Sampler by Harriet Shanks, 1865.

Cotton fabric, wool threads, 190mm x 165mm.

This sampler is a good example of the relatively plain style of samplers that were worked in New Zealand primary schools in the colonial era. It has the cotton canvas ground fabric that seems to have been standard issue and is worked with the usual quite heavy-looking woollen threads. It has a simple colour scheme, adding pink to the conventional Scottish choice of green and red. The alphabet, in upper then lower case, occupies the upper half along with the numbers one to eight – but no room apparently for nine and ten. A short biblical verse from the Book of Proverbs – A Good Name is Better Than Riches – is followed by the sewer’s signature, her school and the date.

Harriet Shanks was born at Halfway Bush, Dunedin in 1851. Her parents and seven older siblings had come to Otago from Glasgow on the Kelso in 1849. Her father, James Stuart Shanks, established himself as a settler on Flagstaff Hill in Upper Wakari with a property named Rosemount. Harriet attended the Wakari School and completed the sampler there when she was 14 years old. Her father and older brothers meanwhile had taken up land in Southland where they were pioneer runholders on the Tuturau and Marairua runs. When these extensive estates were subdivided for closer settlement in the 1870s the Shanks family remained, establishing a number of farms in the Mataura district. Harriet never married and spent much of her life on the family properties in Southland. She died at her brother’s home in Mataura in 1917 aged 65. The sampler was given to the Museum from the estate of her niece Mrs Jane Heenan, née Shanks, in 1949.
Harriet Shanks
Production Date
195 (h) x 170 (w) mm
315 (h) x 280 (w) mm (mounted)