City Watchman

William P. Chappel American

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A watchman, armed with his stick and leather helmet, sets out on a snowy evening patrol from his Elizabeth Street sentry box. So-called leatherheads looked out for fires and criminal activity, such as break-ins and grave robberies. Before New York City established a professional police force in the 1840s, residents relied on a patchwork system of constables, marshals, and watchmen tasked with maintaining order in an increasingly unruly city. An inscription on the reverse of this image identifies the building to the right of the box as the Old Methodist Meeting House and those to the left as the homes of a cabinetmaker, a ward inspector, and a grocer.

City Watchman, William P. Chappel (American, 1801–1878), Oil on slate paper, American

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