Past Event

Mussels, Moonshine, and Muse: Mississippi Valley Migrant Life in the Early Twentieth Century

A Road Scholar Program by Dennis Stroughmatt

In a time almost forgotten, the Midwest and upper South were once home to thousands of Americans who lived and worked on the rivers as sharecroppers, fishermen, mussel shellers, button cutters, traveling minstrels, and even moonshiners. Work was their life, and the work was hard. But though they were the backbone of industry in cities like Muscatine and Cairo, they played too, enjoying the music of Memphis and St. Louis along their way. This presentation will introduce audiences to the often-unknown migrant work of the river-based mussel shellers, moonshiners, and musicians that worked across Illinois in the late 19th century and early 20th century via artifacts, photos, oral histories and fiddle music. Audiences will join Dennis on an exciting voyage of discovery using both performance and presentation.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Jeannine Hedges at