Watchman's Rattle. Watchmen would whirl these in response to fires, crimes, to alert police or volunteer firemen and citizenry of danger. New York (then the Dutch colony New Amsterdam) established a rattle watch in 1652. Before whistles, law enforcement used wooden rattles and their distinct noise to signal for help, even into the 19th century. Brass Plate on each side of Rattle with one side etched "No. 409."