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Mary Margaret Smith-Watson Sewing Books, 1910-1955

By Rachel Lilley

Collection Overview

Title: Mary Margaret Smith-Watson Sewing Books, 1910-1955

Predominant Dates: 1940

ID: MSS SmithWatson

Primary Creator: Smith-Watson, Mary Margaret (1920-2018)

Extent: 0.25 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The sewing books are arranged chronologically.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2015

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Mary Margaret Smith-Watson Sewing Books are comprised of two sewing books created by Mary Margaret Smith-Watson (née Schmitt), and her mother, Lucille McCullen Schmitt, during their time at Oregon State College. The sewing books contain course notes for clothing and textile classes, clothing patterns, and fabric and stitch samples. Mary Margaret graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics in 1942.

Scope and Content Notes

The Mary Margaret Smith-Watson Sewing Books collection is comprised of two sewing books documenting coursework that would have exemplified the study of clothing and textiles in the Department of Home Economics in the first half of the 20th century. The first sewing book in the collection – embellished with a cut-out of two women in late-Victorian-era dress – includes course notes for a Clothing and Textile course taken by Smith-Watson. The three main “units” of the course – Style and the Human Figure; Design in Relation to Dress; and Study of the Personal Figure – cover such topics as grooming and posture, different style of clothing silhouettes, and the rules of design. Sketches illustrating the elements of design – for example, proportion in dress, and how to emphasize or minimize certain physical attributes – are included with the class notes. Unit III – Study of the Personal Figure – includes a section on pattern making, including how to drape, draft, and design flat patterns. Miniature templates for patterning darts, lapels, short and puff sleeves, and various styles of blouses are included, as are flat patterns for two dresses that Smith-Watson designed as part of the course, and pieces of fabric cut according to parts of the patterns. Taken as a whole, the resulting work appears to have been presented as a final project or portfolio for the course.

The second sewing book is comprised of instructions for a Department of Domestic Science course, and sewing samples for each of the lessons taught in the course. The course may have been taken or taught by Mary Margaret’s mother, Lucile McCullen; the ledger cover that was used to folder the materials is inscribed “Lucile McCullen 1910.” What would become the School of Home Economics in 1914 was, in 1910, the School of Domestic Science, which was comprised of two departments, Domestic Science and Domestic Art. The name of the department offering the course, then, dates the materials in the second sewing book to sometime in the 1910s, thirty years before Mary Margaret attended OSC. Unfortunately, no evidence could be found of a Lucille McCullen, either as a student or as an instructor. Given that the instructions are broken down by "grade," it's possible that this sewing sample book may have been used to teach a high school domestic science course. The book includes a list of the equipment and supplies needed for the course, directions for both the pupils and the teachers, and specific instructions and examples showing the different types of stitches and styles that were taught.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Mary Margaret “Meg” Schmitt Smith-Watson was born November 27, 1920 in Childress, Texas to William L. and Lucille McCullen Schmitt, of Oregon and South Dakota respectively. When Meg was an infant, the family moved to Sacramento, California, where she lived until enrolling at Oregon State College in 1940. It was at OSC that Meg met her first husband, Henry Roy Smith, a pharmacy major and Sigma Chi fraternity member. In 1942, Meg graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics; that same year, shortly before he enlisted in the Navy, she and Henry were married. During his service, Henry served as a coxswain aboard the USS Cabot. For the remainder of the war, Meg lived in Yakima, Washington, supervising a fruit-testing lab. At the end of the war, Meg and Henry moved to The Dalles, Oregon, where they established The Dalles Pharmacy.

In addition to assisting in running the pharmacy, Meg served as Director of The Dalles Art Center and The Dalles Senior Center, and was a member of the American Association of University Women, and The Dalles Art Association. She and Henry had four sons together: Martin, Bruce, Geoffrey and Kevin. Sometime prior to 1980, however, Henry and Meg divorced. Henry remarried, and in 1980 Meg moved to Albany, Oregon, where she worked as the Director of the Senior Center. While in Albany, she reconnected with Bryce Watson, a high school classmate; the two were married July 12, 1989. In the early 2000s, Meg moved from Albany to Corvallis, Oregon; she passed away September 5, 2018.

Author: Rachel Lilley

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 1 oversize box

Statement on Access: The collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The materials were donated by Mary Margaret Schmitt Smith-Watson in 2015.

Related Materials:

Other sewing books and sewing-related materials include the Amy Cyrus Sewing Book and Photographs (MSS Cyrus), the Mary Jones Sewing Sample Book (MSS JonesM), the Virginia Esther Simmons Sewing Book (MSS Simmons), and the Ivy G. Burton Collection (MSS Burton).

Other collections relating to the study of clothing and textiles at OSU can be found in the Apparel, Interiors, Housing, and Merchandising Department Records (RG 028), the Ardis W. Koester Papers (MSS Koester), the College of Home Economics Photograph Collection (P 044), the Sydney Trask Photograph Collection (P 096), and Harriet's Photograph Collection (P HC).

Preferred Citation: Mary Margaret Smith-Watson Sewing Books (MSS SmithWatson), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Smith-Watson, Mary Margaret (1920-2018)

People, Places, and Topics

Fashion design
Home economics--Study and teaching (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.
University History
Women--Education (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.

Forms of Material

Sewing (visual works).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.