1846 Merinda Shedd Wright's "Nine-patch" Album Quilt

In 1846 nearly 100 friends and family members contributed signed blocks for an album quilt for Merinda Shedd Wright of Washington, N. H. Possibly made before she moved West, the inscriptions include the towns of Washington, Peterborough, Stoddard, and Goshen in New Hampshire, as well as Lowell and Cambridge Port in Massachusetts.
The signers were the wives or daughters of farmers, marble cutters, mechanics, laborers, shoemakers, doctors, clergy, merchants, and others who populated the New England area in the mid-19th century. A few worked in the Lowell, Mass., mills. They ranged in age from two to the eighties, often mother and daughter combinations.
Ninety-six pieced 8-inch “Nine-patch” signed blocks are set diagonally with 32 half blocks around the entire border. All are signed, and except for one stamped inscription, all are inscribed in ink. Three blocks are dated 1846. The blocks are separated and bordered with printed cotton sashing. The lower corners of the quilt are cut away to accommodate bedposts.
Merinda Shedd, born May 1811, was the daughter of John Shedd (about 1784-1828) and Lydia Farnsworth (1785-1860). Merinda married Zophar Wright (1805-1880). The couple had seven children. It seems Merinda went West, but no further information about her was discovered. Zophar was listed as living in New Hampshire on the 1850 census (pauper) and 1860 census (basket maker). He remarried in 1877 and again in 1879.
Sarah Shedd (1813-1867), sister of Merinda Shedd, penned the following on the quilt: “Oh! A Sister’s heart is deep - And her spirit strong to keep - Each light-link of early hours.” The lines are from a poem, “The Shepherd-poet of the Alps,” by English poet, Felicia Hemans (1793-1835). Sarah was 15 when, after her father died, she found work in the textile mills of Maine and Massachusetts to help support her mother and educate her brother.
In addition to working in the mills, she became a poet and educator. She wrote for the Lowell Offering , and a book of her poetry, Poems of Sarah Shedd, Founder of the Shedd Free Library was published in 1883.
Educated, independent, and able to pursue her own interests after her mother’s death, she aspired to found a public library for her hometown of Washington, N. H. Her entire estate, $2,500 (over $400,000 today), was left to the Town to establish a library which opened in 1869 as the Shedd Free Library and contained many of her own books. In 1881 a permanent building was dedicated that is still a functioning library, having grown from the original 292 books to over 9000.
Her sister's quilt descended in the Nathan Reed Wright family, but they were not related to Zophar and Merinda Wright. Jane Wright, adopted daughter of Nathan, did sign the quilt, apparently as a friend of Merinda.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States: New Hampshire, Washington
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 109 in x 119 in; 277 cm x 302 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Stephen H. McCutchen
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Cultures & Communities
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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