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Masters and workshops

Marcali lies in the South West of Somogy County, 13 km from Lake Balaton, between the Little Balaton and the so called Nagyberek, and is the largest settlement of the Marcali ridge. In the mid 15th century it became the economical and social centre of the surrounding settlements and was mentioned as a market town. Its inhabitants were mainly peasants working in agriculture but the town played also an important role on the field of handicraft and trade. According to a national census 61 craftsmen were registered in Marcali in 1828, among which there were forgers, locksmiths, shoemakers, cobblers, boot-makers, furriers , weavers, tailors, button-makers, blue-dyers, comb-makers, barbers, watch-makers, hat-makers, locksmiths, bakers, puppet-makers, soap-makers, chimney-sweepers. The craftsmen were ready to meet the demands and needs of the inhabitants, but on the other hand they also had an important influence on fashion trends. Some of the objects exposed in the museum were still in use at the beginning of the 20th century.

Shoemakers are successors of cobblers and boot-makers who repaired and made shoes. Shoemakers with their custom-made shoes were present in the life of Hungarian market towns since the first half of the 19th century. They had an important influence on he shoe trends of the rural area as well.

The blue dye fabric originating from South-Asia became very popular in Hungarian folk art. This very specialized craft was originally brought to Hungary by German immigrants. Depending on the type of item to be made, the resist was originally applied to the cloth with handmade printing blocks. After the resist was applied, the cloth was placed in the dye vats until the piece obtained the desired blue colour. The same technique was used to make green or red fabric. The blocks were made by the so called “Formschneider” (block-maker). Early printing blocks were made of wood, later in the 18th century the delicate patterns were made of red copper wire and plates, while in the 19th century the quickly changing new patterns were entirely made of metal. Clothes made of blue-dye were worn on weekdays, high-days and even to mourn. Visitors are familiarized with the process of blue-dye making and can see utensils of a blue-dye workshop, some of which were used by the Rücklander family in Marcali.

The craft of locksmiths developed out of farriery to an independent handicraft in the 15th century. In the following centuries it reached an artistic level and became even more segregated. In the town of Marcali Béla Hikman (1887-1958), the well known locksmith, was one of the successors of these artisans. Some of his masterpieces are exhibited here while others can still be seen on different buildings of the town. The iron dragon decorating the gable of his former house (Petőfi Street No.11) has already become a sign of the townscape.

Honey cakes
The manufacture of honey cakes appears to have spread throughout Hungary in the Middle Ages. Guilds as associations of craftsmen came into being in Hungary under German influence in the first part of the 17th century. Puppets, hearts, cavalrymen were made of a honey cake that served not only as delicatessen, it also had the generic meaning of a gift given at, or brought from, a fair. The early forms used to make honey cakes were made of wood, but in the 19th century these old forms were replaced by new cookie cutters. These cookie cutters made of tin were used to cut the so called white cake made without honey, only with sugar and colourfully decorated or stamped with an icing made of egg-white, potato flour, and sugar. Among the most famous masters of decorated honey cakes in Marcali were members of the Gömbös family. Their workshop founded in 1890 was still in use at the end of the 20th century, where the widow of Gömbös István baked honey cakes till 1981.

Bought from farmers and merchants, hemp was the raw material for ropes. First it was soaked and beaten to clean the fibres, then it was treated and combed out by being drawn through a series of spikes arranged like a bed of tall nails. Hand operated machines were used to twist and spin strings and ropes. Good quality rough treated fibres were used to make ropes for different use like for example skeins, halters, clotheslines etc. The process of rope making had a large place claim and therefore ropes were often yarned in the yard or sometimes even on the street.

In the 18th century 22 market towns were registered in Somogy County, respectively the lord of the manor had the right to markets. Due to Antal Széchenyi, the local lord of the manor, Marcali has possessed the right to markets since 1772.
These were organized four times a year on the following dates:
March 25th Annunciation (Lady Day)
May 1st Philip’s day
July 25th Jacob’s day
November 5th Emeric’s day

Fairs were held under strict regulations like that of the exact time of the beginning and end of the fair, the rules of buying and selling or the sites used by the vendors. Vendors were local craftsmen and often chapmen. Craftsmen owning canvas-tents had their own selling spots at the fair while others offered their goods from their carts, trestle tables or trays. Occasional vendors offered their wares from the ground. This part of the exhibition deals with the Emreric’s day fair (November 5) and illustrates the atmosphere of the period between the two World Wars. Among the exhibited figures craftsmen wear civilian clothes while customers have traditional folk costumes on. The young woman with her daughter wear traditional clothes from Somogyszentpál, the old woman buying blue-dye has a dress on from the village Bize, the costume of the third woman is from Somogysámson.


Script and exhibition by Orsolya Kapitány ethnographer and Judit Imrő ethnographer
Translation: Vajna-Vormair Katalin

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