2. Broadway Goes Dark During World War II
Dimout in September 1942 in Times Square Photo by Marjory Collins from Library of Congress
During World War II, Broadway did not shut down but the area was subject to “dim-outs”. The first test was performed by the in 1942, when the U.S. Army wanted to determine if the entire city could potentially go dark in the event of air-raids. According to the book Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, lights would have to be turned off or dimmed for half an hour during the tests, during which “air raid wardens and police officers would scour Manhattan and New York’s four other boroughs in search of violators who risked arrests and fines if they failed to turn off lights.” In the book New York Night: The Mystique and Its History, writer Mark Caldwell explains that all the illuminated lights had to be turned off, including those big billboards in Times Square, and lights were allowed only under the theater marquees (you can see this in the photograph above). According to Billboard Magazine in 1942, the blackouts sometimes occurred after people had already paid to enter the theaters.
More dim-outs would occur in the war and the practice of dimming the lights of Broadway would become a tradition after the war to honor the loss of theater greats.