History of Pinkerton Detectives

Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819. He was born into poverty to a police man who could no longer work due to injuries he had sustained from the job. To support his family Allan worked as a cooper or barrel maker in his native land. Allan ran afoul of local authorities over the membership in a chartist movement. This was a political movement that was dedicated to universal suffrage and better working conditions for the poor. A price was laid on his head and Allan and his young bride Joan fled for their lives.

This landed them in the United States and settled near Chicago in 1842. He was a very hard working man who had realized working for himself would be the best thing for him and his family. After some time he move to Dundee a town he realized it was in need of cooper. There he quickly gained control of the market due to his good quality of barrels and low prices.

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The desire he had to expand his business is what led him to the path of being a detective. Allan Pinkerton realized that good quality raw materials for his barrel were easily obtained on Small Island close to town.

Through a business mind he decided instead of paying others to provide him with the materials he should instead travel to the place to get the materials. Pinkerton was an abolitionist and soon his shop acted as a station for escaping slaves to freedom to the north through the Underground Railroad (John, 2005).

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When Pinkerton got to the island, there were signs of habitation. Having in mind that there were some counterfeiters in the area, he concluded that could be their hiding place. He teamed up with the local sheriff to venture out the camp and this led to the arrest of the band.

His superiority began in detective and the local townspeople turned to him to help them in arresting the ringleader of the band. The natural abilities in Allan Pinkerton eventually allowed him to track and bring down the counterfeiters to justice. One day while Pinkerton was gathering wood he discovered a gang that was making coins in the area. Allan assisted in arresting these men. This discovery and arrest of the counterfeiters led to his appointment as a country sheriff in 1846. In 1850 Allan was appointed as the first city detective in Chicago police force and in the same year he established a private detective agency.

In 1850 by Pinkerton Allan along with Chicago attorney general Edward Rucker founded the north western police agency. In 1843, Allan’s brother Robert had formed his own business called Pinkerton & company which was originally established as railroad contractors, but along the line he began to work as a railroad detective. This business was growing very rapidly that he hired several men as detectives and guards. When Allan and Rucker’s business dissolved a year after its formation; Allan joined his brother in the already established company and the name changed to Pinkerton National Detective Agency (John, 2005).

The Pinkerton detective agency It is believed to be founded by Allan Pinkerton in the 1850s. He selected a logo of an open eye with the tagline “we never sleep”. This is what led the Pinkerton men and later to private eyes. Pinkerton provided a wide range of private detective services and specialized in the capture of train robbers and counterfeiters. Their clients included banks, railroads, and government and they provided stable business for the firm. They were hired by railroad companies to investigate crimes against them and the activities of labor movements. Pinkerton was a solution to the growing labor unrest.

Many businesses wanted muscular enforcers available at the factories and mines to watch their employees closely (Geringer, 2008). In 1861, when he was investigating a railway case he discovered an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. The conspirators were intended to kill Lincoln during a stop at Baltimore on the way to his inauguration. Pinkerton warned Lincoln of the threat and he passed through that city at night secretly. Lincoln soon hired Pinkerton to organize a secret service to gather military information during the civil war in the southern states. During this time he hired escaped slaves as spies to the confederates.

During the time of the civil war Pinkerton headed a group that was aiding the government with information about their rivals. He also at times acted as Lincoln’s body guard. During the years between 1867 and 1875 he was the head of American secret service during the civil war and he led to the pursuit for frank and Jessie James American outlaws in the state of Missouri (John, 2005). After the civil war Pinkerton went back to the management of his detective agency. When Robert Pinkerton died in 1868 Allan Pinkerton took over the whole management of the detective agency.

However a year later he suffered a paralyzing stroke which nearly killed him. He recovered later and went on with the management of the Pinkerton detective agency. Between the year 1873 and 1876, one of his agents managed to obtain the secured evidences that had led to the breaking up of the coal miners’ organization in Pennsylvania who were thought to engage in terrorism. This led to the execution of twenty people members by the court. In 1877 they went on strikes that led to much criticism of the Pinkerton detective agency harsh policies towards the labor unions.

The criticism was done in circles though Pinkerton was assertive that he was helping workers by opposing the labor unions. Allan Pinkerton died in 1884, and the agency was taken over by his sons William and Robert who continued the agency’s movement from detective work to security and protection. Improved police departments and other private agencies at this time had begun to impinge on Pinkerton’s business. Allan’s sons continued with the company’s expansion, investigations of mafia activities, unions, robberies and insurance claims. They also provided protection to various public events.

During the labor unrests he hired guards to keep strikers and their unionists away from the factories. Most noted was the 1892 homestead strike where the Pinkerton agents ended up killing several people. The Pinkerton Detective agency often supplied men to break strikes. During this year 1892, the amalgamated iron and steel workers union invited its members at a homestead plant owned by Andrew and Henry. The strikers were waiting for them and they had a battle all the day long which resulted to the death of seven Pinkerton’s agents and nine workers. This gave the agency a bad publicity (Gale, 2000).

Allan Pinkerton II gained control of the company in 1923. He continued with the expansion of the business due to increasing bank robberies which was facilitated by automobile. In 1930 he also died and Robert Pinkerton II took control of the agency. In 1937 when the Wagner Act by the congress was passed it made the investigation of the labor activities illegal. To make up for this loss of the business the Pinkerton Agency focused more on investigation of gambling, especially the horse racing circuit. The 1940s through to 1960s was a time for change for the Pinkerton National detective agency.

Their primary service changed to guarding of property. This can be linked partly to the services they offered during the World War II; guarding the war supply plants. In 1965 it was renamed Pinkerton’s incorporated to reflect this shift away from investigation services. In 1967 Edward J. Bednarz became the first non- family member to be a president of the agency. In 1983 Americans Brands purchased the Pinkerton for $162 million. The chairman who took over Robert McGuire had the objective to improve the agency service and increases revenue. His efforts resulted to $11 million loss in sales by 1987.

This loss could be partly blamed on the competition by other over 1000 security agencies that had sprung up over the years (Gale, 2000). Thomas Wathen purchased the company from the American Brands in 1988 for $95 million. His goal was to revitalize this firm having revitalized the California Plant Protection to gain its former position of a multi purpose investigation firm. He actively sought the company’s growth through acquisitions. After duration of two years, Pinkerton’s inc. had combined revenue of $605 million. Wathen also expanded the agency reach to other countries including Mexico, Canada and Portugal.

In 1991, Pinkerton acquired Business Risk International, a respected investigation, a respected investigation, consulting and business agency. This move brought Pinkerton back into business as a full service security provider. The firm continued to expand throughout the late 1990s, and solidified its position as the world’s biggest security solutions firm (Gale, 2000). In conclusion the Pinkerton detective agency may not have been founded to run this far but the ambitions of the people who ran the company contributed to this sustainability of the company.

The good work offered by the company was also needed by many and the target groups who received the services were also well chosen. The natural abilities of Pinkerton were also a great and important aspect of his mission. The choosy way of recruiting the agents contributed a great deal to the success of the company. All these reasons combined with the excellent services they offered made them more successful. Pinkerton was a great man in searching for up coming opportunity which helped him in expanding his businesses and also gain superiority.

References Gale Group, (2000): Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Retrieved on 16th Jan, 2009 from: http://www. accessmylibrary. com/coms2/summary_0193-13350_ITM Geringer J. , (2008): Allan Pinkerton and His Detective Agency: We Never Sleep. Retrieved on 16th Jan, 2009 from: http://www. trutv. com/library/crime/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/pinkerton/1. html John L. Hoh, Jr. (2005): Allan Pinkerton and his Secret Role in the Underground Railroad. Retrieved on 16th Jan, 2009 from: http://www. suite101. com/article. cfm/the_underground_railroad/114256

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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History of Pinkerton Detectives. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/history-of-pinkerton-detectives-essay

History of Pinkerton Detectives essay
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