Allan Pinkerton (1819-84), founder of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819.

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

  • Pinkerton emigrated to the United States in 1842 and eventually established a barrel-making shop in a small town outside of Chicago.
  • He was an ardent abolitionist, and his shop functioned as a “station” for escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad to freedom in the North.
  • Pinkerton’s career as a detective began by chance when he discovered a gang of counterfeiters operating in an area where he was gathering wood. His assistance—first in arresting these men and then another counterfeiter, led to his appointment as deputy sheriff of Kane County, Illinois, and, later, as Chicago’s first full-time detective.
  • Pinkerton left his job with the Chicago police force to start his own detective agency.

james_pinkerton02

  • One of the first of its kind, this predecessor to Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, provided an array of private detective services—specializing in the capture of train robbers and counterfeiters and in providing private security services for a variety of industries.
  • By the 1870s, Pinkerton’s growing agency had accumulated an extensive collection of criminal dossiers and mug shots that became a model for other police forces.

Some of Pinkerton’s notable contributions:

In 1861, while investigating a railway case, Pinkerton uncovered an apparent assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. It was believed that conspirators intended to kill Lincoln in Baltimore during a stop along the way to his inauguration. Pinkerton warned Lincoln of the threat, and the president-elect’s itinerary was changed so that he passed through the city secretly at night.

Allan Pinkerton and his men, the spies of the Union Army. Pinkerton is the one in the background relaxing with his pipe.

Allan Pinkerton and his men, the spies of the Union Army. Pinkerton is the one in the background relaxing with his pipe.

Union General George McClellan later hired Pinkerton to organize a “secret service” to obtain military information in the Southern states during the Civil War. Pinkerton sent agents into Kentucky and West Virginia, and, traveling under the pseudonym “Major E. J. Allen,” performed his own investigative work in Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.

Antietam, MD. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj.Gen. John A. McClernand Alexander Gardner; Library of Congress LC-B817-7929

Antietam, MD. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj.Gen. John A. McClernand
Alexander Gardner; Library of Congress LC-B817-7929

After McClellan was replaced as the commander of the Army of the Potomac in 1862, Pinkerton resumed the management of his detective agency. The agency expanded after the Civil War, opening offices in New York City (1865) and Philadelphia (1866). As his business grew, Pinkerton drew public attention to its work by producing a series of popular “true crime” stories.

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884) Grave, Graceland Cemetary, Chicago, Ill.

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884) Grave, Graceland Cemetary, Chicago, Ill.

Source: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/today.html

Advertisements

7 responses

  1. GP Cox says:

    Weren’t many of the Pinkerton men known for shooting first and asking questions later?

    Like

  2. John Holton says:

    I think the Pinkertons were alleged to have had something to do with the Haymarket incident in Chicago and the anti-union movement in general.

    Like

  3. jazzfeathers says:

    Great post.
    I already knew a few of these fact, but the gathering of these makes the story more complete.
    Imagine being the first to do something we now take for granted! That’s why I love history 🙂

    Like

  4. Birgit says:

    This was a great write up. I think they were known to be relentless in their work and few wanted to meet them:)

    Like