What was Melrose like in 1898?
A quilt with the names of more than 150 Melrose residents helps us understand how things have changed in 120 years...and how things are always the same.
In December 2018, Melrose celebrated the homecoming of the Victorian era quilt inscribed with names of people who lived in Melrose, Massachusetts during the late 1890's. The exhibit 'Stitched Connections' took place at the Beebe Estate in Melrose, which showcased the heritage quilt along with a contemporary fiber arts exhibit. In conjunction with the Beebe Estates' exhibit, the Melrose Public Library displayed a complimentary quilt exhibit called 'Red, White & Words' featuring local quilt makers from the area.
The quilt block used in the quilt was known as 'Snowflake' in the 1800s, and is also now known as 'Old Italian Block'. It has solid red and white fabric on the front, and a red on white polka dot on the back. It is tied with white yarn.
The quilt is inscribed with many names. The names were all written by the same hand, which indicated that it was a fundraising project rather than a friendship or signature quilt. To raise money, people would pay to have their names written on the quilt, and then later on, the quilt would be raffled.
The great majority were residents of Melrose. The quilt had been made in 1898, sometime after the birth of Kenneth Thompson on March 2, 1897, and before J.O. Littlefield's death on May 1, 1898 and Clara Sievwright’s birth on May 3, 1898. Of the 64 families listed on the quilt, 58 lived in Melrose at the time.
Many thanks from the Melrose Public Library to Ann Wasserman for her research and restoration, and to Alanna Nelson for bringing this quilt back to Melrose.
- Institution: Melrose Public Library
- Massachusetts--Middlesex (county)--Melrose