- PROFILE ON ALLAN PINKERTON
THE FATHER OF THE AMERICAN PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Born on August 25th, 1819 in Glasgow Scotland, Pinkerton was the son of
a Scottish police sergeant. He grew up in a lower class section of Glasgow.
Pinkerton moved to the United States in the early 1840's. He settled in
Dundee Illinoise. He was a leader in the abolitionist movement and worked
for a short time with an underground railroad that brought in slaves from
the south. Pinkerton was very outspoken as an abolitionist but a great
deal of his activities were covert in nature. At about this time, counterfeiting
flourished in this area at an alarming rate. It was so bad it was effecting
both the local and national economy. Pinkerton accidently discovered a
counterfeit camp headquarters on an island in the middle of a lake that
later became known as Bogus Island. Pinkerton investigated the matter and
ended up successfully rounding up the gang. It was the largest counterfeit
ring ever caught in the United States. He obtained a great deal of local
notoriety and was appointed Deputy Sheriff. He also became Chicago's first
police detective in 1850. That same year, he started Pinkerton National
Detective Agency. Although there were a few private investigative agencies
around at the time, most had bad reputations. Pinkerton was the first to
maintain a good reputation. He was the only agency at the time that set
uniform fees and did not take on divorce cases.
- Pinkerton quickly established himself in the investigative business.
His main work consisted of running down railroad thiefs. His first investigative
business was a partnership with a prominent Chicago attorney E. Rucker.
The partnership was dissolved within a year and Pinkerton operated the
agency himself. The Pinkerton Agency became well known for it's investigative
work in the area of union activities. Pinkerton is given credit for keeping
unions out of various trades in the Chicago area for years.
- While performing a security measure for one of his railroad company
clients, Pinkerton ran across a plot to have the newly elected President
Lincoln assassinated before he reached Washington. The President elect
was already on his way from Springfield to Washington D.C. to take his
oath of office. The plot was uncovered by Pinkerton while Lincoln was in
Philadelphia. Pinkerton requested a meeting between himself and Lincoln
which was granted. In the meeting Pinkerton said,
" We have come to know, Mr. Lincoln, and beyond the shadow of a
there exists a plot to assassinate you. The attempt will be made on your
through Baltimore, day after tomorrow." As Pinkerton went on, Lincoln
listened and interrupted with many questions.
- After explaining the plot to Lincoln, Pinkerton told Lincoln that he
should go with him directly to Washington D.C. "this very night".
Lincoln explained that he was supposed to give a speech at the state assembly
tomorrow and another speech at Independence Hall and could not go on this
date. Lincoln did agree, however, to follow any of Pinkerton's instructions
after the next day's events.
- In 1859 Pinkerton was brought in to recover a missing package that
contained $40,000 in it. He traveled to New York to meet his client. It
was the practice of the day for investigators to obtain a percentage of
recovery on such matters. Pinkerton always felt that such fee structures
were not right and had long established a policy of having a set hourly,
daily, and weekly fee which was explained to his clients in advance. Other
investigators had tried to handle this case but all were unsuccessful.
Pinkerton worked hard on this case as he wanted to develop a reputation
in the New York area. This was his first big case in the East. Within one
year, Mr. Pinkerton had recovered the package.
During the Civil War, the United States Government contracted with Pinkerton
to spy on the South. Actually, Presdeint Lincon wanted to set up a Secret
Service, a federal investigative agency, but felt that from a political
standpoint, a federal police force would not be a good political move.
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