In the Watches of the Night
Life in the Nocturnal City, 1820-1930
Before skyscrapers and streetlights glowed at all hours, American cities fell into inky blackness with each setting of the sun. But over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, new technologies began to light up streets, sidewalks, buildings, and public spaces. Peter C. Baldwin’s evocative book depicts the changing experience of the urban night over this period, visiting a host of actors—scavengers, newsboys, and mashers alike—in the nocturnal city.
“Like an attentive nineteenth-century night watchman, Baldwin is ever alert to new behaviors fostered by the advent of night illumination in American cities. He explores changes in work routines, city amusements, and crime, and does not neglect the night scavengers collecting privy wastes and the farmers bringing their perishables to markets, activities improved by the preservative effects of cool night air. I found In the Watches of the Night an engrossing book.”
“In the Watches of the Night is a terrific book, engaging and truly informative, on a topic so interesting that one wonders why it had not been adequately explored already. Particularly impressive is the careful delineation of life beforehand, so change can really be assessed, and the range of groups and activities embraced in the analysis.”
“Few works of history can claim to alter the landscape of the past, but In the Watches of the Night deeply enriches our understanding of the American experience during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Extensively researched and crisply written, this splendid volume rescues a vibrant realm of urban life from the shadows of historical neglect.”