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Daniel Servos Coat

Curated Submission
1760 - 1780
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
96.5 x 51
Materials & techniques
Wool, brass
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 972.901
This uniform coat was owned by Daniel Servos (1743–1808), a Loyalist who fought with the British during the Revolutionary War. He was present at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777 and the Battle of Wyoming in 1778. In 1779, he became a lieutenant in the British Indian Department, the civil agency within the British government charged with representing the Crown in its dealings with the First Nations. The Indian Department negotiated with First Nations allies to coordinate their activities in warfare as much as possible and to maintain their allegiance to the Crown during both times of war and times of peace. In doing so, the department acted as the official British representative during councils and oversaw the ceremonial exchange of presents. Servos was one of these early diplomats who worked directly with the First Nations, and his coat made him clearly identifiable as a British officer.
This coat has been the subject of considerable discussion and analysis. Since no official Indian Department uniform was issued until the 1820s, there are great variances in the uniforms worn by its employees before that time. They wore red to identify them as British – both to prevent friendly fire incidents and to look fashionable. This coat likely dates to 1779–84, although it is uncertain if Servos had the coat made during those years or if he acquired it second-hand, since many of its features resemble those of French coats of the 1763–67 period. Since the jacket is small, even for a man of this era, its uniqueness may indicate that finding an appropriately sized jacket was a challenge in North America and that Lieutenant Servos had it custom-made. It is also possible that it is a modified Swiss or Irish uniform, as both the Swiss and the Irish wore red coats and served in the French army in North America during the 1760s.
These questions aside, the jacket represents a unique period in the history of early contact and official dealings between the British Crown and the First Nations. It raises questions about the formality of military and political alliances and helps to reconstruct how British officers may have appeared to the First Nations. Very few examples of coats like this survive, especially in Canada. The Daniel Servos Coat is a rare and significant example of military clothing from this early period. 
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