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A surprising find…

You may be surprised to find out that in the past area residents around Stockholm had “clam” bakes.  Years ago, they walked through the shallow water near shore and felt for clams in the sand with their toes, a practice they dubbed “toe clamming.”  Although clam bakes today are rare, Lake Pepin once was home to millions of clams.  They laid on the muddy bottom with their faces turned upstream and their mouths open to allow the Mississippi’s current to bring food right into their mouths. 

Commercial clammers caught the clams using a crow foot, an iron bar ten to fifteen feet long with twenty strings attached.  At the end of each string was a sturdy three-pronged hook.  When the clammers pitched the crow foot into the water, clams closed their shells around each hook because it seemed a tasty morsel.  The clams were brought to shore and boiled in kettles, which opened their shells.  The shells were examined for fresh water pearls, a true treasure.  The meat was extracted and sold to farmers to feed their hogs.  The empty shells were sold to button factories in fifty pound bags.  Until plastic buttons came on the scene in the 1930’s, “Mother of Pearl” buttons made from shells were a major industry in the upper Mississippi that employed thousands of people.  At one time about fifty percent of the buttons in the world came from the Upper Mississippi River.

These were technically not clams but fresh water mussels.  Their future in the Mississippi River is uncertain.  Overfishing during the button industry, taking mussels in search of pearls, building locks and dams, dredging the river bottom, changing the river with pollution and siltation, and invading zebra mussels have all affected the population.  If you have an opportunity to dig up a clam or mussel, you will have discovered a rarity. 

We find this piece of Stockholm history interesting and hope that you do, too.

We’d love to see you again,
Stockholm Merchants