January 1819 | Night Watchmen


The City of Boston (MA) chose the cold month of January to make a surprise inspection of its night watch with mixed results:

January 5. Visited several watchhouses, and found them in good condition. January 12. Another visit. Find too many watchmen doing duty inside. January 20. One o'clock, night. South watch doing good duty, but the two constables are asleep. At North Watch constables awake. At Centre Watch, found an intoxicated man and an abandoned female in the Lockup.*

The watchmen couldn’t plead foul weather for not making their rounds, according to the Boston Gazette, the weather in January 1819 was mild and pleasant. Boston’s 46 night watchmen, though, might make a case for low wages (50 cents a night) and long hours (sundown to sunup). While often criticized, Boston’s night watch ran continuously for about 200 years beginning in 1631.


*From Edward Hartwell Savage’s A Chronological History of the Boston Watch and Police.