Harriet Burdett

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889.

I don’t really know very much about the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in 1889 except that it was held in Dunedin and was a World Fair…

The exhibition buildings looked very exotic for Dunedin – maybe Indian or Turkish – but what I understand the exhibition was about was to celebrate ourselves as New Zealanders and South Sea Islanders.

My lack of knowledge of what this Great Exhibition means will probably make you wonder – ‘Why has Jan included this on this website?’

Well the answer is… I felt that I really needed to include it… Because I have something REALLY EXCITING relating to the Exhibition which I want to share… And maybe get some feed-back from you -if you have any information pertaining to it.

Now I’m getting ahead of myself… I need to start at the beginning.

A little while ago I was interviewed on Radio New Zealand about my Waipawa website, and a little about the history of Waipawa, and my family ancestors from round here….. After the programme I was rung up by a very nice man from Wellington who ‘had something I might be interested in’.

As soon as I got the message I rang him back and he sent me this…

It was an exercise book of a girl from Waipawa District School 1889 – which was sent to be part of the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition.

Now what Graeme (that’s the man from Wellington), and I guess, is that schools around New Zealand were asked to produce school books to be displayed at the show – maybe to highlight the high quality of our New Zealand education….

And Harriet’s book was one of the books selected nationally to be exhibited.

The book was produce by Harriet Grace Burdett, aged 13, standard vii (3rd form) from Waipawa District School.

The copperplate writing and little headings (and footers) in it are absolutely exquisite, and the time they must have taken to produce is mind boggling.

I think we all have to remember that this was all done by hand, with ink pens that were dipped in inkwells.

If I was trying to produce something so fine I have not doubts that I would have ink blots and errors that were crossed out or needed to be corrected – and it would look nothing like this.

This book is a real treasure. Every page has an intricate Heading – all hand painted like these…

And most pages have little footers like this…

I took a few scanned copies of different pages to show the kids at school what children over a hundred years ago did at school.

The children from 2007 first of all thought that the handwriting was a font off the computer… They couldn’t contemplate writing it (and certainly their attempts at their own style of writing with dip pens were absolutely terrible! – granted they were one or two years younger than Harriet.)

As for the fiddly, pretty little headings and footers… the children I showed couldn’t believe a thirteen year old could paint like that – and some claimed her mother must have done it. (but I think her mother might have been busy with other things – as women in those days had no automatic washing machines, or dishwashers, or any modern automated appliances, and, often had huge families compared with today!)

And for the maps… The children of 2007 thought they must be photocopied – but there were no photocopiers over 100 years ago either!

Anyway here’s the real mystery…

We know this book belongs to

Harriet Grace Burdett,

13 years old in 1889,

who attended Waipawa District School.

BUT we know NOTHING ELSE about her… or what she became (maybe an artist?)… or her family/descendents… or where they might live…

If you know anything about Harriet I would love to find out. And you can email me any information you know by clicking on CONTACT’ on the tool bar at the top of you screen. (Then click on ‘contact us’, and then ‘Jan Gosling’)

It would be lovely to know what happened to Harriet Grace Burdett.

I’ll let you know what I find out.