Joshua Shaw

(American born England, 1776 - 1860)

The landscape painter Joshua Shaw was born in Bellingborough, Lincolnshire, England. After an apprenticeship to a sign painter, he began painting still lifes, landscapes, and copies after famous painters. He emigrated to America, settling in Philadelphia. Shaw also had a career as an inventor: most notably he designed a copper percussion cap containing fulminating powder that was used in the percussion lock of small arms to explode gunpowder. Shaw claimed that he had designed the cap in 1814 and after arriving in the US, he applied for and was denied a patent because he did not yet fulfill the US residency requirement for patent filing. He eventually received a patent in 1823. While there is some dispute about the timing of his invention, the US War Department, through an act of Congress, eventually awarded him $25,000 for their "past and future use of" his percussion cap and a similar invention for cannon. Shaw traveled throughout the country, making watercolors and topographical drawings of the "best and most popular views" as well as sketches of Indian and frontier life. Shaw resided in Philadelphia until 1843, when he moved to Bordentown, New Jersey. He died in Burlington, New Jersey, in 1861.