Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

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Allan Pinkerton was a Scottish American
Scottish American
Scottish Americans or Scots Americans are citizens of the United States whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in Scotland. Scottish Americans are closely related to Scots-Irish Americans, descendants of Ulster Scots, and communities emphasize and celebrate a common heritage...

 detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 and spy
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency
Pinkerton National Detective Agency
The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, usually shortened to the Pinkertons, is a private U.S. security guard and detective agency established by Allan Pinkerton in 1850. Pinkerton became famous when he claimed to have foiled a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln, who later hired...

.

Early life, career and immigration


Pinkerton was born in the Gorbals
Gorbals
The Gorbals is an area on the south bank of the River Clyde in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. By the late 19th century, it had become over-populated and adversely affected by local industrialisation. Many people lived here because their jobs provided this home and they could not afford their own...

, Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, to William Pinkerton and his wife, Isobel McQueen, on 21 July 1819. The location of the house where he was born is now occupied by the Glasgow Central Mosque
Glasgow Central Mosque
Glasgow Central Mosque is located on the south bank of the River Clyde in the Gorbals district of central Glasgow.-The Mosque:The Mosque was built in 1983 and was formally opened in 1984 by H E. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League...

. A cooper
Cooper (profession)
Traditionally, a cooper is someone who makes wooden staved vessels of a conical form, of greater length than breadth, bound together with hoops and possessing flat ends or heads...

 by trade, he was active in the British Chartist
Chartism
Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world...

 movement as a young man. Pinkerton married Joan Carfrae (a singer) in Glasgow on 13 March 1842 secretly before moving to America. Disillusioned by the failure to win suffrage, Pinkerton emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1842, at the age of 23.

In 1843, Pinkerton heard of Dundee, Illinois
Dundee Township, Kane County, Illinois
Dundee Township occupies the square in the Northeast corner of Kane County, Illinois. It includes West and East Dundee, Carpentersville, Sleepy Hollow, Gilberts and portions of Elgin, Barrington Hills, Hoffman Estates, and Algonquin. It is divided by the Fox River.It is located at 42.111813 N,...

, fifty miles northwest of Chicago on the Fox River. He built a cabin and started a cooperage there, sending for his wife in Chicago after the cabin was complete. As early as 1844, Pinkerton worked for Chicago Abolitionist leaders, and his Dundee home was a stop on the Underground Railroad
Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists,...

.

In 1849 Pinkerton was appointed as the first detective in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. In the 1850s, he partnered with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker in forming the North-Western Police Agency, later known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency
Pinkerton National Detective Agency
The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, usually shortened to the Pinkertons, is a private U.S. security guard and detective agency established by Allan Pinkerton in 1850. Pinkerton became famous when he claimed to have foiled a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln, who later hired...

 and still in existence as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, a subsidiary of Securitas AB
Securitas AB
Securitas AB is a security services , monitoring, consulting and investigation group, based in Stockholm, Sweden. The group has approximately 300,000 employees in 50 countries in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Securitas AB is listed at Nasdaq OMX Stockholm,...

. Pinkerton's business insignia was a wide open eye with the caption "We never sleep." As the United States expanded in territory
Territorial acquisitions of the United States
This is a simplified list of United States territorial acquisitions, beginning with American independence. Note that this list primarily concerns land acquired from other nation-states; the numerous territorial acquisitions from American Indians are not listed here.-1783-1848:*The 1783 Treaty of...

, rail transportation increased. Pinkerton's agency solved a series of train robberies
Train robbery
Train robbery is a type of robbery, in which the goal is to steal money or other valuables being carried aboard trains.-History:Train robberies were more common in the past than today, and often occurred in the American Old West. Trains carrying payroll shipments were a major target...

 during the 1850s, first bringing Pinkerton into contact with George McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

 and Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

.

American Civil War



Prior to his service with the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

, he developed several investigative techniques that are still used today. Among them are "shadowing" (surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

 of a suspect) and "assuming a role" (undercover
Undercover
Being undercover is disguising one's own identity or using an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn secret information or to gain the trust of targeted individuals in order to gain information or evidence...

 work). Following the outbreak of the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Pinkerton served as head of the Union Intelligence Service in 1861–1862 and foiled an alleged assassination plot
Baltimore Plot
The Baltimore Plot was an alleged conspiracy in late February 1861 to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, played a key role by managing Lincoln's security throughout the journey...

 in Baltimore, Maryland, while guarding Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 on his way to his inauguration. His agents often worked undercover as Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 soldiers and sympathizers, in an effort to gather military intelligence. Pinkerton served in several undercover missions under the alias of Major E.J. Allen. Pinkerton was succeeded as Intelligence Service chief by Lafayette Baker. The Intelligence Service was the forerunner of the U.S. Secret Service
United States Secret Service
The United States Secret Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency that is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The sworn members are divided among the Special Agents and the Uniformed Division. Until March 1, 2003, the Service was part of the United States...

.

Postbellum


Following Pinkerton's service with the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

, he continued his pursuit of train robbers, such as the Reno Gang
Reno Gang
The Reno Brothers Gang, also known as the Reno Gang and The Jackson Thieves, were a group of criminals that operated in the Midwestern United States during and just after the American Civil War. Though short-lived, they carried out the first three peacetime train robberies in U.S. history...

 and the famous outlaw Jesse James
Jesse James
Jesse Woodson James was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. He also faked his own death and was known as J.M James. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary...

. He was originally hired by the railroad express companies to track down James, but after Pinkerton failed to capture him, the railroad withdrew their financial support and Pinkerton continued to track James at his own expense. After James allegedly captured and killed one of Pinkerton's young undercover agents, who was foolish enough to gain employment at the farm neighboring the James farmstead, he finally gave up the chase. Some consider this failure Pinkerton's biggest defeat. He also sought to oppose labor unions
Labor unions in the United States
Labor unions in the United States are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries. The most prominent unions are among public sector employees such as teachers and police...

. In 1872, the Spanish Government hired Pinkerton to help suppress a revolution
Ten Years' War
The Ten Years' War , also known as the Great War and the War of '68, began on October 10, 1868 when sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his followers proclaimed Cuba's independence from Spain...

 in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 which intended to end slavery and give citizens the right to vote. If Pinkerton knew this, then it directly contradicts statements in his 1883 book The Spy of the Rebellion, where he professes to be an ardent Abolitionist and hater of slavery.


Allan Pinkerton died in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 on July 1, 1884. It is famously claimed that the reason was a convoluted accident in which Pinkerton slipped on the pavement and bit his tongue, resulting in deadly gangrene
Gangrene
Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies . This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood...

. However, reports of the time give different conflicting causes such as Pinkerton succumbing to a stroke (he had survived another one years earlier) or to malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 he had contracted during a trip to the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. At the time of his death, he was working on a system that would centralize all criminal identification records, a database now maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

.
Pinkerton is buried in Graceland Cemetery
Graceland Cemetery
Graceland Cemetery is a large Victorian era cemetery located in the north side community area of Uptown, in the city of Chicago, Illinois, USA. Established in 1860, its main entrance is at the intersection of Clark Street and Irving Park Road...

, Chicago. He is a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame
Military Intelligence Hall of Fame
The Military Intelligence Hall of Fame is a Hall of Fame established by the Military Intelligence Corps of the United States Army in 1988 to honor soldiers and civilians who have made exceptional contributions to Military Intelligence...

.

Legacy


After his death, the agency continued to operate and soon became a major force against the labor movement developing in the United States and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. This effort changed the image of the Pinkertons for years. They were involved in numerous activities against labor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including:
  • The Homestead Strike
    Homestead Strike
    The Homestead Strike was an industrial lockout and strike which began on June 30, 1892, culminating in a battle between strikers and private security agents on July 6, 1892. It was one of the most serious disputes in U.S. labor history...

     (1891)
  • The Pullman Strike
    Pullman Strike
    The Pullman Strike was a nationwide conflict between labor unions and railroads that occurred in the United States in 1894. The conflict began in the town of Pullman, Illinois on May 11 when approximately 3,000 employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company began a wildcat strike in response to recent...

     (1894)
  • The Wild Bunch
    Wild Bunch
    The Wild Bunch, also known as the Doolin–Dalton Gang or the Oklahombres, was a gang of outlaws based in the Indian Territory that terrorized Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma Territory during the 1890s—robbing banks and stores, holding up trains, and killing lawmen. They were...

     Gang (1896)
  • The Ludlow Massacre
    Ludlow massacre
    The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914....

     (1914)
  • The La Follette Committee (1933–1937)


Many labor sympathizers accused the Pinkertons of inciting riots
Agent provocateur
Traditionally, an agent provocateur is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act...

 in order to discredit unions and justify police crackdowns. The Pinkertons' reputation was harmed by their protection of replacement workers ("scabs") and the business property of the major industrialists, including Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, businessman, and entrepreneur who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century...

.

Despite his agency's later reputation for anti-labor activities, Pinkerton himself was heavily involved in pro-labor politics as a young man. Though Pinkerton considered himself pro-labor, he opposed strikes and distrusted labor unions.

Pinkerton was so famous that for decades after his death, his surname was a slang
Slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 term for a private eye
Private investigator
A private investigator , private detective or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims...

. Due to the Pinkerton Agency's conflicts with labor unions, the word Pinkerton remains in the vocabulary of labor organizers and union members as a derogatory reference to authority figures who side with management.

Pinkerton's exploits were in part the inspiration of the 1961 NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 television series, Whispering Smith
Whispering Smith (TV series)
Whispering Smith is a short-lived American Western series that aired on NBC. Based on a 1948 movie, the series stars Audie Murphy as Tom "Whispering" Smith, a police detective in Denver, Colorado...

, starring Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy
Audie Leon Murphy was a highly decorated and famous soldier. Through LIFE magazine's July 16, 1945 issue , he became one the most famous soldiers of World War II and widely regarded as the most decorated American soldier of the war...

 and Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell, born Albert George Cernik, was an American pop singer, successful in his homeland, the U.K. and Australia...

.

Writings


Pinkerton produced numerous popular detective books
Detective fiction
Detective fiction is a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator , either professional or amateur, investigates a crime, often murder.-In ancient literature:...

, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriter
Ghostwriter
A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written...

s, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his own views.

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