Born 11 July 1836 in the parish of Greenwich, Kent, Samuel Clarkson was 14 years old when he arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand, probably in late 1850, having left Plymouth, England, on board the Castle Eden on 8 October 1850. He had travelled with his father and in April 1851 they were joined by his mother and siblings. Some time after the family was reunited they decided to move to Christchurch and carried all their belongings across the mountains. Samuel's brother David and his wife Elizabeth were involved in two token issuing drapery businesses (the Christchurch drapery store they founded, 'Dunstable House', was sold to William Pratt, who issued tokens; their own second business, Clarkson & Turnbull of Timaru also issued tokens).
Samuel's father, John, was a builder by trade. He worked on a number of significant projects before his early death in 1855. Samuel followed his father's trade, working as a carpenter and contractor from Cashel Street, Christchurch (now number 324). He became a person of note after building 'a spectacular five-roomed house...which the owner...was able to occupy...on the seventh day after Clarkson commenced work on it.'
His first home was at 305 Cashel Street and he later built a two storey home at 137 Ollivier's Road. The house was still standing in 1950. In 1857 Samuel Clarkson married a Miss Lodge, who was said to have been the first European child born in Wellington.
'After several years he went out of the building-contracting business, and opened a wholesale builder's merchant's warehouse in St Asaph Street, near Montreal Street. Cement was a speciality, and at this address the Trade Tokens which bear his name were issued in 1875.' He was a wholesaler for some years, and after retiring continued his involvement in the construction industry, acting as agent for a number of construction materials companies, including the Knight Bevan Portland Cement company, and the building supplies company Shaw, Savill & Co.. In his later years he was described as 'very round shouldered, with shaven face, and bowler had on the back of his head, known to everyone in the seventies and eighties.'
Clarkson died in Christchurch soon after his 59th birthday, on 29 July 1895.
The Canterbury Branch of the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand (1950). They Made their Own Money: The Story of Early Canterbury Traders & their Tokens, pp.13-17.