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Aeneas Shaw Coat

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
76 x 33
Materials & techniques
Wool, brass
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 972.916
Aeneas Shaw was an army officer, politician, and one of the first settlers of York (present-day Toronto). His resplendent scarlet coat is a tribute to his life and career, reflecting his prominent position in Upper Canada as an early settler and military leader. Shaw immigrated to the American colonies around 1770 from Scotland. At the outbreak of the American Revolution he joined the Queen’s Rangers regiment under the command of John Graves Simcoe. Shaw was heavily involved in training Loyalist militias to fight against the rebels, but his luck ran out when the Americans captured him at the siege of Yorktown in 1781.
Evacuated to New York City, Shaw would eventually join the large migration of Loyalists to Nova Scotia. He had been a successful farmer in America, with vast estates in New York, all of which were confiscated following the American victory in the Revolutionary War. Shaw was again forced to uproot his life when John Graves Simcoe appointed him to the Executive Council of Upper Canada at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1793. Simcoe was a firm believer in Shaw’s ability to make Upper Canada an attractive settlement. He also believed that the American Republic was doomed to failure and that Upper Canada would prove to be a bastion of security and prosperity that would encourage the Americans to abandon their revolutionary experiment. Able and wealthy men like Shaw were invaluable to realizing Simcoe’s vision for the province.
Shaw served in a number of civil and military offices but would again be called upon when trouble was brewing between the United States and Great Britain in 1812. The military elite in Canada were concerned that the local militias were poorly trained; Shaw was promoted to major general in 1811 to correct this. When war was declared, the militia units suffered from their lack of training. Shaw led their ineffectual defence of York on April 27, 1813. He died the following February. His significant landholdings in Upper Canada were sold off before his death, but his property at York remained in the family until the 1860s.
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