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Learn About Revolutionary War Spies with Your Kids During Spy Week at Fraunces Tavern Museum

Learn About Revolutionary War Spies with Your Kids During Spy Week at Fraunces Tavern Museum

Spy Week honors the spies who played a part in NYC and U.S. history during the Revolution.

Spy Week is returning to Fraunces Tavern Museum (located in the Financial District) Sept. 15-22 with events for the whole family. The weeklong event celebrates the spies of America’s Revolutionary War through exhibits, guided tours, a Nathan Hale Day Commemoration, and a family day. Plus, Spy Week has two new events this year: Fraunces Tavern Museum partnered with Three Village Historical Society in Setauket for the 4th annual Culper Spy Day to kick off Spy Week, and the museum will host a special lecture about Benedict Arnold.

Start the celebration with Culper Spy Day on Sept. 15, during which attendees will learn about the members of Long Island’s spy ring that helped change the course of history and provide General George Washington with the information needed to turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. Culper Spy Day attendees can participate in a self-guided tour of 24 Culper Spy Ring locations, including Setauket Neighborhood House, Sherwood-Jayne Farm, and Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, with costumed interpreters, activities, and battle and war encampment re-enactments. As a bonus, anyone who attends Culper Spy Day can present their ticket to receive free admission to Fraunces Tavern Museum during Spy Week, says Amy Kennard, communications and marketing manager for the museum.

Throughout the week, visitors at Fraunces Tavern Museum can check out the permanent exhibit Confidential: The American Revolution’s Agents of Espionage and take part in daily 45-minute guided tours of the museum. The exhibit highlights information about the Culper Spy Ring, America’s first spy ring, with artifacts, images, and letters. Bonus: Visitors can act like spies themselves! “There’s a secret message hidden in the object labels and guests can use the cipher wheel [a tool that was used during the Revolutionary War to decode secret messages] and the code that goes with it to try and decipher the secret message,” Kennard says. 

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Spy Week culminates with Spy Week Family Day at Fraunces Tavern Museum on Saturday, Sept. 22. From 1-4pm, kids can write secret messages in invisible ink, use a clothesline to send a secret message, decode secret messages using a cipher wheel, and meet author Claudia Friddell, who will read from and sign copies of her children’s book, George Washington’s Spies.

Other special events during Spy Week include:

  • The walking tour Sympathetic Spies: George Washington’s Eyes and Ears in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 16. During this tour, attendees will retrace “the path of spies that actually worked out of Lower Manhattan,” Kennard says. “And you see specific sights where they lived, where they worked, how they communicated with one another.”
  • The special lecture, The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold: An American Life with author Joyce Lee Malcolm, on Wednesday, Sept. 19 examines the life of the infamous turncoat.
  • The Nathan Hale Day Commemoration on Friday, Sept. 21 hosted by the museum’s parent organization, Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, Inc., is a memorial for Hale, who infiltrated the British ranks to gather information for Washington. The commemoration is held in City Hall Park and features a wreath laying ceremony, color guard demonstration, and a speech.

Fraunces Tavern Museum is located at 54 Pearl St. in the Financial District. For more information, to purchase tickets, and see the full schedule, visit

Main image: At Spy Week Family Day 2017, young visitors learned one of the many ways revolutionary spies sent messages to each other by writing their own coded messages using clothes on a clothesline.
Courtesy Fraunces Tavern Museum