Marblehead has always had its own style. That is one conclusion to draw from the Marblehead Museum's collection of samplers, according to curator Karen Mac Innis, who will discuss them in a lecture tonight.
In a time before fashion magazines, girls between the ages of 8 and 20 would select images from fashions, prints and paintings, and copy them by sewing stitches into cloth, Mac Innis said.
"There was a method and a discipline about it," she said, and although these practices did not encourage originality, the samplers made in Marblehead have a unique appearance.
"They would take a little blossom, and make it exuberant," Mac Innis said. "There was an idiosyncratic nature to their work."
There are more than 50 samplers and embroideries in the museum's collection, most of which were made in Marblehead, and they date from 1764 to 1856, according to Mac Innis.
There were two kinds of samplers — those that could be displayed as a "certificate of accomplishment," and others that served as "your practice sheet; you'd roll it up and put in a drawer to use as reference," she said.
The girls who made them — sometimes at home, more often at school — were from varying economic backgrounds.
"Part of what I'm trying to get across is that, traditionally, girls' education was not as important as boys'," Mac Innis said. "But it was a way for them to learn their alphabet, and the skill and discipline they learned would impact other generations, including men and boys."
Within this larger context, "Marblehead style has been documented as some of the best," she said.
Mac Innis' lecture will be the latest presentation in the museum's Marblehead 101 series, a three-year program that combines exhibits, lectures and other events to teach the basic elements of Marblehead history.
The series is currently in its first year, which addresses the period from pre-European settlement through the 18th century.
Want to go?
What: "The Singular Style of Marblehead Samplers," lecture by Karen Mac Innis, museum curator
When: Tonight at 7:30
Where: Marblehead Museum, 170 Washington St., Marblehead
Admission: $15, $10 for museum members
More information: Reservations recommended, call 781-631-1768. Refreshments will be served.