Biography of Allan Pinkerton:
April 4, 2010
Allan Pinkerton commanded the respect of those who knew him and carried himself with dignity. He was born in Scotland in the year of 1819. Pinkerton's father was a former police officer who had to leave the service due to an injury during the chariot riots. His being put out of work caused much hardship for his family. When Pinkerton’s father passed away, shortly after the accident, Pinkerton was forced to support his family at a young age. (Pinkerton, 1976)
Pinkerton got a job as an apprentice to a barrel maker. He did not stay with this line of work because of his involvement in the chariot movement. He became fearful for his life due to all the social unrest that existed an decided to immigrate to the U.S. in 1842. Pinkerton settled in a Scottish town in the Chicago area and became an outspoken abolitionist. Pinkerton is credited with ...view middle of the document...
Later, he became Chicago’s first detective. His agency was known to have the largest collection of criminal database and mug shots in the world by 1870. Its logo was the “Sight-Seeing Eye”, from which the term ‘private eye’ was coined. (Pinkerton, 1976)
In 1861, while Pinkerton was investigating a railroad case, he came across a plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. The assassin's plan was to kill Lincoln in Baltimore on the way to his inauguration. In response to his uncovering this plan, Lincoln engaged him to organize the first ‘secret service’ so that information could be gained on the activities of the southern states during the Civil War. During his investigative work, he often traveled under the alias Major E.J. Allen. His reputation was so great that Mark Twain took photos of him to use in one of his books. The book was a novel that was never published. (Pinkerton, 1976)
In 1865, when the war ended, Pinkerton returned to managing his detective agency. The Secret Service was still carrying on their work, with their main focus being fighting counterfeiters.(Pinkerton, 1976)
Pinkerton’s guards and agents around him played a major role as strikebreakers in the late 1800’s. He was not popular for his involvement in these activities. Confrontations, often violent, occurred when agents supported the opposition of unions. (Pinkerton, 1976)
Pinkerton turned his agency over to his two sons. He was still interested and involved in the agency’s work and he maintained control of its guidance and policies. He pursued and apprehended such famous train robbers as the James Gang. He also supplied of private corps of armed guards to local industry and events to help break labor unions. As a result, he was considered an enemy of these groups. (Pinkerton, 1976)
Pinkerton lived a very rich, vibrant life. He wrote 20 books about his life and work. He died on July 1st, 1884. (Lavine, 1967)
Pinkerton, Allan, The express man and the detective, New York: Arno Press, 1976 c1874.
S. A. Lavine; R. W. Rowan, The Pinkertons (1931); J. D. Horan, Desperate Men (1949) and The Pinkertons (1967).