The Smithsonian Environmental Archaeology Laboratory has been documenting the little-known 20th century shell button industry since 2015. Dr. Jim Gibbs will join us to reveal how buttons were created from exotic marine shells in small towns and rural communities in Delaware and Maryland during the 1920's through the 1990's. Participants will see what the shops and machinery looked like, hear about how the region's men and women relied on the cash earned during the Great Depression, and how plastic replaced shell, leaving only small markets for the buttons on dolls, and sequins on entertainers' costumes.
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