887 and 1954. Grossheim reportedly was working on a small portable camera shared his ideas with Steve Eastman of Eastman-Kodak company; also trying to build a portable camera.
  • Jim Yong Kim - President elect of Dartmouth College, Professor of Medicine and Social Medicine and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Director of the Francois Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, and a former director of the World Health Organization HIV/AIDS department (in 2006 he was listed as one of the top 100 most influential people by Time Magazine)
  • Norman Baker - entrepreneur, "Know the Naked Truth" (KTNT) radio pioneer [7][8], perfected the air-powered calliope
  • C. Maxwell Stanley- engineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of Stanley Consultants, co-founder of HON Industries, and delegate to the United Nations.
  • Ellis Parker Butler- author
  • Lee Allen- medical illustrator
  • Max Allan Collins- author of screenplay of the movie Mommy, which was filmed in Muscatine's Wood Creek neighborhood in 1995. Also author of the graphic novel Road to Perdition, which became a screenplay and was filmed in 2002, starring Tom Hanks and Jude Law.
  • Terry Beatty- artist who has worked as a penciler and inker in the comic book industry.
  • Scot Halpin- fan who filled in for drums with the Who when Keith Moon collapsed during a performance at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1973.
  • Phil Vischer- founder of the Christian series VeggieTales
St. Mathias Catholic Church
  • Dame Margherita Roberti, internationally famous opera singer who spent much of her childhood in Muscatine, including graduating from Muscatine High School. In 1970 she was knighted by the Italian government.


As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 22,697 people, 8,923 households, and 6,040 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,348.1 people per square mile (520.4/km²). There were 9,375 housing units at an average density of 556.9/sq mi (214.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.40% White, 1.08% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 6.04% from other races, and 1.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.30% of the population.

There were 8,923 households out of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.4% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,122, and the median income for a family was $45,366. Males had a median income of $36,440 versus $23,953 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,483. About 8.0% of families and 10.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest

  • Riverfront (which includes the Pearl City Station, Riverview Center, and "Mississippi Harvest" sculpture by Erik Blome)
  • Mark Twain Scenic Overlook
  • Kent Stein Park (which includes historic Tom Bruner Field)
  • Weed Park and Aquatic Center
  • Muscatine Community Stadium and the nearby Pearl City Rugby field
  • Muscatine History and Industry Center
  • Muscatine Art Center, including Musser Mansion and the Stanley Gallery
  • Weed Mansion, Alexander G. Clark House, and many other historic homes dating back to the mid-1800s
  • Two historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Downtown and West Hill)
  • Discovery Park and Learning Center

Education and sports

Muscatine is home to Muscatine Community College and the MCC Cardinals. Muscatine Community School District is home to the Muscatine Muskies. Muscatine Schools cover Muscatine, Fairport, and Montpelier, as well as rural areas of Letts, Fruitland, and Blue Grass.

Sister cities

Muscatine has eight sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ a b "The Prosperous Industrial History of Muscatine" Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 2004. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  3. ^ John Brown among the Quakers: and other sketches By Irving Berdine Richman
  4. ^ a b Williams, William (1920). "Major William Williams' Journal of a trip to Iowa in 1849". Annals of Iowa 12 (4): 249–250, with minor spelling and punctuation changes. 
  5. ^ Twain, Mark (1901). Life on the Mississippi. Harper. p. 408. "But I remember it best for a lunatic who caught me out in the fields, one Sunday, and extracted a butcher-knife from his boot and proposed to carve me up with it, unless I acknowledged him to be the only son of the Devil." 
  6. ^ "Terrible touchdown in Muscatine" Muscatine Journal, 2007-06-01. Accessed 2007-06-01.
  7. ^ On The Media: Transcript of "The X Factor" (July 4, 2008)
  8. ^ Norman Baker / Tangley
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MUSCATINE, a city and the county-seat of Muscatine county, Iowa, U.S.A., on the Mississippi river (here crossed by a wagon bridge), at the apex of the "great bend," in the south-east part of the state. Pop. (1890), 11,454; (1900), 14,073, of whom 2352 were foreign-born; (1gio census) 16,178. It is served by the Chicago Milwaukee & Saint Paul, the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, and the Muscatine North & South railways. It is built on high rocky bluffs, and is the centre of a pearlbutton industry introduced in 1891 by J. F. Boepple, a German, the buttons being made from the shells of the fresh-water mussel found in the neighbourhood; and there are other manufactures. Coal is mined in the vicinity, and near the city are large market-gardens, the water-melons growing on Muscatine Island (below the city) and sweet potatoes being their most important products. The municipality owns and operates the waterworks. Muscatine began as a trading-post in 1833. It was laid out in 1836, incorporated as a town under the name of Bloomington in 1839, and first chartered as a city, under its present name, in 1851.

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