Curfew During American Revolution (1776-1783)

Fraunces Tavern

During the American Revolution, the British enforced very strict curfews on the streets of New York City. According to Robert Mulero and Catherine M. Hintze in their book The History and Design of New York City Streetlights, Past and Present, dark lanterns, an early form of lighting in the colonies, allowed for people to break curfews because the lanterns allowed no light to escape until someone opened a panel that concealed the flame. People could merely close the panel while outside to avoid arrest from the British.

David McCullough writes in his book 1776 that after two soldiers were found dead just a week after the Continental Army arrived in New York City, Washington condemned the “riotous behavior” and installed a strict curfew to prevent soldiers from rioting further. War prisoners were also subjected to a curfew, which was not as thoroughly enforced by British officers, who often participated in the town’s social activities.